The Fabulous Thunderbirds to perform at Pocono Bluesfest
The Fabulous Thundebirds (from left, Mike Keller, Johnny Moeller, Kim Wilson, Jay Moeller and Randy Bermudes, will perform at the 19th Pocono Blues Festival at Big Boulder Ski Area on Sunday. The three-day festival begins this evening.
Kim Wilson has fronted different incarnations of The Fabulous Thunderbirds throughout the band's 30-plus year career, and he is enjoying performing with the 2010 model, which will make a stop at the 19th Pocono Blues Festival at Big Boulder Ski Area on Sunday.
"I can't wait to show people this band," said Wilson, the Thunderbirds' co-founder and sole original member, during a phone interview from Norfolk, Virginia, on the road during his current tour, which just finished a trek to Europe.
Wilson, the Thunderbirds' lead singer and harmonica player, formed the band in Austin, Texas in 1974 along with guitarist Jimmie Vaughan, the brother of late guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan.
The Thunderbirds have had their feet in both the blues and rock worlds, with their commercial zenith coming during the 1980's with hits such as "Tuff Enuff", "Powerful Stuff" and a cover of Sam and Dave's "Wrap It Up".
The current line-up has been together for three years and includes Wilson, guitarists Mike Keller and Johnny Moeller, bass player Randy Bermudes and drummer Jay Moeller.
"It's a good bunch," said Wilson."There's a lot of energy and they are very creative. Lots of times you get players who are strong at one thing, like on the rock'n'roll side of it but not really blues players. These guys can do it all, and I love that. It's a blessing for me to run into these guys at this stage of my life.
"They open up a lot of doors for me as a vocalist, and we're doing things we haven't been able to do before. That's a cool thing for me. It's always important to have energy. I just go up there and enjoy myself."
On stage, the Thunderbirds approach things with a spontaneous feel, which is how Wilson wants it.
"With some bands, everything is so controlled, with a rigid setlist, and that's not conducive to creativity," said Wilson, whose talents have garnered him blues awards and Grammy nominations. "Things are very loose for us. All the soloists get plenty of time. Consequently, people like to go out on the bandstand with me, because they know they will get their time.
"They are also very good at songwriting and arranging, which is something new to me. The bottom line is, we can come out with our old songs, but they have their own take on it. The songs take on a new personality, and the whole thing stays fresh. Every band has its own personality, and these guys are all world-class players."
In addition to touring, Wilson noted that the current configuration is working on a new album.
"We have an album in the can, but we are still working on it," he explained. "When we started, we had a different guy in the band, and then Mike Keller came in, and now he's entrenched in things. It's a whole another ball game. Mike's worked his way into the band and he's now comfortable with it.
"The album may come out late this year or early next year, but we are still selling the thing at the bandstand, so it will become a collector's item," he added.
Wilson, who was schooled in the blues by legends like Muddy Waters, won't let the Thunderbirds become stale.
"One demand that I have is that things can't be predictable, or else it's not going to happen," he stressed. "I'm not looking to do things the way they were 36 years ago or even five years ago. They have to stay fresh, and these guys have that same philosophy.
"We never have a setlist. I have to be able to call it out there to see the audience and what they like, and be able to move things in that direction. It's never going to be the same show."
One might expect the Thunderbirds to shift into more of a blues mode at Pocono.
"With what people consider blues these days, I could go out and play Mott The Hoople or something like that," said Wilson. "It's kind of nebulous what blues are these days, and there's a lot of rock that people call blues. You are not going to get that from me. These guys can play the blues, and they know that tradition you need if you want to call it the blues."
Wilson has performed at Pocono before, and he feels this is one bluesfest that gets that distinction. The festival has made its mark for showcasing all types of authentic blues players as well as branching into soul, rhythym and blues and even zydeco music.
"There are blues festivals, and Pocono is one that stands out," he remarked. "The last time I was there, Ann Peebles was playing there, too. What impressed me is that I was able to go out and walk around and want to see these kinds of people play all these kinds of music. We're looking forward to playing Pocono."