the Fabulous Thunderbirds
For at least part of 1987, there were generally three cds in my refrigerator-sized cd player at home–Guns and Roses Appetite for Destruction, INXS’ Kick and anything–except their current, popular record–by the Fabulous Thunderbirds.
I had heard “Tuff Enuff” on the radio and I was not impressed. It sounded like jock-rock bullsh*t to me. I was prepared to write off the Fabulous Thunderbirds as derivative and weak. I wanted nothing to do with the Thunderbirds.
It was Jerry Shaw–the cool-guy manager at Musicland –who told me that the guitarist for the T-Birds was Jimmy Vaughan, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s older brother.
Since I didn’t really like their most recent album, Jerry suggested that I get the first Fabulous Thunderbirds record–now on cd–from 1979 or 1980. I think it was called Girls Gone Wild, but it may have been What’s the Word. I don’t recall offhand, but I can easily look it up when I get back to civilization. The thing is, I was adding the Fabulous Thunderbirds to what I knew about Texas music and Texas blues, specifically. I liked it.
the Fabulous Thunderbirds–Learning more about Texas music…
I didn’t know about Blind Lemon Jefferson, the Reverend Horton Heat, Daniel Johnston, Glass Eye and the scores of other cool bands coming from Texas. But, I knew Janis Joplin, ZZ Top, T-Bone Walker, Buddy Holly, Johnny and Edgar Winter, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. I liked what I heard coming out of Texas. I liked that so many of the artists I knew combined traditional and southern styles to create something unique to Texas. In the late 1960s and early 1970s the Texas electric blues scene began to flourish, influenced by country music and blues-rock coming out of the clubs of Austin. Part of what makes Texas blues different than say, Chicago blues is way the Texans often plenty of keyboards and horns, but placed emphasis on smokin’ lead guitar breaks. Was it something in the water of Austin that produced such a recognizable sound?
Two guys I remember from the Fabulous Thunderbirds–as I alternate drinks from my cold coffee and warm PBR–notebook and pen in hand–are Kim Wilson and Jimmy Vaughan. Kim Wilson played harmonica–harp–and sang the blues no matter what song he was singing. Jimmy Vaughan played guitar. And he played well. Too bad for him that he was always over-shadowed by his kid brother, Stevie Ray Vaughan.
the Fabulous Thunderbirds–the Legend of Jimmy and Stevie Ray…
According to legend, Jimmy Vaughan had already been in a few bands when his little brother, Stevie Ray Vaughan started following him around, pestering Jimmy to teach him guitar.
Jimmy Vaughan dealt with it gracefully. With the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Jimmy had a long and successful career. After his brother died, Jimmy continued as a solo artist with nothing really left to prove to anyone.
In 1989 or 1990, my high school buddy, Mike Moon and I both saw different shows of the same tour. The Fabulous Thunderbirds were opening for…Air Supply? Oh, that Texas blues should sink so low. I don’t even remember if Jimmy Vaughan was still with the T-Birds or not. That’s okay. At least we didn’t have to sit through Air Supply.
The Fabulous Thunderbirds recorded eleven albums and numerous compilations over the years. Since the band began in 1976, the Fabulous Thunderbirds have been going ever since. I am not bothered that the Fabulous Thunderbirds are playing County Fairs and local music festivals.
Texas blues. I like it. I’ve got so much music going through my head at all times, that sometimes I’ll forget how good the Fabulous Thunderbirds really are.