Born: December 24, 1950 in Wilmington DE
Often unfairly dismissed by blues purists as a mere carbon copy of earlier bluesmen, blues-rock guitarist George Thorogood has outlived the criticism to become an enduring fixture on the American blues scene. Mixing Elmore James' innovative guitar riffs with Chuck Berry's rhythmic three-chord rock, Thorogood has unabashedly pursued an uncomplicated musical vision that plays better on stage than on tape.
Thorogood enjoyed a lengthy period of commercial success during the 1980s, and his playlist of blues and roots-rock covers is almost interchangeable with his lively original tracks. Thorogood's sound became unfashionable during the 1990s, but the guitarist has retained a loyal audience for his live performances, which continue to display the same reckless energy and joy of playing that they did during the 1970s.
Giving Up The Diamond For The Stage
Before discovering the power of the blues, George Thorogood held dreams of playing professional baseball. A lifelong baseball fan, Thorogood played semi-pro ball for a Delaware team in the Roberto Clemente League during the late-1970s. Playing second base, he was chosen as "Rookie of the Year" by the league.
After seeing a 1970 John Hammond performance, however, Thorogood picked up the guitar and moved from Delaware to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music. While in L.A. Thorogood opened shows for Bonnie Raitt and various blues artists, but when he failed to land a recording contract, he returned to Delaware.
Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers
Thorogood formed the Delaware Destroyers in 1973, and moved the band to Boston where they became familiar faces on the East Coast blues circuit. During this time, Thorogood continued to play baseball, touring with the band during the off season. The band recorded a demo tape in 1974, which would later be released in 1979 as the Better Than The Rest album.
Thorogood's scorched-earth live performances with the Destroyers brought the band to the attention of Rounder Records, which released the band's critically-acclaimed, self-titled debut in 1977. The album sold extremely well for an independent release, leading to the 1978 release of Move It On Over.
During this time, Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers had become good friends with fellow blues-rockers the Nighthawks, the two bands often touring together. During one memorable evening in Georgetown, the bands were playing clubs across the street from each other. Performing a pre-arranged version of the song "Madison Blues" at midnight, guitarists Thorogood and Jimmy Thackery of the Nighthawks both ventured out of their respective clubs, meeting on M Street. There they swapped their cables, and then joined each other's band to finish the song, delighting the two audiences.
Thorogood's Bad To The Bone
Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers underwent their "50/50 Tour" in 1980, performing 50 nights in all 50 states, which would subsequently lead to a high-profile gig opening for the Rolling Stones during the band's 1981 tour. Thorogood signed with EMI America, which released the band's commercial breakthrough album, Bad To The Bone, in 1982. Supported by the band's constant touring, and a heavy rotation video on MTV, the album would sell better than half a million copies and spend a year on the charts.
After the unexpected success of Bad To The Bone, Thorogood's 1980s-era albums would sell well, but during the 1990s he experienced a commercial decline (as did many '80s artists) in the face of grunge and alt-rock. Albums like 1993's Haircut and 1997's Rockin' My Life Away would continue to deliver blues-rock cheap thrills and score the occasional rock charts hit, but live performances have always been Thorogood's real bread-and-butter.
For over three decades, Thorogood has retained a loyal audience that supports his touring efforts. Thorogood's fans know that whenever they see the guitarist perform, they're going to have a good time, and that's worth its weight in gold records.
Recommended Albums: Bad To The Bone is considered Thorogood's career-maker, but the self-titled debut and its follow-up, Move It On Over deliver the goods just as well.
Thorogood Trivia: George Thorogood once appeared as a "special guest" contestant on the short-lived VH1 game show Rock and Roll Jeopardy.