"Long and tall, with his back to the wall."
Like T-Bone, the Delaware Destroyer
grew up just south of Chicago -- the home of the blues -- in Wilmington, Delaware. His childhood was a hard scrabble existence, growing up on the wrong side of I-95. Or was that 295? No, I think it was 495. Damn, now we're crossing the Delaware Memorial Bridge into New Jersey! I told you to pay attention to the signs!
Well, all the same, his story is a fascinating tale about how a gangling young teenager became the back beat of such a hard working blues band.
The Delaware Destroyer, or DD as he is sometimes known, was born into a very nonmusical family, but he decided at a very young age that he was destined to be different. Early in elementary school, he tried out for the school choir. What a thrill it was belting out those tunes -- a love of music was born that day. However, what started as the happiest day of young DD's life ended on a far more somber note when he learned that he was the only one in his class not selected for the choir. Not long after, all the kids in the school were given musical aptitude tests. The results indicated that DD had severely underdeveloped pitch recognition. His hopes of a musical career were crushed before he reached the age of 10. Damn right he had the blues!
But DD was undeterred. Like all great musicians, he absorbed everything possible from the music he heard at home. That's why even today he can naturally, almost subconsciously, play the soulless style exhibited in the mellowest elevator Muzak. Apparently DD's parents didn't boogie much and never pitched a wang dang doodle, at least not in front of young DD.
His big break came a few years later when his class took their yearly obligatory trip to Philadelphia. Oh boy! We get to see the Liberty Bell again! As fate would have it, the class ate lunch in a Chinese restaurant. It was DD's first experience of Oriental cuisine (except for the canned LaChoy Chop Suey his mother sometimes prepared. Hmmm, hmmm!) When the waiter put those chopsticks in DD's hands that pivotal day, he was inspired. He started banging away and discovered that even the tone deaf could be musicians. Well, it was not long until he graduated to drum sticks and a drum pad. It wasn't long before he was in a band, so he got his first drum kit.
Although he didn't yet realize there was a musical style called "blues", he was drawn to music based on the blues. Some of his favorite bands back then were The McCoys ("Fever", "Stormy Monday"), The Blues Magoos ("Tobacco Road"), and the Yardbirds ("Ain't Got You", "I'm a Man", "New York City Blues", "Smokestack Lightnin'"). Soon Cream and Hendrix appeared on the scene, so he got more exposure to blues derivatives. Next came Butterfield and Bloomfield. He was really getting into it. As much as he was inspired by these groups, he had his blues epiphany when he went to the Quaker City Rock Festival. There he heard B.B. King for the first time. What a shock to learn that it was not just the white folks who had the blues. More than that, he realized he had just touched the source and his life was changed.
All the time his musical career was blossoming, he was completely unaffected by any limitations on his ability to actually play. At the time he was in a band called Dionysus. They felt the name proved their intellectual superiority. It hardly mattered that no one in the band knew how to pronounce it.
This was the period when he established himself as the Delaware Destroyer while playing at all of the popular teenage coffee shops in Wilmington and its suburbs. Music historians still argue to this day as to who is the original Delaware Destroyer -- Voodoo DeVille's own DD or George Thorogood. Whether or not George ever heard of DD, consider this -- our DD was the Delaware Destroyer playing the blues in Thorogood's backyard just as George's musical career was beginning. You can draw your own conclusions.
Just when things were taking off for DD, tragedy struck. There's no doubt that DD's wrists were getting quite a workout. He was wood shedding a lot, plus he had to write a term paper, he had to shake hands with lots of folks at his sister's wedding, and he was a teenage boy (let's not go there, but, once again, draw your own conclusions). In spite of the fact that he was a well-toned musical athlete, all this wrist activity proved to be too much. He developed tendonitis in his wrists and once again, his hopes of a musical career were brought to a premature and abrupt end. (DD's name still appears in medical text books today as one of the pioneering victims of carporal tunnel syndrome.)
DD was now musically disabled and broke -- he needed some cash. Since he could no longer play the drums anyway, he sold them. No quitter, DD subjected himself to laborious and painful wrist therapy, sometimes several times a day. Slowly, his wrists regained their health. DD wanted to get back into music. Having spent all the proceeds from the sale of his drums, he needed a really cheap instrument. He thought the harp would be perfect for him, but then he remembered the pitch problems. (Editor's Note : Just because harp players are always asking what key a song is in is no indication that the harp is suitable for the pitch impaired. Just setting the record straight.) So DD invested in a washboard instead. Although he never gigged with the board, he did some pretty good jammin' and was having a great time until the next physical tragedy occurred. While trying to return his own shot in a ping-pong game, he tripped over some stuff lying by the side of the table. He injured his back, and ripped his hand open, severing some hand fat. Once again, he was disabled. DD is strong, but even the strongest can ultimately succumb in the face of repeated tragedy. The severed hand fat completely broke him. He fell in with the wrong crowd and sunk into the nerdish life of computer programming.
DD lived a programmer's existence for some 29 years. It was his good fortune that he came into contact with two recovering programmers -- Voodoo DeVille's own T-Bone and Plowboy. They had heard the rumors of the days of the Delaware Destroyer. They knew all too well of the tragedy of an ill-spent life consumed by programming (and they needed a drummer). It was DD's good fortune that they got together and performed an intervention. He was in a band, so he bought some new drums with his ill-gotten gains from the programming life. And the beat goes on...