Fabulous Thunderbirds

For over 30 years, The Fabulous Thunderbirds have been the quintessential American band. The group’s distinctive and powerful sound, influenced by a diversity of musical styles, manifested itself into a unique musical hybrid via such barnburners as “Tuff Enuff” and “Wrap It Up”. Co-founder Kim Wilson, the sole original member, still spearheads the group as it evolves into its newest incarnation.

“We started as a straight blues band”, vocalist and harmonica player Wilson says. “We now incorporate a mixture of a lot of different styles. We’re an American music band and we’re much higher energy than we were before.”

In addition to Wilson, the current Thunderbirds line-up features Jay Moeller on drums, Johnny Moeller and Mike Keller on guitar, and Randy Bermudes on bass.

“To be in the T-Birds, you need to understand the different styles of music and different ways of playing,” Wilson comments. “You have to be willing to adopt a more contemporary style. The guys we have now are able to do that.”

The band continues to tour extensively, in both the U.S. and Europe. Wilson is currently writing songs on his own, with band members and other writers.

“I’ve primarily been a solo songwriter, but I’m looking forward to experimenting with the guys in the band,” Wilson says.

The thread throughout the T-Birds career has been the respect the group commanded for its peerless musicianship and devotion to the sounds of blues, R & B and rock ‘n roll. In fact, Muddy Waters called Wilson his favorite harmonica player and vocalist. “Muddy Waters was very good to me,” Wilson says. “He almost adopted me. I’ll never forget him.”

For Kim Wilson, the musical journey started in Goleta, California. At 17 he began playing the harmonica. His influences included Little Walter, George “Harmonica” Smith, Lazy Lester and James Cotton. At the same time, Wilson began singing and was deeply impacted by Bobby “Blue” Bland, B.B. King, Otis Rush, Jimmy Rodgers and Muddy Waters. In search of other musicians who shared his love of the blues, Wilson headed to Minneapolis. He stayed there for a year and a half, playing locally, before moving to the burgeoning music scene of Austin, Texas. It was there that he met Jimmie Vaughan and they founded the T-Birds in 1974. The band developed a reputation as a compelling live act and subsequently signed a record deal with CBS/Epic Records.

In 1979, The Fabulous Thunderbirds released their first self-titled album. Primarily blues influenced, it became a cult classic. “Things were wide open back then,” Wilson recalls. “There were hundreds of stages where bands could show what they had.”

In subsequent releases, the band started to incorporate more Cajun, rock ‘n roll and soul influences. The album “T-Bird Rhythm” marked a creative turning point for the group as it collaborated with noted producer Nick Lowe. In 1986, The Fabulous Thunderbirds reached a commercial peak with the album, “Tuff Enuff”. The single of the same title as well as the singles “Wrap It Up” and “Look At That”, all went top 40. The song, “Tuff Enuff” was featured in the film “Gung Ho” starring Michael Keaton.

For the remainder of the ’80s, the band continued to record and tour, and released the album, “Powerful Stuff”. Jimmie Vaughn left in 1989 but Wilson kept the group going, incorporating keyboards into the guitar-driven sound. Kim moved back to California in 1996, continuing to cultivate the T-Birds music.

“The thing about the T-Birds is that we can play both blues festival and rock venues,” Wilson comments. “We’re a diversified band now and everybody’s on the same page.”

As a side project Wilson formed Kim Wilson’s Blues Revue, a traditional blues band. He also owns a blues label, Blue Collar Music, that has released three albums – one by Kim, one by “Big Al” Blake and one by Fred Kaplan. Wilson has also recorded and written with noted session guitarist Danny Kortchmar and drummer Steve Jordan and may tour with them at some point. However his current focus remains The Fabulous Thunderbirds. “This is a great time for this band,” he says. “We’re looking forward to the future.”

Popa Chubby has the blues again. Nearly 20 years have passed since the good Popa aka Ted Horowitz made a big splash in the blues community with his groundbreaking major label debut, ‘Booty And The Beast.’

“I was busy making rock records after ‘Booty And The Beast,” Popa Chubby says. “I started playing the blues again because I had to. It became my salvation. It was the way I could survive.”

‘Universal Breakdown Blues’ is what Horowitz was inspired to craft after dealing with a painful divorce and recovery.

The compelling songs feature searing guitar lines and heartfelt lyrics, which recall the lament that inspired such blues icons as Howlin’ Wolf and Robert Johnson. Horowitz digs deep and comes up with some of the most intense songs he has ever written.

It’s not surprising since Horowitz has always had the ability to make such a moving album. The potential was always there. Such albums as ‘Booty and the Beast’ and the inspired ‘Back To New York City’ and the criminally overlooked ‘The Fight Is On’ are some of the most enduring records made by Horowitz.

But this time, he hits one way out of the park, courtesy of the catchy, sublime slices of his fractured life. The latest batch of Popa Chubby tunes are relatable. Who hasn’t loved and lost and had to find their way back?

“My music follows my life and that’s why I’m back with the blues,” Horowitz says. “What makes something great is true content. And when I made this I was still aching from what went down with my old lady. With all that was going on in my head, I heard Muddy Waters singing, ‘it’s been 24 hours since my baby’s been gone and that’s 23 hours way too long’ when I was driving back from the Midwest on a tour. It made me think of my situation with my old lady and it hit me like a ton of bricks. There was nothing like what the old bluesman did. They were authentic and you don’t get a lot of that today in music.”

Well, Horowitz, who impresses with some incendiary guitar runs during ‘Universal Breakdown Blues,’ moves on as a contemporary blues player. He keeps the flame alive with songs like ‘I Ain’t Giving Up,’ which is one of the most heartfelt songs of his enviable career, which has spanned more than a quarter century.

“That song came from deep inside of me,” Horowitz says. “I wasn’t going to give up the marriage. I wasn’t going to give in. There was just no way that was going to happen. I couldn’t give up but sometimes you have to. Ultimately it didn’t work out. I don’t have her but I got the blues.”

But don’t worry about Horowitz. After accepting his fate, he moved on with the spirited ‘I Need A Little Mojo,’ which is a fiery New Orleans style-party song, which proves that the big man from the Bronx is back.

Horowitz picked the perfect cover to render, considering his circumstances. He delivers a mind-bending version of the classic ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow.’ He wrings out every emotional nuance out of the song in an inventive manner.

“I started doing that song a couple of years ago,” Horowitz says. “Crowds just go crazy for that song and you can see why. There is so much emotion there. I’m good at rearranging and I just went for it. I’m all about going for the big moments and there are not many songs that are as big as that one. So I thought, ‘why not cover it? I do what I want to do.”

Indeed. Horowitz turned down the role of Shrek on ‘Broadway.’ Who passes on a high-profile, big money gig like that? Someone that can only do it their way.

“I’m my own man for better or worse,” Horowitz says. “I’m living in a wild time. That’s also what inspired ‘Universal Blues Breakdown.’ There are my issues but the picture is much bigger than me and my situation. Everything is breaking down in the world. The lines are being redefined. We all need something.”

What we need is some raw, powerful, edgy blues and that’s just what Popa Chubby renders. We get to chew on some deep, moving, searing cuts that come straight from the soul.

$20.00 - $23.00

Tickets

All seating is general admission. A limited number of table reservations are available for groups of 4 or more at The Cotillion or by phone 316.722.4201.

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Fabulous Thunderbirds with POPA CHUBBY

Friday, June 21 · Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM at The Cotillion Ballroom