When George Thorogood and his musical partner Jeff Simon formed The Destroyers more than 40 years ago, the pair were fascinated by music that was rooted in the blues and beginning to fall away from the mainstream. That didn’t stop the friends from pursuing music in the style of Ry Cooder, the Allman Brothers Band, Ry Cooder and Elvin Bishop.
From the beginning, Thorogood and Simon were passionate about the music first. Money was somewhere in the hazy distance.
“I always disliked people who got into music—especially music but any business—for that reason," Thorogood says. "They said, ‘This is where the money is. This is where the big thing is, to be this.’ People would say to me, ‘What’s your passion? What do you want to do?’ I wanted to get out there and smoke with that slide guitar and so did Jeff.
“That was my schooling that was my college education, to check out all that stuff, to watch how Peter Townshend did it, how Frank Zappa did it, how Canned Heat did it.”
Thorogood and Simon attended as many live shows as they could during those early days, learning their craft from some of the greatest performers of the day.
The band began playing bars and clubs, establishing a reputation for its powerful live shows, a talent that remains the group’s greatest strength to this day. And maybe the reason for its broad audience.
“We have a lot of material that stretches over generations," he says. "We do ‘Cocaine Blues’ by Johnny Cash because everybody loves Johnny Cash. We do Hank Williams and we also do ‘Gear Jammer’, which was my attempt to do what ZZ Top or Zeppelin did.
“You want to get as many people into the shows as you can. The dad might like Johnny Cash, the son might like Led Zeppelin. We cover just enough territory to keep people of different ages coming to the show.”
Thorogood’s reputation as a dynamite performer is almost eclipsed by the reputation that he and his band have for being some of the nicest musicians in rock ‘n’ roll. Their professionalism toward fellow performers is near legendary. But Thorogood isn’t impressed with talk about how nice he is or how hard he works.
“You know, I have had people say, ‘Wow, George is really good. He shows up on time and works hard.’ I’m going, ‘What’s so strange about that?’ That’s unique? To me, that’s normal,” he says.
George Thorogood and The Destroyers perform at The Orpheum Theatre Saturday night.