|The Fabulous Thunderbirds open for Los Lobos
on Thursday, Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. at Prairie Meadows
Racetrack and Casino. Tickets are $19-$39 through
By Michael Swanger
As it goes for a seminal band like The Fabulous
Thunderbirds with 36 years and a few lineup
changes under its wings, there is a temptation
to invest copious amounts of time and energy
revisiting the past. Kim Wilson, the band's
lone remaining founding member and leader, however,
is not one of them.
Perhaps more so than ever before, the 60-year-old
singer, songwriter and harmonica player is focused
on the band's future, specifically its musical
evolution, as he continues to push The T-Birds
to explore new artistic heights. When Wilson
and Jimmie Vaughan formed the group in Austin,
Texas, in 1975, The T-Birds were at the vanguard
of a blues revival that they would help usher
in during the 1980s with a string of acclaimed
albums like "What's the Word," "T-Bird
Rhythm" and "Powerful Stuff."
These days, The T-Birds incorporate a mix of
roots styles that can best be described as "American
"The musical direction of the band started
evolving late, and now we have this eclectic
thing even more than we had before. Nothing
against the previous players, they were all
world-class players, but there's a desire to
go in another direction and do what I like,"
said Wilson via telephone from his home in California.
"I love the blues, it all starts there.
But I like soul music, I like rock ‘n' roll,
I like George Jones, Jerry Lee Lewis, Rockin'
Sidney and Clifton Chenier, so that's where
you go. It doesn't matter what kind of music
you play if your objective is to move people
and to do something for their souls. This lineup,
especially, is able to facilitate those different
directions for me more than anyone else has."
Long gone are fellow founding members Vaughan,
Mike Buck and the late Keith Ferguson, as well
as a revolving door of talented substitutes
over the decades including Fran Christina, Preston
Hubbard, Kid Bangham, David "Kid"
Ramos, Gene Taylor, Kirk Fletcher, Ronnie James
Weber and Nick Curran. For the last three years,
The T-Birds' lineup has remained unchanged and
includes Wilson leading a pack of talented young
Texas musicians like guitarists Johnny Moeller
and Mike Keller, bassist Randy Bermudes and
drummer Jay Moeller.
"These guys have been coming to my shows
since they were teenagers," Wilson said.
"They have a real reverence for the past
and a respect for it, but they have their own
thing. That's something I demand from a musician,
that you have your own voice. I'm not interested
in this cookie cutter stuff where you're compartmentalizing
someone else and calling it improvising. I'm
interested in people who are going to let it
fly and are not gonna be boring, because I can't
stand predictability. I hate it."
Wilson also credits the new lineup for its selfless
"I've worked with great individuals over
the years, but you have to have people who are
willing to make sacrifices in that they might
not get a solo for three songs," said Wilson
with a hearty laugh. "These guys don't
care about that shit; that's the beautiful thing."
The T-Birds are close to inking a new record
deal after shopping its current independent
release. Once that is completed, the band will
return to the studio to produce some new material
to add to it.
"We'll give ourselves some time and officially
re-release our current album with some tweaks
to it and maybe some different songs,"
Despite having sold more than 20 million albums
with The T-Birds, Wilson said there is always
room for improvement in the studio and onstage.
"You work hard your whole life towards
this standard you have for yourself, and mine
is Muddy Waters and B.B. King and guys like
that, so obviously it's going to take me my
whole life to even get close to that,"
he said. "But you still try to get better
at what you do every day, pure and simple."