Delaware native George Thorogood burst out of - seemingly - nowhere to take the music scene by storm in the middle of the 1970s. Flanked by his tough as nails backing band The Destroyers, the guitarist cranked up his amplifier to 11 and delivered a simpler, rawer and faster version of 1950's Chicago blues and rock 'n' roll. His tried and tested formula met with considerable success throughout the 1980s. Thorogood's explosive live act also helped build his reputation. Boasting a broad repertoire of self-penned numbers and good old blues standards, the musician is best known for his signature tune, Bad to the Bone and a cover of John Lee Hooker's One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer.
From baseball to the blues
George Thorogood was born in Wilmington, Delaware. In the 1960s, he played baseball in a semi-professional league before deciding on a musical career. His epiphany came on the night he caught bluesman John Hammond Jr. on stage. In 1973, the ball player turned guitarist moved to Boston where he honed his craft alongside backing band The Destroyers - the original lime-up comprised of rythm guitarist Ron Smith, bassist Michael Lenn and drummer Jeff Simon. Saxophonist Hank Carter would join in 1980 upon Smith's departure.
The next year, Thorogood and his comrades recorded a bunch of demos which would be released five years later under the title Better Than the Rest, much to the irritation of the musicians.
In 1975, the bluesman signed with Rounder Records. His first eponymous album came out two years later. Steeped in 1950's Chicago blues and rock 'n' roll, the program offered a well-balanced mix of original compositions and feisty covers - case in point : John Lee Hooker's One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer.
More of the same - and then some...
Second opus Move It on Over (1978) consolidated Thorogood's status. The Hank Williams-penned title track proved to be a big hit. By then, the musician had for all practical purposes established his musical formula. The next releases would thus offer more of the good old same - mind you, the clever Mister T. was never one to claim he would one day reinvent the wheel...
With Bad to the Bone (1982), his first release for major label EMI, the musician enjoyed even more success. The title track, which became his signature song, benefited from more than decent exposure on the nascent MTV channel.
After having surfed along quite nicely until the end of the decade, Thorogood had to deal with lesser sales at the beginning of the 1990s. Ever the consummate showman, he did what he always excelled at and turned to the stage with renewed fervour and energy.
Electrifying Festival performances
The guitarist made three appearances at the Festival in the 2000s. His first visit, in 2001, was publicized with much fanfare in the FIJM program: "Warning! The onstage voltage meter will crackle into the redzone when the electrical storm known as Thorogood hits the venue." He would come back in 2004 and 2009, and play a Jazz All Year Round date in the spring of 2010.
In 2004, Thorogood released Greatest Hits: 30 Years of Rock, a compilation marking The Destroyers' 30th anniversary. The record spent more than a year in the charts, offering indisputable proof of the combo's lasting popularity. Five years later came The Dirty Dozen, which paired six new recordings with six fan favorites from the 1980s and 1990s. Released in 2011, 2120 South Michigan Ave. offered a batch of blues standards originally recorded at Chicago's famed Chess studios, with two original numbers rounding up the set.