George Thorogood never earned much respect from blues purists, and yet he became a popular favourite in the 1980s through repeated exposure on FM radio and the arena rock circuit.
Thorogood’s music was always loud, simple and direct – his riffs and licks were taken straight out of 1950s Chicago blues and rock & roll – but his formulaic approach helped him gain a rather large audience in the 80s when his albums regularly went gold.
Originally, George Thorogood was a minor-league baseball player but decided to become a musician in 1970 after seeing John Paul Hammond in concert. Three years later he assembled The Destroyers in his home state of Delaware.
The band featured Michael Lenn on bass, Ron Smith on second guitar, and Jeff Simon on drums. Shortly after the group was formed, George moved them to Boston where they became regulars on the blues club circuit.
In 1974 they recorded a batch of demos which were later released in 1979 as the Better Than The Rest album. Within a year of recording the demos, George Thorogood and The Destroyers eponymous debut album was released (now with new bass player, Billy Blough).
Their second album, Move It On Over, was released in 1978. The title track was a cover of a Hank Williams classic and it was released as a single. It received heavy FM airplay, helping the album enter the American Top 40 and go gold. Its success led to MCA’s release of Better Than The Rest, which the band disdained.
In 1980, Ron Smith left the band and the group added a saxophonist, Hank Carter, and released their third album, More George Thorogood and the Destroyers.
Following the third album, the guitarist signed with EMI Records, releasing his major debut Bad To The Bone in 1982. The title track of the album became his first major crossover hit, thanks to saturation airplay of the song’s video on MTV.
The album went gold and spent nearly a full year in the charts. Thorogood’s next three albums all went gold also. Just before the Maverick album, The Destroyers added a second guitarist, Steve Chrismar.
By the beginning of the 90s, Thorogood’s audience began to wane. None of the albums he released went gold, even though the title track from 1993’s Haircut was a number two album hit. Despite his declining record sales, George Thorogood continued to tour and draw large crowds in blues and rock clubs.