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,
. The mass success didn't last too long, and founding member
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
, 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
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
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.