He'll readily admit his guitar work is pretty basic (one-chord songs in an open-G-string tuning on his Gibson ES-125), he does more covers than original songs and when it comes to slide guitar, he does it all wrong — just like John Lee Hooker. Simplicity, honesty and especially passion are what have kept George Thorogood and the Destroyers blowing the tops off of venue after venue for more than thirty years now.
Whether it is a cover like his first hit "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" or an original like his "I Drink Alone", George Thorogood and the Destroyers are renowned for making classics. They are a staple on classic rock stations across the US and jukeboxes around the world. Go to any pool hall, order a pitcher of cheap beer and rack em up — it is a virtual certainty that within three hours you will hear at least two George Thorogood classics, one of which is guaranteed to be "One Bourbon".
I take songs and make them classics. - George Thorogood
In the beginning-
I really got into it in '67 when I saw Frank Zappa, The Doors, Steppenwolf and Hendrix. It was a bunch of hippies playing for other hippies. And that's what I wanted to do. I got in on the tail end of that. - George Thorogood
George Thorogood first became interested in the blues, in Chicago style blues, in 1970 after hearing John Paul Hammond perform. He spent the next few years singing on the streets of San Francisco and playing at Max's Kansas City in New York with the likes of Bonnie Raitt and Little Feat. In the beginning he was emulating blues men such as Muddy Waters and Elmore James.
The band formed in 1973 when Jeff Simon, the drummer, got them a gig at Laine Hall, a college dormitory. George actually had to buy a guitar from a pawn shop the night before the gig. It went so well though that Jeff and George kept going, adding Michael Levine at bass with Ron Smith occasionally joining them on guitar. Thus was born the Delaware Destroyers. They spent their first years touring the Boston area playing with bands like Hound Dog Taylor and the Housebreakers. Their other early influences included the previously mentioned John Lee Hooker, John Hammond, Elmore James and Muddy Waters as well as Chuck Berry, Howlin' Wolf and Willie Dixon.
The band's first introduction to a record label was the work of their self-proclaimed Number One Fan, John Forward. In 1975 he would put them in touch with Rounder Records. They recorded their first album in 1975 but would have to wait an agonizing 18 months for it to be released as Rounder balked over paying for cover art. The agonizing was over one of the songs on the record, their now classic "One Bourbon". George worried that if the record was not released someone else might cover it and get it to market first. He believed, correctly, that it was destined to be a classic and wanted his version out there first. George eventually chose some artwork provided by a fan and they got the eponymous record released. It was around the recording of their first album that Michael Levine left the band and Bill Blough replaced him.
Bourbon, Scotch and Beer is classic. If I don't do it, someone else is going to do it. The songs made me great. It's not me. It's the songs that made me, I didn't make the songs. The only people who came up with 100 good songs are The Beatles. - George Thorogood
The follow up to George Thorogood And The Destroyers came in 1978. Move It On Over was named for the title track, a Hank Williams song, and would confirm their success. What occurred next nearly destroyed the Destroyers. Someone sold some rather shoddy demo tapes to MCA which resulted in their 'third album' Better Than The Rest. This resulted in a legal battle, which resulted in an injunction against their Rounder's records, which resulted in George quitting music in 1980 to play semi-pro baseball. This would not be their last issue with demo tapes... It was during this time that Ron Smith left the band, he was replaced by Hank Carter.
They returned to music in 1981 when they got a gig opening for The Rolling Stones. After a wildly successful show involving several encores, famed promoter Bill Graham approached them with an offer to continue opening the tour. From there they were invited to continue on to Europe, an invitation they would have to decline in favor of their previously planned 50-50 Tour.
The 50-50 Tour is now famous in rock history. Beginning October 23, in Hawaii and ending on December 11, 1981, they played a concert in all 50 states in just 50 days. Aside from the flights from Hawaii to Alaska and from Alaska to Oregon, George drove the entire way in a Checker Cab. This feat has not been repeated, nor even attempted to my knowledge, by any band.
Years of midnight club shows have trained this band to breath fire and spit nails. They were one of the tightest acts touring, complete with dead on pit stops and full-throttle boogie rock. - TCE
The tour with the Stones and the 50-50 Tour, along with the success of their covers of John Lee Hooker's "One Bourbon, One Scotch and One Beer," Hank Williams' "Move it on Over" and Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love" got them signed with EMI. They would release several albums with EMI, beginning with their fourth album, 1982's Bad to the Bone.
Bad to the Bone was certified gold on August 7, 1985. Two days later, on August 9th, their fifth album Maverick would be certified gold as well.
