The Spa City Blues Society will host the 16th Annual Hot Springs Blues Festival on Labor Day Weekend, 2012, in Hill Wheatley Plaza, located in historic downtown Hot Springs. The SCBS is proud to announce this year's festival headliner will be The Fabulous Thunderbirds featuring Kim Wilson. This year's festival is sponsored in part by the Hot Springs Convention and Visitor's Bureau.
For over 30 years, The Fabulous Thunderbirds have been the quintessential American band. The group's distinctive and powerful sound, influenced by a diversity of musical styles, manifested itself into a unique musical hybrid via such barnburners as "Tuff Enuff" and "Wrap It Up." Co-founder Kim Wilson, the sole original member, still spearheads the group as it evolves into its newest incarnation.
"We started as a straight blues band," vocalist and harp player Wilson says. "We now incorporate a mixture of a lot of different styles. We're an American music band and we're much higher energy than we were before."
In addition to Wilson, the current T-birds line-up features Jay Moeller on drums, Johnny Moeller and Mike Keller on guitars and Randy Bermudes on bass.
The thread throughout the T-Birds career had been the respect the group commanded for its peerless musicianship and devotion to the sounds of blues, R & B and rock 'n' roll.
In fact, Muddy Waters called Wilson his favorite harmonica player and vocalist. "Muddy Waters was very good to me," Wilson says. "He almost adopted me. I'll never forget him."
For Kim Wilson, the musical journey started in Goleta, California. At 17, he began playing the harmonica. His influences included Little Walter, George "Harmonica" Smith, Lazy Lester and James Cotton. At the same time, Wilson began singing and was deeply impacted by Bobby "Blue" Bland, B.B. King, Otis Rush, Jimmy Rodgers and Muddy Waters.
In search of other musicians who shared his love of the blues, Wilson headed to Minneapolis. He stayed there for a year and a half, playing locally, before moving to the burgeoning music scene of Austin, Texas.
It was there that he met Jimmie Vaughan and they founded the T-Birds in 1974. The band developed a reputation as a compelling live act and subsequently signed a record deal with CBS/Epic Records.
In 1979, The Fabulous Thunderbirds released their first self-titled album. Primarily blues influenced, it became a cult classic.
In subsequent releases, the band started to incorporate more Cajun, rock 'n roll and soul influences. The album T-Bird Rhythm marked a creative turning point for the group as it collaborated with noted producer Nick Lowe.
In 1986, The Fabulous Thunderbirds reached a commercial peak with the album, Tuff Enuff. The single of the same title as well as the singles "Wrap It Up" and "Look At That," all went top 40.
The song, "Tuff Enuff" was featured in the film "Gung Ho" starring Michael Keaton.
For the remainder of the '80s, the band continued to record and tour, and released the album, Powerful Stuff.
Jimmie Vaughn left in 1989 but Wilson kept the group going, incorporating keyboards into the guitar-driven sound. Kim moved back to California in 1996, continuing to cultivate the T-Birds music.
Also scheduled to play the 2012 Hot Springs Blues Festival will be Clover Blue and Ben "Swamp Donkey" Brenner.
Clover Blue and Brenner earned their spots on the festival stage by winning the SCBS' local International Blues Challenge Competition.
Each act will represent the SCBS at the 2012 IBC event in Memphis, Tennessee.
Clover Blue features Rachel McBride on vocals and harmonica, Shelly Wier on vocals, Phil Link on guitar, David Settlemoir on bass, Mark Lovell on guitar and John Roach on drums. This will be the band's second consecutive trip to the IBC and the first as a representative of the SCBS. Clover Blue made the semi-finals of the 2011 IBC.
"Clover Blue is a great band and a testament to the quality of music in Arkansas," says current SCBS President David Hughes. "They earned their shot at the IBC and for that they earned their place on our festival stage this year. We're looking forward to having them perform this year."
Ben 'Swamp Donkey' Brenner is an American original from Little Rock. Brenner writes his own music, bringing up stories from the low side of the road as his guitar notes float off into the fading light of a lost day. This is Brenner's second trip to the IBC representing the SCBS and will be his second festival performance.
"The Donkey is always a lot of fun," continues Hughes. "His music is original and he delivers it with a style that has one foot in the past and an eye on the present. He's truly a hidden gem."
The festival will begin with a kick-off party on Thursday, August 30. Included in the festival will be an artist's alley, workshops, and a few surprises. "Last year was probably the biggest blues festival we've pulled off since I've been involved," Hughes stated. "This year's festival is going to be even bigger, with more activities for kids and families surrounding the festival. And you can bet the music is going to be out of this world."
For complete information on the 16th Annual Hot Springs Blues Festival or the Spa City Blues Society go to www.spacityblues.org.