The Fabulous Kim Wilson
For nearly three decades, Kim Wilson has been the voice and soul of the Texas band The Fabulous Thunderbirds. He's also an accomplished solo recording artist, and in the minds of many people, the greatest harmonica player performing today. His new CD is entitled Lookin' for Trouble. Wilson recently joined NPR's Scott Simon for a chat about his craft.
A California native, Wilson grew up in a musical family. His parents both sang popular standards on the radio, and he studied the trombone and guitar as a youngster before discovering the blues while a senior in high school. In 1970, he decided to drop out of college to play the blues full time, learning the ropes from such San Francisco Bay Area blues musicians as Charlie Musselwhite, John Lee Hooker and Sonny Rhodes. In the mid-1970s he moved to Austin, where he met Jimmie Vaughan, with whom he co-founded The Fabulous Thunderbirds in 1974.
Although Wilson has often been compared to legendary harmonica player Little Walter, he calls the analogy "sacrilegious." He says his biggest influence was Muddy Waters, whom he befriended after moving to Austin. Although he acknowledges the influence of many great blues harmonica musicians, he calls his own playing a "very modern" take on a traditional music form that is thoroughly his own.
"I think that you have so many influences and you steal so much stuff that finally it just gets mixed up into you," Wilson says. Imitating other great harmonica players is impossible, he says, because "the notes you're playing only happen once."
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