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Fabulous Thunderbirds

The upside of being a revivalist band is that if you keep at it long enough, the sound is gonna come back. The downside is obvious. Once successful the band is boxed in. The Stray Cats played Rockabilly like nobody's business and scored with "Rock This Town" and "Stray Cat Strut" before falling out of favor. Much the same happened to the electric Blues band, the Fabulous Thunderbirds. They were known for the songs "Tuff Enuff" and "Wrap It Up" and to a lesser extent "Powerful Stuff." And that's it. Which is really a shame considering Kim Wilson's powerful growl and Jimmie Vaughan's (older brother of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan) killer guitar.

The Austin based group formed in '74 and was signed by Takoma/Chrysalis late in the decade. While the Fabulous Thunderbirds became a favorite of fellow musicians like the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton, whose shows they opened, the band failed to sell records in sufficient numbers. So their label dropped them. The Fabulous Thunderbirds continued to tour but it was four long years before another label deal happened. This time it was with Epic/Associated. And that changed the group's fortunes.

The single "Tuff Enuff" peaked at #10 on the Billboard chart - the best the band would do in the pop realm. The track landed in a couple movies (Gung Ho and Tough Guys). "Wrap It Up" followed.

Having gotten its dose of Texas Blues, the public moved on and the Fabulous Thunderbirds' fortunes slid. But on the way down they got a bit of a bump when the title track from their "Powerful Stuff" album landed on "Cocktail" soundtrack. The Tom Cruise vehicle proved very popular and his coattails (as opposed to cocktails) helped a handful of bands.

Eventually, Vaughan left to perform with his brother Stevie Ray. After Stevie Ray was killed in a helicopter accident while on tour with Eric Clapton, Jimmie went solo.

Any band with Vaughan's guitar was worth listening to but without him the Fabulous Thunderbirds became ordinary. Personnel changes were rampant with Wilson being the only constant.

Fabulous Thunderbirds Discography


1979 Girls Go Wild
1980 What's the Word
1981 Butt Rockin'
1982 T-Bird Rhythm
1986 Tuff Enuff
1987 Hot Number
1989 Powerful Stuff
1991 Walk That Walk, Talk That Talk
1995 Roll Of The Dice
1997 High Water
2005 Painted On
2009 Thunderbirds! (sold only at shows)

"Tuff Enuff," containing both the title track and "Wrap It Up," is the group's top album from their initial run. However, a better option would be "Hot Stuff: The Greatest Hits." This set holds the hits, near misses and other notable tracks.

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