The last item of significance in this abbreviated history sees the reintroduction of characters and a replay of scenes from the past. In 1988 John Forward, their 'number one fan' notified the band that he planned on selling some demo tapes, that they had gifted to him way back in 1976, for commercial release. The band objected as the tapes were of a very low quality. John Forward filed suit on July 5th, 1988 seeking a summary judgment declaring him to be the copyright holder. After several years the case was finally decided in the band's favor and John was prevented from selling or releasing them in any way. The band retained the copyright and John retained the gift, he was free to listen to them all he liked, he could not sell them.
My music is very basic. It might be one chord, but it's still difficult to make that one chord, and make it last for seven minutes, and make it interesting. Like, some of the James Brown songs might be one chord, but he stretches them out 45 minutes. It's a fantastic thing he does. - George Thorogood
It has been noted more than once that George Thorogood only rates his abilities on the guitar a five out of a possible ten. Couple this with the fact that they do mostly old blues covers and we are probably talking about some mediocre old band who didn't know when to hang it up, right?
While George may be only a five on his guitar he is certainly a ten on stage and damn near a ten when it comes to picking what songs will go on the next album. It is a long tradition in blues music to cover old tunes. Blues men trade songs, they rewrite each other's songs and they are happy to admit when someone else 'done it better.'
And Muddy Waters listened to me and said I had mastered it. He actually told me, on one song, I played better than he did. So I was just, like, well you can't do better than that. - George Thorogood
George isn't the only guitar in the band, however. Nor is it just a three or four piece band. Ron Smith (73-80) and Steve Chrismar (80-93) both backed George on rhythm guitar for a number of years. Hank "Hurricane" Carter, rumored to be tougher even than George, was invited to play sax for the band in 1980. He was only recently replaced, in 2003, by Buddy Leach. Jeff Simon and Billy Blough have been Destroyers from the beginning.
To hear George tell it, though, Jim Suhler was his long lost twin brother. He has been playing rhythm and lead guitar for the Destroyers since 1999, playing Jeff Beck to George's Rod Stewart, Keith Richards to George's Mick Jagger. As the story is told, George slipped quietly into the back of a club one night and watched Jim play his way through eight different guitars covering just about any style you could ask a man to play. After the show George offered him three times whatever he was making at the moment to join his band. Jim agreed, George needed a strong rhythm guitarist when he was doing "that Chuck Berry thing." He has been with the band ever since.
With more than 3000 concerts under their belt, the vast majority of which are sold out, the Destroyers are still one of the tightest, most high energy blues-boogie bands a person could hope to catch. George's working-man ethic, mean slide guitar and incredible ear for undiscovered gems has meant to the band a long career and incredibly supportive fan base. With their 30th Anniversary 30 Years of Rock album debuting at #55 on Billboard's Top 200 Album Chart and going to #1 on Billboard's Blues Chart they are assured of many new fans as well.
Some day, we’ll be playing a club, such as Ziggy’s, and at night when we go on it will be less than half-filled. I’ll go up to the promoter and say, ‘Son, congratulations, you just retired the great George Thorogood.’ I want to make sure it ends before it comes to that. - George Thorogood
- George Thorogood And The Destroyers - Released 1977 by Rounder Records
Tracks - "You Got To Lose" "Madison Blues" "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" "Kind Hearted Woman" "Can't Stop Lovin'" "Ride On Josephine" "Homesick Boy" "John Hardy" "I'll Change My Style" "Delaware Slide"
- Move It On Over - Released 1978 by Rounder Records
Tracks - "Move It On Over" "That Same Thing" "Who Do You Love?" "So Much Trouble" "The Sky Is Crying" "I'm Just Your Good Thing" "Cocaine Blues" "Baby Please Set A Date" "It Wasn't Me" "New Hawaiian Boogie"
When George even picks up on a hint that his freedom to spend time doing what he likes best is being threatened, he immediately becomes the stubborn and defiant character that has puzzled many a novice reporter or the businessman who values success at any cost. George Thorogood does not value success at any cost. - From the liner notes.
- Better Than The Rest - Released 1978 by MCA Records - These are the demo recordings alluded to above, this album is not endorsed by the band.
