On the evening of December 1st, 1973 at The University of Delaware’s Lane Hall, a guitarist, a drummer, and their rhythm guitarist set up their gear – including a borrowed PA – on the small bandstand. Though the three-piece band had only rehearsed once or twice, guitarist George Thorogood and drummer Jeff Simon had been bashing out covers of songs they loved – including ‘No Particular Place To Go’, ‘Madison Blues’ and ‘One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer’ – in suburban Wilmington basements since they were teens.
“George once said he wanted to start a band, and that was good enough for me,” says Simon. “Besides, the gig paid $150.”
A week earlier, Thorogood hadn’t even owned an electric guitar. “I’d been traveling around the country as an acoustic street musician,” George explains. “I was back home for my sister’s wedding, and Jeff booked the gig without telling me. I went to a pawn shop downtown and bought a Gibson ES-125.” Their band didn’t have a name, either. “There was a piano player on a bunch of Howlin’ Wolf sessions who was credited only as ‘Destruction’,” Thorogood remembers, “so we decided to call ourselves ‘The Destroyers’.”
The Lane Hall audience was wary at first. “We started playing what we knew,” Simon recalls, “a lot of Elmore James, Chuck Berry and Jimmy Reed. We may have been a bit nervous, but we were having so much fun that nothing else mattered. Then it was like somebody flipped a switch. Everybody hit the dance floor all at once.”
“We had the place rockin’,” Thorogood says. “We must have played ‘One Bourbon’ three times. It may have been a bit unpolished and primitive, but we were connecting with the audience in a major way. From that very first show, Jeff and I knew we were onto something.” Five decades, more than 8,000 performances, and over 15 million albums later, on any given night on any stage in the world, few bands can still rock the house like George Thorogood & Destroyers.
For Thorogood, Simon, and long-time Destroyers Bill Blough, Jim Suhler and Buddy Leach, that’s only part of the reason why their Bad All Over The World – 50 Years of Rock Tour will be a celebration like no other. “People may love our records, but our live performances leave the ultimate impression,” George explains. “We’re all blue-collar guys; if we don’t kick ass on stage every night, it’s back to working at the car wash.” For the past half a century – and with no signs of slowing down – they’ve kicked ass with their 50 Dates/50 States Tour; delivered landmark performances at Live Aid and on SNL; opened club gigs for Muddy Waters and stadiums for The Rolling Stones; and remain one of the most reliable/formidable live acts in the world, with 2022’s run of nearly 100 shows in 17 countries across 3 continents including Europe and Australia – plus a top-selling U.S. summer tour with Sammy Hagar – being one of their biggest years yet.
Then there’s an ongoing legacy unlike any in Rock history: By reverently reinventing obscure blues, country and R&B tracks by icons that include Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker and Hank Williams – via now-classic hits like ‘Who Do You Love?’, ‘Boogie Chillun’ and ‘Move It On Over’ – George & The Destroyers have kept the music of these American Masters alive for the MTV Generation and beyond. And with his own smash originals such as ‘I Drink Alone’, ‘Gear Jammer’, and the ultimate badass anthem ‘Bad To The Bone’, Thorogood and band have forged a one-of-a-kind career built on humor, fervor and six-string swagger delivered with equal parts fire and fun. “The dreams we had as teenagers all came true,” Jeff Simon says. “We’ve shared stages with our music heroes. We perform for audiences all over the world. We’ve always stayed true to who we are. And most of all, we still love what we do.”
The band also has a longstanding commitment to medical science and social justice that includes a partnership with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as well as an ongoing collaboration with Musically Fed to feed veterans, the homeless, and the food insecure nationwide. A portion of proceeds from the 50 Years of Rock Tour will also benefit The Marla Thorogood Memorial Fund For Ovarian Cancer Research in conjunction with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, in memory of George’s late wife who passed away in 2019. “When I was a kid, my hero was Bobby Kennedy,” George says. “He said ‘Some men see things as they are and ask why? I dream things that never were and ask, why not?’ It was a message that spoke directly to my generation, and one that I’ll always carry with me.”
For Thorogood, the 50th Anniversary Tour – along with a top-streaming catalog of albums that now includes his acclaimed 2017 solo disc Party Of One, 2020’s epic George Thorogood & The Destroyers Live In Boston 1982: The Complete Concert, and 2022’s The Original George Thorogood – is proof that nice guys can finish first even when they’re the baddest of the bad. “You can’t plan to have a legacy,” George explains. “Our heart and soul have been in this from day one, and I think audiences have always respected that. Maybe that’s why we’ve never gone out of style.” Or perhaps the way a gobsmacked Rolling Stone reporter first described Thorogood and band in the ‘70s still rings true today: “Just one guy with more moves than a burlap bag full of wolverines, a snarling vintage Gibson, and a rhythm section in pursuit of the Watts-Wyman Perfect Metronome Award. If Thorogood gave off any more energy, the government would lock him in a lead barrel and dump him off the coast of New Jersey.
George Thorogood & the Destroyers play rock & roll hot enough to melt the polar icecaps and flood the world’s major population centers.”
But does Thorogood ever wonder if that nervous 23-year-old onstage at Lane Hall could imagine the bad-to-the-bone rock party he’d bring to the next several generations? “Rather than think about the past 50 years, I’d rather focus on our next 50 shows,” George says with a laugh. “But I will admit to a warm feeling of satisfaction, maybe a bit of pride, and definitely a whole lot of gratitude.” And when asked to pick a career highlight thus far, maybe one night that changed everything for George Thorogood & The Destroyers, he shakes his head, flashes a huge grin and heads off to soundcheck. “My highlight is when I step on that bandstand,” Thorogood says. “The promoters invited us, the audience came to hear us, and we’re ready to rock. When the rush of that ends, I’ll stop. Until then, every night I play for people can be the biggest night of my life.