Born in Detroit (January 6, 1951) and raised in California, Kim Wilson had a pretty typical middle class upbringing. Both of his parents were musically inclined and encouraged Kim to take up the trombone and guitar but it wasn't until he was a senior in high school that he discovered the blues and took up the harmonica while living in Goleta, California. A quick study on the harmonica, augmented by a heavy investment in blues records, Wilson's harmonica playing progressed quite rapidly. It wasn't long before he was playing in clubs with other Bay Area musicians like Charlie Musselwhite, John Lee Hooker, Sonny Rhodes and Eddie Taylor.
In the mid-seventies Wilson moved to the Twin Cities at the encouragement of Bob Bingham. He ended up rooming with Pat Hayes of the Lamont Cranston Blues Band-which made it appropriate that they shared the stage at this Cabooze show renewing an old friendship. Aces, Straights & Shuffles was the name of the band he played in during that year he was in the Twin Cities which featured musicians Bob Bingham, Kent DuChaine, Bruce McCabe, Mic McCormick, Joel Johnson, and Charlie Bingham among others
Wilson's stay in the Upper Midwest was short lived however. I guess one winter in Minnesota was all it took for Wilson to realize this was not the place for him. He soon packed up and headed for a warmer weather and place where the word snow-plow is not part of the daily vocabulary. Wilson's fortuitous move from Minneapolis to Austin, Texas in the mid-'70s led to his teaming up with guitarist Jimmie Vaughan to form one of the biggest names in "road house blues" during the next decade, the Fabulous Thunderbirds. It was also the band's regular gigs at Antone's nightclub backing up and opening for major blues legends such as Muddy Waters that solidified their reputation as one of the premiere blues bands touring the country at that time.
Since the late 70's Wilson has been playing off and on with the T-Birds, with tonight's show at the Cabooze being one of those off times where he tries out a few new musicians. Tonight he had guitarist Kirk Fletcher with him who dished out some impressive solos for the enthusiastic crowd.
Kim Wilson is a veteran of the road and strong purveyor of being true to his traditional blues roots as well as playing the music he loves to play. He demonstrated his love of this music tonight with some confident, heart felt singing and solid harp playing that reached a fever pitch with his extended solo half way through the 2 hour set. There were also some nice change-of-pace songs (a counter point to the frenetic road-house style blues being played) featuring keyboard solos by Gene Taylor and guitar solos by Fletcher and the second guitar player Troy Gonyea. Rod James (of Little Charlie and Rusty Zinn) was on bass and veteran drummer Richard Innes rounded out Kim's band.
Wilson was pumped up both physically and musically tonight. Playing with new band members means there will be a few miscues but it also presents the opportunity to hear some inspired playing as the new or guest musician brings a fresh energy or spark to the package. We saw a little of this with Lamont Cranston, who opened the evening and had guest sax player, Steve Clark sitting in for Jim Greenwell. Pat Hayes only joined Kim for the encore, which was entertaining, but not nearly enough. I know it was Wilson's show but sometime you can have some magical moments occur with guest musicians if you just let them happen.
Kim's recent solo album, Smokin' Joint, is a live CD on M.C. Records that features songs never before recorded by Wilson and guest spots by Rusty Zinn and Billy Flynn, two exceptional guitarists. This album will give you an excellent idea of the type of show Wilson put on at the Cabooze-excellent! Also in the works is a new release from M.C. Records with Big Jack Johnson which should be something.
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