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.


Al Johnson said...

Love the Thunderbirds, and Kim Wilson. Especially
Tuff Enuf, here as a music video:

and Wrap it Up:

Anonymous said...

Oh yass:

Gone are the days when the women said please

Casey Klahn said...

We had a local band named Flash Cadillac; they sprang from TFT's loins, as it were. I enjoyed their live concerts and fifties nostalgia was perfectly placed in the seventies. I know less than nothing @ music, but it strikes me that eighties nostalgia now is a less than perfect spin of that.

Deborah HH said...

There are some bands that just rock you with joy: The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Los Lonely Boys, The Mavericks, Unorganized Hancock.

Anonymous said...

Back when I was a grad student at Ohio State, Columbus had several bands like that. Best and loudest played the Carolyn Club. Called the Carolyn Club Orchestra, of all things. Leader Rusty Bryant. Signature piece "All Night Long". Jazzed up version of "Night Train".

SippicanCottage said...

Hello all- Thanks as always for reading and commenting and supporting this blog.

Hi Dave- Aw, yeah. The first band I was ever in for money played all sorts of Junior Wells/Buddy Guy songs. It's such an urban/gutbucket combo. I adore it still.

Hi Casey- As you probably know, Flash Cadillac is the band in red blazers playing at the high school dance in American Graffiti.

Hi Deborah- I see what you did there.

Anonymous said...

I used to see the TFT when they were the house band at Fitzgeralds in the Heights....

Gringo said...

The Fabulous Thunderbirds, a.k.a. "The Greatest Roadhouse Band Ever," have a greater claim to fame through Jimmy Vaughan, who was part of the T-Birds until 1989.

Jimmy Vaughan and little brother Stevie Ray were the the greatest guitarist brother team that I know of- perhaps something for Unorganized Hancock to shoot for. Jimmy Vaughn played with The Fabulous Thunderbirds until 1989. Little brother Stevie Ray Vaughan - what can I say. Here he performs Texas Flood. Stevie Ray and ex-T-Bird Jimmy put out an album in 1990: Family Style. Not long after, Stevie Ray went the way of Buddy Holly and Carlos Gardel.

Gringo said...

Family Style wasn't the first time Jimmy and Stevie Ray performed together in public: Stevie Ray Vaughan with The Fabulous Thunderbirds.
Jimmy may not have had the chops of his little brother- but who did? Jimmy is a very fine guitarist.

Sam L. said...

Yayus! Loved Flash Cadillac; also Sha Na Na.

I saw these guys a couple weeks back:

Dave does a good Jerry Lee Lewis impression, and sounds fairly close to Ellllvis doing his songs.

Marieanne said...

Stevie always said that his big brother Jimmie forgot more blues than he ever knew.

Love the T-Birds, CRAZY about those Vaughan brothers.

Marieanne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marieanne said...

I really don't mean to spam, I just forgot to add the link.

I'll see your Wrap It Up and I'll raise you Pipeline with the Vaughan boys on the same danged doubleneck.

Bob D said...

I don't know if comments on older posts ever get through to you, but if they do I have a question.
"Dive joints under the highway" sounds an awful lot like it could be referring to the old Met Café in Providence. Ever appear there? Love your ruminations, keep them coming. Thanks.

SippicanCottage said...

Hi Bob- I have to moderate comments for older post because of all the spam, but yes, I see all of them.

The roadhouse I'm describing in the essay is indeed the old Met Cafe in Providence. It was the first place I ever played in. I played there quite a few times after that.