he Fabulous Thunderbirds – the influential band from Texas that revolutionized the way modern groups perform blues and R&B – will return to Long Island with an appearance at the YMCA Boulton Center in Bay Shore on Friday, August 17 at 8 pm. The Boulton Center is an intimate (260 seats) performing arts center. Tickets are $45 and are available at boultoncenter.org, by calling toll free (866) 811-4111, or at the theater box office, located at 37 West Main Street in Bay Shore. For more information, call the box office at (631) 969-1101. There have been numerous changes in the Fab TBirds lineup since founding member and guitarist Jimmie Vaughan left the band in 1990. However, the current Thunderbirds lineup ranks as perhaps the finest since guitarists Duke Robillard and Kid Bangham departed the group early in that decade. The current band – founding member and harmonica master and vocalist Kim Wilson, guitarists Kirk Fletcher and Nick Curran, drummer Jay Moeller, and bassist Ronnie James Webber – is a funky, grooving, exceptionally tight unit that’s unlike any other act on the road today. Together, they released the stunning Painted On late in 2005, track-for-track one of the best albums in T-Birds recorded history. Then again, it’s hard to live up to the Thunderbirds’ storied past. Bursting out of the

Austin, Texas blues scene in 1974, the band released a quartet of albums that are considered by many blues experts to be seminal: Fabulous Thunderbirds (called by many veteran fans “Girls Go Wild” because of a line on its tabloid-style cover), Butt-Rockin’, What’s The Word, and T-Bird

Butt-Rockin’ The Boulton
Rhythm. All were critically lauded on the Chrysalis label, but trouble brewed in the 80s as the national indie label cut the act from their roster after sluggish sales. Chrysalis was a label that wasn’t long for this world, and cutting the T-Birds from its roster could not have helped much. The band continued to tour and glean fan support all over the world, and by 1995 the band found a new major label in Epic. Soon after, both “Tuff Enough” and a cover of

“Wrap It Up” scored huge on both AM and FM radio, earning the group the first platinum sales of its career. The band’s Tuff Enough album was produced by Dave Edmunds, a longtime fan of the group who worked on two T-Birds efforts (Nick Lowe was a Thunderbirds producer on T-Bird Rhythm as well). Vaughan’s departure from the group after two more albums (he left for a myriad of reasons, partially to join brother Stevie Ray Vaughan to make the classic Family Style album) left a gaping hole in the lineup, but in came blues legends in both Duke Robillard (the founder of Roomful Of Blues) and pompadored Kid Bangham. Suddenly a five-piece, that T-Birds unit released their final album on Epic, the excellent Walk That Walk, Talk That Talk, another critical favorite that unfortunately disappeared from the charts as quickly as it was released. Most of the 90s for the Thunderbirds showed the group to be in a serious state of flux. Wilson performed as a solo artist often (discs were released on Long Island’s national blues indie M.C. Records), and the Thunderbirds released several albums on an array of labels. Notable were the Danny Kortchmar-produced High Water (less a T-Birds effort than a Wilson solo album featuring the producer’s now fabled production style, sadly out of print), Roll Of The Dice, and their excellent repackagings Hot Stuff: The Greatest Hits and Wrap It Up, as well as two live albums. Former members include guitarist Kid Ramos and drummer Fran Christina. However, even T-Birds purists are crazy about their current rocking lineup – so expect to hear several Fab classics during their Boulton show, including the aforementioned “Tuff Enuff” and “Wrap It Up,” as well as “Rock Candy,” “I Believe I’m In Love With You,” “Painted On,” and many songs from the Chrysalis glory days.

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