Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Fabulous Thunderbirds

I got the chance to meet my hero last night and I told him so. In interviews, Kim Wilson always mentions his musical heroes such as Muddy Waters and Jimmy Rogers whom he shared stages and impressed with his harmonica skills. He speaks of his blues harp influences, such as Little and Big Walter and both Sonny Boys. When I caught up with him a short few minutes before showtime at the Wolf Pen Creek Amphitheater (blogged about below), I told him that we didn't have those guys around any longer, "But we still have Kim Wilson". Might sound like a corny thing to say, but I meant it and I think he appreciated it--he sure squeezed my hand firmly. I also told him that I couldn't believe that Johnny Moeller and Mike Keller were both playing with him. He said, "You know those guys?" I told him that, yeah, I had seen them play and felt that they were two of the best blues guitarists around. "Yeah, and I've got 'em now!"

So, with Johnny Moeller stage right, Mike Keller stage left and Kim Wilson smack dab in the middle, The Fabulous Thunderbirds rocked the house in inibitable T-Birds fashion. Nothing different, nothing earthshattering new, just what one comes to expect at a show led down the road by the best damn harp player on the planet. They went from their typical mix of R&B/Soul, stone cold blues and rock 'n' roll, managing to sound as fresh as the day "Tuff Enough" hit the charts and every day since. Even though Wilson is the only thing consistant about the band lineup, he never has hit a stage without the best band mates that he can round up, and this is the best Thunderbirds' contingent that I've ever heard, which was pretty clear from the opening notes that Johnny Moeller hit on his Strat to set an R&B tone with Mike Keller supplying outstanding Telecaster rhythm. Keller laid back on rhthym guitar for several cuts and then stepped forward and began absolutely shredding the night. That's kinda sorta how it went. The Moeller/Keller killer guitar double whammy that I was expecting and hoping to see transpire. Of course, when Kim finally got around to picking up his Astatic mic and blowing through his amp (pictured above-The early '60s Twin sat atop a short speaker cab), I was in harp heaven. He always puts it down way too often, but he gives those that have never heard him a dose of what Chicago blues harp is all about and when he's left on stage alone, blasting a rhythmic orgy of riffs, he leaves little doubt that he IS the master. Also, of course, a band ain't a band without a rhythm section and Kim's hired hands followed, lead, and pushed the band in every direction that it headed. Johnny's drummer brother Jason just flat worked telepathically with bassist Randy Bermudes (Kim's bald headed stunt double). The T-Birds ruled.

The best part about this show is that my daughter Erica and new son-in-law, Danny Ross, my wife, Virginia and son, John all were in attendance with me and got a better understanding of what all the fuss is about (my fuss, anyway). They were thoroughly entertained.

I had caught up with Johnny Moeller while we were enjoying the opening act. I told him that we had met years ago in Bryan, Texas at the Third Floor Cantina. I told him that I had gone over to see Rob Roy Parnell, but sat with my mouth open watching him play guitar. I told him that he sure had a sweet gig now and he gushed about what a treat it was playing with Kim and what a wonderful guy he was. He said that they had just returned from a rewarding European tour and that they should have a cd out by the end of September with this band.

P.S.-Kim said that a movie is in the works about Chess records and that he and the guys are in it. Sweet. That'll be hard to beat. Oh, in the photos at the top of the blog: Johnny's got the Strat and Mike's doing it up on the Telecaster. Anyway--


Mike Lynch said...

Nice review, Ricky! Kim is The Man, for sure. Those blonde Twin Amps are scarce as hens' teeth...

Ricky Bush said...

Oh, yeah,and they prove that with outrageous prices.

See ya--

Brad Knapp said...

Sounds like a heck of a concert--I think we just missed them at the House of Blues. If not, I might look around for some tickets.

Ricky Bush said...

You HAVE to catch the T-Birds at some point in time, Brad. You'll like 'em. Think that you'd really love the Heathens. Check out there website.

See ya--

Ralf / said...

I saw them in Munich, Germany in April - and i've been in heaven. Kim is one of my most important influences regarding harp, we had a nice talk after the show about the way to go, copycats and originals and a lot more.

And though i really love Kims playing, Johnny simply blew me away. I remembered the saying "If you can't tell it in 12 bars, you can't tell it", and this guy tells whole stories in 12 bars. Jeeee...!!!