Fabulous Thunderbirds blend blues, rock and soul

Fabulous Thunderbirds blend blues, rock and soul
June 28, 2011
by Brad Meyer

For more than three decades The Fabulous Thunderbirds have earned a solid reputation as the quintessential American blues band – delivering a dynamic, powerful approach to their music.

The Fabulous Thunderbirds come to Magnolia to perform Saturday for one show only at Just A Nice Place, located at 25599 FM 1488. The appearance is part of the iconic band’s summer tour featuring nearly 40 performances in three countries over the next three months.

“We’re hitting the road with a lot of energy,” said Kim Wilson, original vocalist, harmonica player and founder of the group. “But obviously Texas holds a special place in our hearts.”

In 1974, Wilson and music legend Jimmie Vaughan founded The Fabulous Thunderbirds in Austin as a straight blues band. The band earned a favorable reputation for the live performances and became something of a cult classic – attracting fans on a national level.

“I give credit to all the blues and R&B performers that were such an early influence on me,” said Wilson. “But I also like to put my own whammy on things.”

It’s a strategy that worked. Influences like Muddy Waters, Otis Reading, Sam Cook and B.B. King helped lead Wilson and The Fabulous Thunderbirds to record 20 albums, sell millions of records and earn multiple Blues awards and Grammy nominations.

Many people know The Thunderbirds by their crossover hits like “Tuff Enuff” and “Wrap It Up,” but Wilson said there is more to the group than pop hits.

“We’re a blues band at heart,” he said. “We don’t always play the songs in the same order or the same way – we like to mix it up.”

The same can be said of the roster of musicians who have made up The Fabulous Thunderbirds. While Wilson’s rough, powerful voice has remained a constant, his accompaniment has changed over the years.

The current musicians comprising The Fabulous Thunderbirds include Jay Moeller on drums, Johnny Moeller and Mike Keller on guitar and Randy Bermudes on bass.

“Finding the right musicians can be a challenge,” Wilson acknowledged. “I’m more interested in originality than technical capability. You have to feel it to play it.”

Throughout his career, Wilson said he is fortunate to have worked with a wide range of performers who he really admires, including Bonnie Raitt, Paul Simon and B.B. King. He was recently asked to work on a project with Rafael Saaviq, a hot new R&B performer who is creating a sensation in the music industry.

“It’s great to still be active and involved in cutting edge projects,” said Wilson.

While he is pleased with his position in blues music, Wilson has significant concerns about the overall state of the music industry – describing it as having been in a plague for several years.

“Technology has lessened the need for the support of a record label by artists,” he said. “But digital technology has made it easy ‘fake’ talent with studio tricks and flood the market with music that isn’t very good.”

Wilson is concerned that quality artists have a hard time breaking through the “clutter” on YouTube, the Internet video and audio resource. Digital technology also makes “pirating,” or the illegal distribution of copyrighted work, far too easy.

Still, Wilson said he is in the music industry to stay.

“There’s no retirement for the blues,” he said. “You do it till you drop – that’s what I intend to do.”
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