The Fabulous Thunderbirds – The Fabulous Thunderbirds

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Attention United States, Mexico and Canada, this record contains music that was organically made, and therefore may be beneficial to your brainwaves

When this album came out in 1979, blues was hardly flavour of the month (much less the year). Bands like the Allman Brothers and Canned Heat were still on the radar, but only just, usurped instead by a younger, more digital-oriented generation of musicians to whom the term organic was a dirty word. Yet fortunately there were enough true believers amongst the American public to justify this album, The Fabulous Thunderbirds excellent debut. Often referred to as Girls Go Wild, thanks to the hilarious front cover, depicting Kim Wilson (vocals, harmonica), Mike Buck (drums), Keith Ferguson (bass), and of course Jimmie Vaughan, guitarist and older brother to Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Recorded in Dallas, Texas during May 1979, The Fabulous Thunderbirds eponymous LP failed to make all that much of a splash when it first appeared, but now, some four decades later, this gem of a record is a fine example of white blues on which the T-Birds pay authentic homage to their musical idols, without ever sounding like slavish imitators.

More than half the album is made up of originals, most of which were written by Wilson himself, where from the word go one knows that they’re in for a good time. The first three numbers, “Wait On Time,” “Scratch My Back” and “Rich Woman” offer the listener everything they need to know about the T-Birds, namely that at this point they were essentially your quintessential bar-blues band. Nice, easy going grooves, sweaty harmonica, and a guitarist who preferred to stay in the pocket rather than dominate his fellow band mates.

“On Full-Time Lover” Vaughan gets to stretch out and show just what he can do. Nothing flashy, just some good old fashioned across the tracks electric blues guitar. Same with “Pocket Rocket,” where Wilson blows his harmonica like a white Slim Harpo, as he also does on the vintage blues of “She’s Tuff” and “Walkin’ To My Baby,” as if one were listening to Memphis radio circa the late 1950’s.

Anyone familiar with Stevie Ray Vaughan will immediately notice the similarity displayed by Jimmie on “Marked Deck,” a song which bears more than a slight resemblance (in terms of guitar technique) to “Pride and Joy.” The lesson in the blues continues with the rollicking “Rock with Me,” and the low-down “C-Boy’s Blues,” a song that would not seem out of place on Muddy Waters’ Live at Newport LP. The original release concluded with the upbeat “Let Me In,” another one of those ‘baby I know I’m a bastard but please take me back – or at least let me in through the front door’ sort of songs, a common enough theme indeed, although thanks to the magic of the compact disc, the 2001 reissue contains the obligatory bonus tracks, all three of them, and they ain’t half bad either. “Look Whatcha Done” sees Vaughan raise a storm, while “Please Don’t Lie To Me” just wants to make you get up and dance. The mournful “Things I Forgot To Do” is one of the LP’s standout tracks, although inexplicably left on the cutting room floor at the time. So thankfully it has been preserved for us here.

While not too many girls are likely to go wild over this record today (not too many probably went wild over it in 1979), The Fabulous Thunderbirds is a wonderful document of late ‘70s Texas blues. The fact that it was made at all obviously meant that there were enough people left in America who wanted to hear this sort of music, just as it was played when segregation was still a topical issue, and ‘coloured music,’ as it was sometimes referred to, served as a catalyst for social change and helped lessen certain racial boundaries. Not that The T-Birds were making any kind of political/ethnic statement. They were simply four white boys who loved their blues, and boy did they know how to do it justice.