During a recent conversation, Fabulous Thunderbirds leader/singer/harmonica man Kim Wilson gave NUVO a piece of rock music/birthday trivia.
“You know who I really like?” he asked. “AC/DC, especially Angus and Malcolm Young. I really like them. You know Malcolm and I have the same birthday? They can really get their message across in rock music and they’re deep into blues.”
Like AC/DC, the T-Birds deliver a no-nonsense sound that has survived through musical trends. With the band turning 34 this October, Wilson reflects on those early days.
“I thought I’d be playing music,” Wilson said. “My desire is to cover a lot of bases. At that time, I didn’t dream of having hit records. Especially since I’m a dyed in the wool blues guy to a fault. Soul and rock and roll and blues really go together. Even country. You can call it Americana, which is what this band has existed on all these years.”
In their early years on the Austin, Texas, blues scene, the T-Birds were the backing band of choice for national blues musicians that came to town, from the West Coast swingers to the soulful voices of Memphis to the hard-core titans of Chicago.
“Oh yeah, we learned from everybody we played with,” Wilson said. “Hanging out with guys like Steve Cropper [guitarist for Booker T & The MGs]. All these things rub off on you. To me it’s black and white as to what’s cool and what’s not cool. For one thing I don’t know if I could delve into something I didn’t feel that was cool to me.”
The blues crossover in the ’80s brought success to artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robert Cray and the T-Birds. A few blues music videos even made it into rotation on MTV, including T-Bird singles “Tuff Enuff” and “Wrap It Up.”
This current T-Birds lineup has been together for less than a year. Wilson calls it his “greatest group ever.” Better than the band’s early years with Jimmie Vaughan? Better than when he had established guitar slingers Duke Robillard and Kid Ramos in the band?
“These guys are just awesome,” Wilson answers. “They’re real musicians, very open-minded, very creative people that I love. They’re younger than I am, in their early to mid 30s. They don’t have any walls, musically. It’s the first time every guy in the group has played like they’re in a real band.”
The band’s new album (the current title is Pay Back Time) is currently in the mixing stages and should be out by the end of the year. No word on whether the new material will be tried out in Anderson.
“This recording is going to be really awesome,” he said. “I may even cut some more tracks. We’re very close.”
Wilson divides his time between rockin’ blues of the T-Birds and his more traditional blues solo projects, although he says the line between the two is beginning to blur.
“With my solo work, it’s a different style with other great musicians,” he said. “I think guys like Billy Flynn, Rusty Zinn, Junior Watson, Barrelhouse Chuck and Little Frank have been saviors for me. At one time, the only fun I had was with those guys. The beautiful thing now is it’s now fun to play with the T-Birds, too. These guys want to play the blues for the first time since the inception of the band. We’re able to really play it if we want to. I’m blessed to have these people in the band. Without them, I wouldn’t be playing at the level I’m playing at.”