They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I’m sure The Fabulous Thunderbirds would agree. The Grammy-nominated blues rockers have been around since the mid-1970s and, in that time, conquered Texas blues, Southern rock, and smooth R&B. This Tuesday, March 12, they’ll take to the stage at UCSB’s Campbell Hall alongside an all-star lineup of players like harpist James Cotton, guitarist Jody Williams, and guitarist Bob Margolin for Blues at the Crossroads Two. Following on the heels of the successful first installment, Blues at the Crossroads Two finds these fine players together on one stage to pay homage, musical and otherwise, to two of the greats: Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. In anticipation of the event, we spoke to Margolin, who actually played guitar in Muddy Waters’s band in the ’70s, and he gave us some reasons why folks should head out to the show. For tickets and info, call (805) 893-3535 or visit artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu.
1. The Songs: When asked to name Wolf’s and Waters’s essential songs, Margolin gave up two fine responses. “For Muddy, it’s ‘Long Distance Call,’ which featured his slide guitar and a classic blues vocal, plus the sound of blues harmonica. For Wolf, it’s ‘Smokestack Lightning’ — it shows off his deep voice, the howlin’ sound, and his harp playing all on a one-chord guitar vamp that is instantly recognizable.”
2. The Feeling: Blues isn’t just a style—it’s a mindset. But Margolin asserts that either can inspire the other. “Sometimes a musician can be happy and having fun even while singing a blues song about a sad experience. And in the middle of an entertaining show, the musician might sing or play something that is so sad that it puts the players and the audience in touch with their own deepest feelings. It doesn’t happen those ways for every song, but it’s very special when both are happening.”
3. The Improv: “The way each musician is presented on this tour has become a known platform for our performances together,” said Margolin. “The spontaneity comes in by the feeling that each player puts into his songs, and sometimes it’s a little different each night. It can be deep and dirty or just comes out strong and aggressive. The music seems to take on a life of its own, beyond the players and beyond Muddy and Wolf.”