The Fabulous Thunderbirds
The Fabulous Thunderbirds
Riverwalk Blues Festival
The Fabulous Thunderbirds are an American blues rock band formed in Texas in 1974.
After performing for several years in the Austin, Texas, blues scene, the band won a recording contract with Takoma/Chrysalis Records and later signed with Epic Records. In 2011, they signed with Severn Records.
Their first two albums were released in 1979 and 1980, with Kim Wilson's lead vocals and harmonica, Jimmie Vaughan as lead guitarist, and Keith Ferguson on bass guitar. Mike Buck was on drums for the first album but left the band and was replaced by Fran Christina on the second. Both albums initially sold through the small number printed (about 3000 units) and are now regarded as significant blues recordings. The Thunderbirds' blues style mixed Texas blues with the harmonica-laced swamp blues sounds of Slim Harpo and Lazy Lester—both of whom the Thunderbirds covered. The band's third album, Butt-Rockin', released in 1981, took the band closer to old rhythm and blues and added additional musicians playing piano and brass.
Although the Fabulous Thunderbirds had become favorites of fellow musicians—opening shows for the likes of the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton—and had been critically well-received, the band's records did not sell well. Chrysalis dropped the band following the release of T-Bird Rhythm, leaving the band without a contract for four years. While still in limbo, the Fabulous Thunderbirds continued to play concerts across the U.S. During this time, bassist Keith Ferguson left the band and was replaced by Preston Hubbard, a former member of Roomful of Blues. Also during this time, the band was heavily featured on the 1983 Carlos Santana Album "Havana Moon." In 1985, the band finally landed another recording contract with Epic/Associated.
The single "Tuff Enuff" was featured in the 1986 film Gung Ho. It was also featured in the film Tough Guys, as was the follow-up single, "Wrap It Up", which went to number 50 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. "Tuff Enuff" remains the band's only Top 40 hit, peaking at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album Tuff Enuff went gold in several countries and was subsequently certified platinum in the United States, with sales of over 1 million. The band's music was also used in the 1987 movie Hot Pursuit. The Vaughan–Wilson composition "Twist It Off" appears in the 1987 Michael J Fox and Joan Jett film Light of Day and on the issued soundtrack. The Fabulous Thunderbirds' next album, Hot Number, fell off the charts quickly. But following that, their recording of "Powerful Stuff" was a success, based in part on its inclusion in the 1988 film Cocktail. While none of the band's music was featured, the group appeared in the Tom Hanks comedy The Money Pit as one of Hanks's clients, a cross-dressing rock band called Cheap Girls. In the film, Kim Wilson appears in a woman's dress and sun hat arguing with Hanks about changing the band's name to Meryl Streep or Debbie Reynolds.
The band then embarked on a long series of lineup changes and albums throughout the 1990s. Long-time drummer Fran Christina left in 1996 and went on to join with Marcia Ball and later Doug Sahm's "Last Real Texas Blues Band". Jimmie Vaughan left the band to play in a duo with his brother Stevie Ray Vaughan; following Stevie Ray's death in 1990, Jimmie pursued a full-time solo career. The Fabulous Thunderbirds replaced Vaughan with two guitarists, Duke Robillard and Kid Bangham.
Doug "Kid" Bangham left the band after three years to pursue a solo career and open the Carver School of Music and the Carver Institute of Rock in Carver, Massachusetts.
In the early 1990s, Kim Wilson recorded a pair of solo albums while continuing to tour with the Fabulous Thunderbirds. In 1994, the band recorded its ninth album, Roll of the Dice, which was released on Private Music in 1995. High Water followed in 1997, although this was actually a collaboration between Wilson and studio musicians Steve Jordan and Danny Kortchmar issued under the Fabulous Thunderbirds name.
Former bassist Keith Ferguson died of liver failure on April 29, 1997, at the age of 50.
On the evening of February 16, 2000, the Fabulous Thunderbirds were the first band ever to be broadcast on the Internet using high-definition cameras. The companion DVD, Invitation Only, is one of the first high-resolution multi-track recordings of a live concert event. The companion CD Live! was released in 2001.
The band recorded Painted On in 2005, produced by Steve Berlin (of Los Lobos) and featuring Rachel Nagy of the Detroit Cobras on the track Love Speaks Louder Than Words. Guitarist Nick Curran joined Wilson on vocals for Two Time Fool.
Bassist Ronnie James and guitarist Troy Gonyea toured with Booker T. Jones in England in 2009, with the addition of guitar player Marc Ford from the Black Crowes and Darian Gray on drums. The band released the album On the Verge in 2013.
In 2016, Kim Wilson announced that the Fabulous Thunderbirds for 2016 will be Steve Gomes on bass, Kevin Anker on keyboards, Wes Watkins on drums, with holdover Johnny Moeller on guitar. This lineup plus drummer Rob Stupka recorded the album Strong Like That released in August 2016. Former bassist Preston Hubbard (born on March 15, 1953 in Providence, Rhode Island) was found dead at his home in St. Louis, Missouri, on August 17, 2016, at the age of 63.
- "Tuff Enuff" from the film "Gung Ho" (1986)
- "Wrap It Up" (1986)
- Gordon, Kieth A. (November 11, 2011). "Severn Records Goes to the Birds". About.com; Blues. Archived from the original on April 19, 2012. Retrieved November 14, 2011.
-  Archived March 13, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
- "The BluesHarp Page:Legends:Slim Harpo". Bluesharp.ca. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
- Thomas, Stephen. "The Fabulous Thunderbirds". AllMusic. Retrieved December 8, 2011.
- Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 110. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
- Ferguson, Keith. "Keith Ferguson: An Inventory of His Papers, 1951-2008, at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library". Legacy.lib.utexas.edu. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
- "Fabulous Thunderbirds Homepage". Fabulousthunderbirds.com. May 5, 2011. Retrieved December 8, 2011.
- Maçek III, J.C. (April 10, 2013). "The Fabulous Thunderbirds: On the Verge". PopMatters.
- "Strong Like That". Severnrecords.com. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
- "Preston Hubbard Obituary". Legacy.com. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
- Reynolds, Mark. "Preston Hubbard, of Roomful of Blues, Fabulous Thunderbirds, dies at 63". Providencejournal.com. Retrieved February 18, 2019.