Left to right: Buddy Leach, Jeff Simon, George Thorogood, Billy Blough and Jim Suhler are The Destroyers - Photo courtesy of Brian To

Thoroughly b-b-b-b-bad

The evolution of rock is a natural one. It goes like this, according to blues rocker George Thorogood: John Sebastian of The Lovin' Spoonful saw Elvis playing a guitar, then said he had to have one. Keith Richards saw Chuck Berry playing an electric guitar, then said he had to have one.

"The first true rockers were artists like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson and Elmore James," Thorogood says. "They took the acoustic out of Delta blues and played it on electric instruments. They were like training wheels for what was to come.

"Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley took the sound and just ripped it. They put the big beat behind the blues," Thorogood says during a telephone interview. "They also cleaned it up and put it on 'American Bandstand.' "

Berry and Diddley recorded in the '50s with Chess Records in Chicago. The label, run by brothers Leonard and Phil Chess, specialized in blues, R&B, gospel, early rock 'n' roll and, occasionally, jazz. Chess produced singles and albums that are central to the rock-music canon.

Guitarist Berry refined R&B and made rock 'n' roll distinctive with such songs as "Maybellene," "Roll Over Beethoven," "Rock and Roll Music" and "Johnny B. Goode." The lyrics focused on teenagers, and his guitar solos and showmanship would influence later rock music.

Diddley's hits songs, including "Pretty Thing," "Say Man" and "You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover," ranged through the '50s and '60s.

Thorogood, 62, has recorded memorable, raucous covers of such blues standards as Diddley's "Who Do You Love?" and John Lee Hooker's "House Rent Boogie (One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer)" — along with self-penned, crowd-pleasers such as "Bad to the Bone" — since the '70s.

Thorogood and his Destroyers, with drummer Jeff Simon, bassist Billy Blough, rhythm guitarist Jim Suhler and saxophone and piano player Buddy Leach, will perform at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30, at the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford.

Tickets cost $42, $45 and $48, or $30, $33 and $36 for ages 18 and younger. Visit the box office at 16 S. Bartlett St., Medford, see www.craterian.org or call 541-779-3000.

Thorogood's 16th and newest studio album, "2120 South Michigan Avenue," released last year on the Capitol label, pays tribute to his Chess Records heroes with rocking turns on classics by Willie Dixon, Little Walter, Waters, Williamson and others.

Buddy Guy makes an appearance on "Hi-Heel Sneakers," and Charlie Musselwhite is featured on "My Babe" and the title cut (named for the address of Chess Records' Chicago headquarters). The album also contains new songs written by Thorogood, along with the album's producer, Tom Hambridge, and Richard Fleming.

According to Wikipedia, Thorogood decided to become a musician after attending a John Paul Hammond concert. He took his guitar vocabulary straight from the '50s blues and rock 'n' roll traditions and formed The Destroyers, releasing a self-titled debut with the band in 1977.

Of the group's 16 studio albums, five have been certified gold-sellers. A 1986 live album and a 1992 compilation, "The Baddest of George Thorogood and The Destroyers," were certified platinum.

Thorogood reminds us, with his raw energy and guitar filtering such legends as Diddley, James and Waters, just how much fun rock 'n' roll can be — if you want it bad enough.

Share This Story