Tracks - "In The Night Time" "Goodbye Baby" "Howlin' For My Darlin'" "My Weakness" "Huckle Up Baby" "I'm Ready" "Nadine" "My Way" "You're Gonna Miss Me" "Worried About My Baby"
- I'm Wanted - Released 1980 by Rounder Records
Tracks - "I'm Wanted" "Tip On In" "Kids From Philly" "Goodbye Baby" "One Way Ticket" "House of Blue Lights" "Bottom of the Sea" "Just Can't Make It" "Night Time" "Restless"
- Bad To The Bone - Released 1982 by EMI Manhattan Records
Tracks - "Back to Wentzville" "Bad To The Bone" "Blue Highway" "Miss Luann" "Nobody But Me" "As The Years Go Passing By" "It's a Sin" "No Particular Place To Go" "New Boogie Chillun" "Wanted Man"
- Maverick - Released 1985 by EMI American Records
Tracks - "Gear Jammer" "Crawling King Snake" "I Drink Alone" "Memphis/Marie" "Willie And The Hand Jive" "Woman With The Blues" "What A Price" "Go Go Go" "Long Gone" "The Ballad of Maverick" "Dixie Fried"
- Live - Released 1986 by EMI American Records - Recorded at The Cincinnati Gardens in Ohio on May 23, 1986
Tracks - "Who Do You Love?" "Alley Oop" "Bottom of the Sea" "Madison Blues" "Night Time" "Bad To The Bone" "I Drink Alone" "The Sky Is Crying" "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" "Reelin' and Rockin'"
- Nadine - Released 1986 by MCA Special Products - A re-release of Better Than The Rest it is still demo recordings and still not endorsed by the band.
- Born To Be Bad - Released 1988 by EMI Manhattan Records
Tracks - "Shake Your Moneymaker" "I'm Ready" "You Talk Too Much" "Treat Her Right" "Highway 49" "I Really Like Girls" "Born To Be Bad" "Smokestack Lightning" "You Can't Catch Me" "I'm Movin On"
- The George Thorogood Collection - Released 1989 by EMI Records Australia
Tracks - "Bad To The Bone" "Treat Her Right" "Blue Highway" "You Talk Too Much"
"Gear Jammer" "Born To Be Bad" "Willie And The Hand Jive" "Miss Luann" "I Drink Alone" "Who Do You Love" "Wanted Man" "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" "Memphis, Tennessee" "Madison Blues"
- Boogie People - Released 1991 by EMI Records
Tracks - "If You Don't Start Drinkin' (I'm Gonna Leave)" "No Place To Go" "Long Distance Lover" "Six Days on the Road" "Mad Man Blues" "Born in Chicago" "Boogie People" "Oklahoma Sweetheart" "Can't Be Satisfied" "Hello Little Girl"
- The Baddest Of George Thorogood And The Destroyers - Released 1992 by EMI Records
Tracks - "Bad To The Bone" "I Drink Alone" "Move It On Over" "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" "Steady Rollin' Man" "If You Don't Start Drinkin' (I'm Gonna Leave)" "You Talk Too Much" "Treat Her Right" "Who Do You Love?" "Long Gone" "Gear Jammer" "Louie To Frisco"
- Haircut - Released 1993 by EMI Records
Tracks - "Get A Haircut" "Cops and Robbers" "Howlin' For My Baby" "Gone Dead Train" "Killer's Bluze" "Want Ad Blues" "Down in the Bottom" "My Friend Robert" "I'm Ready" "Baby Don't Go"
- Let's Work Together - Live - Released 1995 by EMI Records - Recorded live at Mississippi Nights in St. Louis, MO on Dec. 2nd and 3rd, 1994
and at Center Stage in Atlanta, GA on Dec. 5 1994
Tracks - "No Particular Place To Go" "Get A Haircut" "Ride On Josephine" "Gear Jammer" "Bad Boy" "Move It On Over" "Cocaine Blues" "You Talk Too Much" "If You Don't Start Drinkin' (I'm Gonna Leave)" "Let's Work Together" "I'm Ready" "St. Louis Blues" "I'll Change My Style" "Johnny B. Goode"
Without glitz or gimmicks, George Thorogood and the Destroyers revel in the pure glory of making music. And in doing so, they resonate a joyful noise within us all. These guys play the blues - songs of life penned by those who lived it - and to do this music justice, you have to live it, too.
