Biography All Music GuideWikipedia
Group Members: Keith Ferguson, Kid Ramos, Lou Ann Barton, Duke Robillard, Duke Robillard and Herb Ellis, Duke Robillard, Herb Ellis, Geils, Robillard Beaudoin, The Duke Robillard Band, Duke Robillard & Sunny Crownover, Kim Wilson, Kid Bangham, Jimi Bott, Jimmie Vaughan, Bramhall, Doyle Bramhall II, Doyle Bramhall II & Smokestack, Kirk Fletcher, Nick Curran, Nick Curran & The Nightlifes, Nick Curran and the Lowlifes, Danny Kortchmar
All Music Guide:
With their fusion of blues, rock & roll, and R&B, the Fabulous Thunderbirds helped popularize roadhouse Texas blues with a mass audience in the '80s and, in the process, they helped kick-start a blues revival during the mid-'80s. During their heyday in the early '80s, they were the most popular attraction on the blues bar circuit, which eventually led to a breakthrough to the pop audience in 1986 with their fifth album, Tuff Enuff. The mass success didn't last too long, and founding member Jimmie Vaughan left in 1990, but the Fabulous Thunderbirds remained one of the most popular blues concert acts in America during the '90s.
Guitarist Jimmie Vaughan formed the Fabulous Thunderbirds with vocalist/harpist Kim Wilson in 1974; in addition to Vaughan and Wilson, the band's original lineup included bassist Keith Ferguson and drummer Mike Buck. Initially, the group also featured vocalist Lou Ann Barton, but she left the band shortly after its formation. Within a few years, the Thunderbirds became the house band for the Austin club Antone's, where they would play regular sets and support touring blues musicians. By the end of the decade, they had built a strong fan base, which led to a record contract with the local Takoma Records.
In 1979, the Fabulous Thunderbirds released their eponymous debut on Takoma. The record was successful enough to attract the attention of major labels and Chrysalis signed the band the following year. What's the Word, the group's second album, was released in 1980 and it was followed in 1981 by Butt Rockin'. By the time the Thunderbirds recorded their 1982 album T-Bird Rhythm, drummer Mike Buck was replaced by Fran Christina, a former member of Roomful of Blues.
Although the Fabulous Thunderbirds had become favorites of fellow musicians -- they opened shows for the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton -- and had been critically well-received, their records didn't sell particularly well. Chrysalis dropped the band following the release of T-Bird Rhythm, leaving the band without a record contract for four years. While they were in limbo, they continued to play concerts across the country. During this time, bassist Keith Ferguson left the band and was replaced by Preston Hubbard, another former member of Roomful of Blues. In 1985, they finally landed another record contract, signing with Epic/Associated.
After the deal with Epic/Associated was complete, the T-Birds entered a London studio and recorded their fifth album with producer Dave Edmunds. The resulting album, Tuff Enuff, was released in the spring of 1986 and, unexpectedly, became a major crossover success. The title track was released as a single and its accompanying video received heavy play on MTV, which helped the song reach the American Top Ten. The success of the single sent the album to number 13 on the charts; Tuff Enuff would eventually receive a platinum record. "Wrap It Up," a cover of an old Sam & Dave song, was the album's second single and it became a Top Ten album rock track. Later in 1986, the T-Birds won the W.C. Handy Award for best blues band.
The Fabulous Thunderbirds' follow-up to Tuff Enuff, Hot Number, arrived in the summer of 1987. Initially, the album did fairly well -- peaking at number 49 on the charts and spawning the Top Ten album rock hit "Stand Back" -- but it quickly fell off the charts. Furthermore, its slick, radio-ready sound alienated their hardcore following of blues fans. "Powerful Stuff," a single from the soundtrack of the Tom Cruise film Cocktail, became a number three album rock hit in the summer of 1988. It was included on the following year's Powerful Stuff album, which proved to be a major commercial disappointment -- it only spent seven weeks on the charts.
After the two poorly received follow-ups to Tuff Enuff, Jimmie Vaughan left the band to play in a duo with his brother, Stevie Ray Vaughan; following Stevie Ray's death in the summer of 1990, Jimmie pursued a full-time solo career. The Fabulous Thunderbirds replaced Vaughan with two guitarists, Duke Robillard and Kid Bangham. The first album from the new lineup, Walk That Walk, Talk That Talk, appeared in 1991. Following the release of Walk That Walk, Talk That Talk, Epic/Associated dropped the Fabulous Thunderbirds from their roster.
During the early '90s, the Fabulous Thunderbirds were in limbo, as Kim Wilson recorded a pair of solo albums -- Tigerman (1993) and That's Life (1994). Wilson re-assembled the band in late 1994 and the band recorded their ninth album, Roll of the Dice, which was released on Private Music in 1995. High Water followed in 1997 with a live album after that in 2001.
In 2004, Wilson reassembled the band yet again adding retro blues sensation guitarist Nick Curran and equally talented West Coast guitarist Kirk Eli Fletcher. The newly anointed group released Painted On on Tone Cool records in 2005.
The Fabulous Thunderbirds is an American, Grammy-nominated blues rock band, formed 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 on signed with Epic Records. In 2011, they signed with Severn Records.
Their first two albums, released in 1979 and 1980 with Kim Wilson's lead vocals and harp, Jimmie Vaughan as lead guitarist, Keith Ferguson on bass guitar and Fran Christina ondrumss. also Mike Buck on drums on the 1st. album but replaced on the second, initially sold out of the small number printed,(about 3 thousand units) but 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 particularly 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. 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 in the Billboard Hot 100. "Tuff Enuff" remains the band's only Top 40 hit, peaking at #10 on the Billboard Hot 100. The band's music was also used in the 1987 movie Hot Pursuit. 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 upon its inclusion in the 1988 film Cocktail. The band then embarked on a long series of line-up changes and albums throughout the 1990s.
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, Ma.
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 a 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.
On the evening of February 16, 2000, The Fabulous Thunderbirds made history, becoming 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.
The Fabulous Thunderbirds have maintained an intense touring schedule throughout the United States and Europe since the early 1990s.
Bassist Ronnie James and guitarist Troy Gonyea toured, to considerable acclaim, 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 a new album in 2013 entitled, On the Verge.