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Voice of Tradition

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Kim Wilson, lead singer of the internationally known band the Fabulous Thunderbirds, comes to B. B. King’s Friday night, but not with the T-Birds.

Oh, Wilson still performs and records with the Thunderbirds--a lot, in fact, to the tune of about 240 shows last year. But this Friday, it will be different.

Instead, he’ll perform with his Kim Wilson Blues Revue, which features Fred Kaplan and Big Al Blake, the first two blues artists to record on Wilson’s new record label, Blue Collar Music. And instead of the more R & B-ish, blues-rockish sounds of the Thunderbirds, the music Friday will be old-fashioned, straight-from-the-shoulder traditional blues.

“I want to keep this record label pure,” Wilson said. “It’s all run by musicians. I give the artists better deals than they can get anywhere else, plus complete control.”

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Although Wilson is the owner and president of Blue Collar Music, pianist Kaplan is the vice president of operations for the new company.

Having his own label gives Wilson a respite from the labors of working with a bigger record company with committees, departments and demographic projections.

With Blue Collar Music, “The buck stops here,” said Wilson, taking a line from Harry S. Truman, who wasn’t much of a bluesman, although he did spend some time in Kansas City and St. Louis.

The first Blue Collar CDs--Wilson’s “My Blues,” Blake’s “Mr. Blake’s Blues” and Kaplan’s “Signifyin’ ,"--were released last November. Wilson is proud to say that each CD was recorded “live to tape.”

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“Live to tape” is one of those phrases like “I love you"--it can mean different things to different people. But to Wilson and company, it means music played live to the mixing board and to a mono recording machine, no overdubs and not even two-track stereo--just as in the good old days of the 1940s and ‘50s. Wilson said they even used vintage mikes from that era.

“We really stick with the traditional ‘cause that’s the way we play,” Wilson said. “There have been attempts to commercialize this music at the expense of the music and the listeners, but it just ain’t right. Pat Boone is everywhere.”

Wilson, 47, spent his “wonder years” as he puts it, in Santa Barbara, then moved to Memphis in the early 1970s and then arrived in Austin in 1974. He and guitarist Jimmie Vaughan, the elder brother of Stevie Ray Vaughan, founded the Thunderbirds in 1975 in Austin.

Wilson moved to Laguna Niguel in Orange County a couple of years ago.

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“It’s beautiful here, it’s a great scene, I’m a local guy,” Wilson said. “I’m going to be around [in California] unless some tidal wave comes over and washes me to Nevada.”

Originally, Wilson planned to sell his Blue Collar products strictly through the Internet, but he’s now working with a national distributor, Select-O-Hits, and Blue Collar CDs will be available in Wal-Mart, Best Buy and other stores.

“The music is about laying down a legacy,” Wilson said. “I want to be able to have something I can look back on and say ‘that’s bad.’ Something I can be proud of.”

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Opening: The Wilson show will open with the Long Beach-based Dale Peterson and the Rhythm Lords. Peterson and his band are working on their fourth CD, scheduled for release later this year. This time out, the music is going to be a bit more rockish, Peterson said.

“It’s rockin’ a little more than before,” Peterson said. “It’s blues with a little punch to it.”

The band is also preparing for a Canadian tour that will take them to Edmonton, Vancouver and other cities. They’re leaving in May and will be gone until July.

* The Kim Wilson Blues Revue and Dale Peterson and the Rhythm Lords perform Friday night at B. B. King’s Blues Club, Universal CityWalk, (818) 622-5464.

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More Blues: And there’s another Valley club that’s going to be offering blues music. Buky’s County Line BBQ Restaurant in Tarzana will host blues music weekends starting Saturday night with Eric Sardinas. Other acts penciled in for the weeks to come include Blue by Nature, Beto Lovato and Dirty Pictures. It joins B.B. King’s, Cozy’s, Smokin’ Johnnie’s and the Classroom as the Valley’s blues joints.

* Buky’s County Line, 18588 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana, (818) 342-5171.


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