The spotlight of fame has moved on, but the boys still play hard.
By JOHN BENSON
The Fabulous Thunderbirds is back, again, with its latest album "Painted On." However, if you ask singer/harpist Kim Wilson, the modern electric Texas blues band never left.
"We're on kind of a roll here," said Kim Wilson, calling from his home in Detroit. "The object of this record is to make everybody aware that we're out [there], we're still a cutting-edge act and we're the kind of act that really never goes away. We don't really fall victim to the flavor of the day deal. Although, we would like to be the flavor of the day for a few seconds but it's really about making real good music with that blues edge."
More than a trendy act, The Fabulous Thunderbirds scored mainstream attention in the mid-'80s with its platinum album "Tuff Enuff." The title track became a major hit for the band, as did its cover of the Sam and Dave song "Wrap It Up." The band's follow-up release, "Hot Number," also did well, based on the success of single "Stand Back." Before the spotlight of fame moved on, the group had one more charting track with the song "Powerful Stuff" from the "Cocktail" soundtrack.
From the start, the core of The Fabulous Thunderbirds was Wilson and Jimmy Vaughan. Soon after the fanfare started to wane, Jimmy left, forming a duo with his brother and Texas guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughn. Stevie died in 1990 but Jimmy went solo. It was around this time that Wilson did too, releasing a pair of discs before reconvening the band -- without Jimmy -- in 1994.
While still possessing a strong diehard fan base and some notoriety, The Fabulous Thunderbirds toured, but it wasn't until its current line-up -- Wilson, guitarists Kirk Fletcher and Nick Curran, drummer Jimi Bott, bassist Ronnie James Webber and keyboardist Gene Taylor -- came together that Wilson felt the band had finally come into its own.
"I think this time it's the first time we really have a band that is on the same page as far as reverence to the old days," Wilson said. "It's very much blues influenced, but they have a lot of other stuff going on. And a lot of weirdness that they bring to the table makes it very interesting."
The weirdness continues this summer as the band celebrates its 30th anniversary with a national tour that includes an Aug. 13 show at Mill Creek Park's Morley Pavilion. Having once experienced the flavor-of-the-day feeling, today The Fabulous Thunderbirds are one of the more intriguing live blues shows around.
"A while back, major labels created this stigma that is attached to this music," Wilson said. "All of this kind of rock is really loud but it really has nothing to do with blues music. And I think that we are a complete departure from that. We'll get out there and we will rock you, don't worry. We'll rock your asses off. I believe that no matter what you like or what you think you like, you'll walk away knowing that you saw something special and different."