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The Fabulous Thunderbirds

Updated on August 22, 2014

The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Blues-Rock Band

I always felt that The Fabulous Thunderbirds were one of the more underrated bands of the 1980's. They have been labeled a "one hit wonder" largely because their 1986 hit "Tuff Enuff" was their only top-ten charter. It should be noted that this hard-working group (with many different lineups) has been touring and recording almost non-stop since their formation in 1974.

Public domain photo courtesy Top40db

On February 16, 2000, The Fabulous Thunderbirds became the first band ever to be broadcast on the Internet using high-definition cameras.

Performing History

After appearing 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.

Their first two albums, released in 1979 and 1980 with Keith Ferguson on bass guitar and Mike Buck on drums, initially sold poorly, 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.

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". "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.

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. The group 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.

"Tuff Enuff" Video

I would walk ten miles on my hands and knees

Ain't no doubt about it, baby, it's you I aim to please

I'd wrestle with a lion and a grizzly bear

It's my life, baby, but I don't care....

"Wrap It Up" Video

I've been watching

You for days, now baby

I just love your

Sexy ways, now baby....

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