Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Fabulous Thunderbirds: Tuff Enuff

Does the name “The Fabulous Thunderbirds” ring a bell? I would hope at least you might remember their one-hit wonder from 1986 “Tuff Enuff” – the title cut from the album of the same name. When CBS Records promoted this single, they did so from the angle that the guitarist, Jimmie Vaughan, was the brother of guitar great Stevie Ray Vaughan. Stevie Ray also recorded for CBS Records’ Epic label.

While the band’s strength was attributed to Jimmie Vaughan’s connection to his brother, lead singer Kim Wilson was no slouch and his vocals on “Tuff Enuff” are a testimony of his talent. In addition, the song’s popularity was aided by its usage in three 1986 films: “Gung Ho,” “The Naked Cage,” and “Tough Guys.” Subsequently, it also was used in 1991’s “Ricochet” and 2007’s “The Game Plan.” The single and album were produced by veteran rocker Dave Edmunds.

The single was issued on CBS Associated Records – a short-lived label that had several well known artists including ELO, Slade, Ozzy Osbourne, Joe Walsh, Gino Vannelli, and Kansas. It also was home for lesser known artists Chris Jasper, Bertie Higgins, Kids at Work, and Henry Lee Summer. When Jimmie Vaughan left The Fabulous Thunderbirds and teamed up for his more famous brothers, they recorded for CBS Associated under the moniker The Vaughan Brothers.

“Tuff Enuff” may have been the biggest charting single in the label’s entire history peaking at #10 on the Hot 100 and at #4 on the Mainstream Rock chart. Other top contenders included ELO’s “Calling America” at #18 and Slade’s “Run Runaway” at #20. While I don’t remember the reason for the label’s creation, I think it was an effort to combine all of CBS’ minor labels into one. At one point there were numerous labels being managed by Epic/CBS Records.

In 1986, CBS discontinued the Portrait Records label with Epic remaining their star label of the Epic/CBS division. While Columbia Records was a CBS owned label, it was run as a separate operation. Sony purchased both CBS Records divisions in 1988 and in 2009 it merged the two into one as the Columbia/Epic Label Group. By 2011, Sony spun Epic off again as a division separate from Columbia Records. And the rest they say is history.

In addition, I used to sing back in 1986 and 87 in a band called The Game. I also played the repeating one note keyboard parts on my Sequential Circuits Pro-One synthesizer. They synth had a nice repeat function that I used on this song as well as in an earlier incarnation of the same band on the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me Baby.” The synth also had an arpeggiate function and a simple quarter note sequencer. All could be used to create unique synthesizer patterns.

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