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The Fabulous Thunderbirds Profile

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The Fabulous Thunderbirds with Kim Wilson

The Fabulous Thunderbirds circa 1987

Photo by Steven Pumphrey, courtesy CBS Records

Fabulous Thunderbirds Profile:

Formed: 1974 in Austin TX

An important bridge between the classic 1950s Chicago blues and '60s-era blues-rock, the Fabulous Thunderbirds rewrote the book with both style and substance. The band's sound was straight-ahead barrelhouse blues with Texas roadhouse flair. Whether featuring Kim Wilson's wailing harp or Jimmie Vaughan's raging guitar, the band's material always rocked the house to its foundation. The band's live performances are legendary and, through the years, the T-Birds have re-defined the concept of the blues band.

The Antone's Years

The Fabulous Thunderbirds were formed in 1974 by guitarist Vaughan and singer Wilson, along with bassist Keith Ferguson and drummer Mike Buck. Lou Ann Barton was also a band member for awhile.

After kicking away at the Texas club scene for a couple of years, the T-Birds became the house band at Antone's in Austin. Aside from their own sets of houserockin' originals and classic covers, the T-Birds also backed other blues artists that performed at the club.

The band's self-titled 1979 debut album led to a deal with Chrysalis, which released three albums to critical raves but little sales. Drummer Fran Christina, from Roomful of Blues, replaced Buck, and the band increased its audience with gigs opening for Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones.

Tuff Enuff

Poor sales caused Chrysalis to drop the band, but they continued to grow in popularity as a live draw. Another Roomful of Blues alumnus, Preston Hubbard, replaced Ferguson on bass. This is the T-Birds line-up that was signed to Epic Records. 1985's Tuff Enuff, recorded with producer Dave Edmunds spawned two hit singles and went Platinum in sales.

Two following albums, 1987's Hot Number and 1989's Powerful Stuff sold well, but featured a distinctive blues-rock sound that left some fans cold. Vaughan left the band in 1989 to record with his brother Stevie Ray, subsequently pursuing a solo career.

Wilson carried on with new guitarists, notably Duke Robillard and Kid Bangham. The band would return to a bluesier sound, and took a brief hiatus in the early-1990s while Wilson recorded a pair of solo albums. Wilson reformed the T-Birds in 1994, and they continue rocking today.

Recommended Albums: Tuff Enuff was the band's rockin' breakthrough, but 1982's T-Bird Rhythm offers up plenty of bluesy cheap thrills.

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