This brings us to a word that you seldom hear in connection with rock 'n' rollers (especially snakeskin-wearin', beer-drinkin' guitar players), and that word is respect. Whenever I've interviewed George Thorogood on the radio and tried to get him to discuss the contribution he's made, he will invariably change the subject. According to George, he ain't bad. "Willie Dixon was bad. Muddy Waters was bad. And Howling Wolf, now that guy was bad." George has always been more comfortable talking about his heroes than talking about himself. - From the liner notes, written by Jim Ladd
- Rockin' My Life Away - Released 1997 by EMI Records
Tracks - "Get Back Into Rockin'" "Rocking My Life Away" "Trouble Everyday" "Jail Bait" "Night Rider" "My Dog Can't Bark" "The Usual" "Blues Hang-Over" "Living With The Shades Pulled Down" "Stoop Down" "Manhattan Slide" "Rock and Roll Man"
- Half A Boy/Half A Man - Released 1999 by CMC International Records
Tracks - "I Don't Trust Nobody" "Be Bop Grandma" "Double Shot" "Nothing New"
"99 Days in Jail" "Just Passin' Thru" "Half A Boy/Half A Man" "Hellbound Train"
"As Long As I Have You" "Not Tonight" "B.I.G.T.I.M.E."
- Live In '99 - Released 2000 by CMC International Records - Recorded at the Fox Theater in St. Louis, MO on June 6, 1999
Tracks - "Be Bop Grandma" "Half A Boy/Half A Man" "Who Do You Love?" "Get A Haircut" "Night Time" "Bad To The Bone" "I Drink Alone" "Move It On Over" "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" "I Don't Trust Nobody" "You Talk Too Much"
- Extended Versions - Released 2000 by CMC International Records - Basically a re-release of Live In '99, only the track order is changed.
- Anthology - Released 2000 by Capitol Records
Disk 1 - "Madison Blues" "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" "Delaware Slide" "Move It On Over" "The Sky Is Crying" "I'm Wanted" "Nobody But Me" "Bad To The Bone" "Willie And The Hand Jive" "I Drink Alone" "Gear Jammer" "Long Gone" "Reelin' and Rockin'(Live)" "Bottom Of The Sea(Live)" "Night Time(Live)"
Disk 2 - "Who Do You Love?(Live)" "Born To Be Bad" "You Talk Too Much" "I'm Ready" "Shake Your Moneymaker" "If You Don't Start Drinkin' (I'm Gonna Leave)" "Hello Little Girl" "Long Distance Lover" "Get A Haircut" "Howlin' For My Baby" "Christine(previously unreleased)" "Let's Work Together(Live)" "Johnny B. Goode(Live)" "Rockin' My Life Away" "I Don't Trust Nobody"
- Who Do You Love? - Released 2003 by Rounder Records
Tracks - "Can't Stop Lovin'" "The Sky Is Crying" "Move It On Over" "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" "I'll Change My Style" "Ride On Josephine" "Madison Blues" "New Hawaiian Boogie" "Bottom of the Sea" "I'm Wanted" "Baby Please Set A Date" "I'm Just Your Good Thing" "Who Do You Love?" "Night Time" "House of Blue Lights" "Who Do You Love?(live, previously unreleased)"
- Ride Till I Die - Released 2003 by Eagle Records
Tracks - "Greedy Man" "The Fixer" "American Made" "You Don't Love Me, You Don't Care" "Sweet Little Lady" "My Way" "Don't Let The Boss Get You Down" "That's It, I Quit" "Devil In Disguise" "I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water" "She's Gone" "Move It" "Ride Til I Die"
- 30 Years Of Rock: Greatest Hits - Released 2004 by Capitol Records
Tracks - "Move It On Over" "If You Don't Start Drinkin' (I'm Gonna Leave)" "Who Do You Love?" "The Sky Is Crying(Live)" "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" "Reelin' And Rockin'(Live)" "Madison Blues" "Willie And The Hand Jive" "Bad To The Bone" "Get A Haircut" "You Talk Too Much" "Rockin' My Life Away(Alt. Take)" "Gear Jammer" "American Made" "I Drink Alone" "Who Do You Love(remix)"
- 30th Anniversary Tour - Live - Released 2004 by Eagle Records
Tracks - "Long Gone" "Who Do You Love" "Night Time" "I Drink Alone" "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" "Don't Let The Bossman Get You Down" "The Sky Is Crying" "Sweet Little Lady" "Greedy Man" "Bad To The Bone" "The Fixer" "That's It I Quit" "Rockin' My Life Away"
All of this information can be found on the Internet. Most of this information can be found on Chris Lincoln's website at www.delawaredestroyers.com. How I wish I'd found it first :) Thanks go to Scriblerus for advice early in the writing, for keeping me on the right track. Thanks to rootbeer277 for much need Tips & Tricks and grammar edits. Thanks, again, to JohnnyGoodyear for last minute encouragement.