Wednesday, March 12, 2014
The Greatest Roadhouse Band Ever
Ah, The Fabulous Thunderbirds.
I don't think very many people know how good The Fabulous Thunderbirds were. They're like fellow Texans ZZ Top; they got crummy to get famous. But they were both primal, essential, and wildly influential at one time.
I wonder how many bar bands were launched by the first Thunderbirds record, Girls Go Wild. Of course, the name of the record was The Fabulous Thunderbirds, but it said "Girls Go Wild" on the front, and everyone got to calling it that, and when they re-issued it 21 years later, in 2000, they gave up and named it that.
I've read all sorts of stuff about that record. I'm not sure how much I remember accurately, but I think they just set up two boom mikes and blasted away like they were playing in a barroom. That's the essence of roadhouse music, and it captured it perfectly. It's supposed to be made right in front of you like bacon and eggs at four AM in a bad diner way after last call. If you're expecting some sort of garnish, you're in the wrong place.
I was never much of a musician. I did get to perform a lot, in a lot of different places, with a lot of different people. I played badly everywhere for anybody, from rent parties to places that had names that ended with Civic Center, but I don't think I've ever gotten as much of a thrill as I did that very first time I got on a bandstand the size of a kitchen table, with a neon sign buzzing next to my ear, in a blockhouse dive under a highway overpass going nowhere from noplace, razor wire on the fence outside, two-dollar cover, and blasted away at some Junior Wells song or another to the kind of flotsam and jetsam of humanity that would be interested in us on a Tuesday night in the rain. They clapped because they liked it, or maybe because it was over; I don't know, and I didn't care, either. I had entered another world, and it took me in like a brother when I desperately needed it.