George Thorogood has never received a Grammy nomination or landed a Top 40 pop hit. He has never been nominated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
But Thorogood doesn’t honestly care. Over multiple decades, he has focused on performing songs such as “I Drink Alone” and “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” for his dedicated fan base, critics be damned.
“Would I rather be the critics’ choice or the people’s choice?” he said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution before his concert Nov. 9 at City Springs’ Byers Theatre in Sandy Springs. (Tickets available starting at $66.35 at citysprings.com.) “The people are the real critics. They’re it!”
Thorogood is credited with conjuring up one of the catchiest riffs of the 1980s on the song “Bad to the Bone.” It was heard in movies like Stephen King’s ‘Christine,” “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” “The Parent Trap,” “Problem Child” and “Major Payne,” to name a few. TV shows such as “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Family Matters” and “Married... With Children” used it. Rudy Giuliani, for better or worse, sang it on “The Masked Singer” earlier this year.
“We actually turned down 90% of the requests” to use the song in commercials, film and TV, he said. “We’ve only said yes maybe 10%. of the time.”
Thorogood still loves to play “Bad to the Bone” live and actually got some love from Billboard magazine’s staff two weeks ago. They released the top 100 best pop songs that never made the Billboard Hot 100. No. 91? “Bad to the Bone.”
How Billboard spun it: “The riff that launched a thousand beer commercials, and the growling, cocky-as-hell vocal that made a white blues rocker an improbable star of the synth-pop era.”
Thorogood has always taken pride in his band’s live show, which he has honed over five-plus decades, thousands of guitar pics and buckets of sweat. “We just played our butts off, then came back the next night,” he said.
He has no qualms about playing fan favorites, no questions asked. “We put a poll out every six months on our website to see what the response is and we work from there,” he said.
Thorogood ― who was inspired as a youth by both blues legend Robert Johnson and country star Hank Williams ― said touring is a thing he will keep doing based on the three d’s: demand, delivery and desire.
“If the demand is there, if the desire is there, the question is, can we still deliver?” he said. “I don’t want to get to the point where I’m not delivering. I don’t want them reacting just to see me and I’m not moving them.”
Over the years in Atlanta, he and his band Destroyers have performed at the Fox Theatre (1985), Chastain Park (1992), Lakewood Amphitheatre (1999), Variety Playhouse (2010) and Atlanta Symphony Hall (2016). He also has clear memories of a 1980 gig at the long-closed Midtown venue Rosie’s Cantina.
“That was a fantastic venue,” Thorogood said. “(Wrestling legend) Dusty Rhodes used to jam there!”
And by the way, George Thorogood is his real name, not a stage name.
“I met Rodney Dangerfield one time in the 1980s,” he said. “Then I met him again a year and a half later. He said, ‘You still have that name?’ He changed his name from Jacob Cohen for show business. He thought mine was made up.”
Thorogood said it’s a Scandinavian name stemming from the god of Thor that eventually made it to England. His family changed it first to Thoroughgood but when his grandparents migrated to the United States, they went back to Thorogood.
IF YOU GO
George Thorogood and the Destroyers, 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7. $60.35-$92.65. Byers Theatre at Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. citysprings.com
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution including TV, radio, film, comedy and all things in between. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years. He loves tennis, pop culture & seeing live events.