After performing for several years in the Austin, Texas blues scene, the Fabulous Thunderbirds signed a recording contract with Takoma/Chrysalis Records.
Their first two albums were released in 1979 and 1980, with Kim Wilson's lead vocals and harmonica, Jimmie Vaughan as lead guitarist, and Keith Ferguson on bass guitar. Mike Buck was on drums for the first album but left the band and was replaced by Fran Christina on the second. Both albums initially sold through the small number printed (about 3000 units) and are now regarded as significant blues recordings. The Thunderbirds' blues style mixed Texas blues with the harmonica-laced swamp blues sounds of Slim Harpo and Lazy Lester—both of whom the Thunderbirds covered. The band's third album, Butt-Rockin', released in 1981, took the band closer to old rhythm and blues and added additional musicians playing piano and brass.
Although the Fabulous Thunderbirds had become favorites of fellow musicians—opening shows for the likes of the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton—and had been critically well-received, the band's records did not sell well. Chrysalis dropped the band following the release of T-Bird Rhythm, leaving the band without a contract for four years. While still in limbo, the Fabulous Thunderbirds continued to play concerts across the U.S. During this time, bassist Keith Ferguson left the band and was replaced by Preston Hubbard, a former member of Roomful of Blues. Tuff Enuff: The Real Story of the Fabulous Thunderbirds is a ride down the rocky road of the music biz with an incredible soundtrack. More to come.