The Thunderhead Band
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The Thunderhead Band

New Orleans, Louisiana, United States | INDIE

New Orleans, Louisiana, United States | INDIE
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line up 1 (1973-76)

- Mike Daggar (aka Mike Dagger, aka Mike Ventimiglia) -- vocals, flute

- Ronnie Dobbs -- vocals, lead guitar, backing vocals

- Pat Rush -- lead guitar

- Bobby Torello -- drums, percussion

- Otho T. Ware -- bass, backing vocals



line up 2 (2009-)

NEW - Jeremy Barrett -- lead guitar (replaced Ronnie Dobbs)

NEW - Chris Bickley -- lead guitar

- Mike Daggar (aka Mike Dagger. aka Mike Ventimiglia) -- vocals, flute

NEW - Dom DeMonaco-- bass (replaced Otho T. Ware)

- Bobby Torello -- drums, percussion






- Johnny Winter (Bobby Torello)








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Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title: Thunderhead

Company: ABC

Catalog: ABCD-919
Year: 1975

Country/State: New Orleans, Louisiana

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG+

Comments: cut top right corner

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 6093

Price: $40.00


Given the tens of thousands of albums that are released every year, I'm still amazed to occasionally stumble across a surprisingly good and overlooked rock LP like this one. What makes Thunderhead somewhat unique is the fact their album was released by a major label with little fanfare and the fact they subsequently fell victim to an unauthorized reissue by a tax scam label (Guinness).



Based in New Orleans, Thunderhead was formed in 1973 by members of local cover bands Paper Steamboard (singer Mike Daggar, guitarist Ronnie Dobbs, and bassist Otho T. Ware) and David and the Giants drummer Bobby Torello. Local guitarist Pat Rush was subsequently added to the lineup and after a couple of weeks of rehearsals the group began touring clubs throughout the Southeast. Signed by a Georgia-based management company, the band found a mentor in the form of Johnny Winter who tapped the band to open for him on a Southern tour which in turn led to opening slots for the likes of Kiss and ZZ Top. Winter also indicated he'd be interested in helping the band record an album. With his support, the band went into Bogalusa, Louisiana's Studio In the Country, recording a number of demos with Winter producing (brother Edgar Winter played un-credited keyboards and provided backing vocals on several tracks). Hearing the demos ABC Records offered the band a contract, but rather than releasing the demos, the company demanded the band go back into the studio and record new material with John Haeny in the production seat.





ABC Records promo photo

left to right: Dobbs - Rush - Dagger - Torello - Ware



Released in 1975, "Thunderhead" featured a set of good, old fashioned Southern rock that would have made bands like The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, and 38 Special proud. Mind you, these guys were not exactly creative trailblazers. You were unlikely to hear anything you hadn't heard on other Southern rock albums and much of the collection has a distinctive 'spot-the-influence' feel, \but that didn't detract from the fact these guys were excellent flag carriers for the genre. Featuring a mixture of band penned originals and outside material, tracks like 'Busted In Georgia' and 'Got To Get Away' managed to combine tough rock moves with surprisingly commercial touches including some of the best harmony vocals in Southern rock (check out 'Roll Up the Hill'). As lead singer Dagger had a great voice; fluid, but also rough enough to stand up well against the rest of the Southern rock competition while Dobbs and Rush served up excellent twin lead guitars. That said, the band's secret weapon came in the form of drummer Torello - check out his work on 'Hit and Run Driver'.



- One of the album's standout performances, complete with police sirens, 'Busted In Georgia' offered up a rollicking, dangers-of-the-road tale of mayhem. rating: **** stars

- A mid-tempo rocker, 'Lay It On the Line' featured Dagger and Dobbs sharing lead vocals. Featuring one of the album's strongest melodies and some of the album's prettiest lead guitar, this one would have made a great choice for a single. Marshall Tucker would have appreciated Dagger's flute solo ... rating: **** stars

- Showcasing some tasty slide guitar from Dobbs, 'Got To Get Away' was a more conventional slice of Southern rock. That wasn't meant to take anything away from the performance since the song had a great hook in the form of the chorus. rating: *** stars

- While the Dobbs and Rush twin lead guitar line-up was spotlighted, 'Showdown' found the band proudly displaying their country roots. Not to confuse anyone - the country tinge should not have confused anyone since this was still hard rocking Southern rock. rating: *** stars

- Unlike the rest of side one, 'Hit and Run Driver' had a somewhat raw and under-produced sound - it almost sounded like it had been recorded live in the studio. Be sure to check out Torello's killer drumming ! rating: *** stars

- Opening up with some Allmans-styled twin lead guitar and a touch of Latin percussion, 'Breaux Bridge Rag' was simply a great party anthem. rating: **** stars

- While the song featured plenty of guitar, 'Juliette' didn't sound anything like the rest of the album. In fact, the song actually seemed to have a touch of progressive influenced built in. Credited to L. George, I've always wondered if this was a Lowell George composition ... rating: *** stars

- 'Armed Robbery' found the band returning to conventional Southern guitar rock. Mindless boogie-rock with a lyric about what may have been one of the dumbest crooks in the annals of time and fun as all get down. rating: *** stars

- 'More Than I Can Chew' was a blazing blues-rocker that sounded like it had more than a touch of Johnny Winter influence slathered across the top. rating: *** stars

- 'Rock Me, Roll Me' was an okay country-tinged boogie number ... Dobbs and Ray were again responsible for salvaging what would have otherwise been a pedestrian number. rating: ** stars



ABC management seemingly lost interest in the band, basically releasing the album without any marketing support. The company also refused to provide touring support. Adding to their problems, the president of ABC Records committed suicide, leaving the company in turmoil and Thunderhead without a contract. Within a matter of months the band had called it quits with Rush and Torello subsequently joining Winter's touring band.



"Thunderhead" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Busted In Georgia (Mike Daggar - O.T. Ware - Ronnie Dobbs - Pat Rush) - 3:43

2.) Lay It On The Line (Ronnie Dobbs) - 3:38

3.) Got To Get Away (Mike Daggar - Ronnie Dobbs - O.T. Ware) - 3:51

4.) Showdown (D. Craig) - 3:16

5.) Hit and Run Driver (Mike Daggar - H. Garrick) - 4:48



(side 2)
1.) Breaux Bridge Rag (D. Craig) - 3:17

2.) Juliette (L. Georger) - 3:00

3.) Armed Robbery (Mike Daggar - Pat Rush) - 3:40

4.) More Than I Can Chew (Mike Daggar) - 4:26

5.) Rock Me, Roll Me (G.P. Nunn) - 4:12



For anyone interested, the band reunited in 2009 and have an interesting web presence at:

http://www.thethunderheadband.com








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Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title: Thunderhead

Company: Guinness

Catalog: GNS 36073
Year: 1977

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+

Comments: still in shrink wrap (opened)

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 6094

Price: $250.00


When you look into Thunderhead's history, it's easy to understand why a tax scam label like Guinness found them to be an attractive candidate for a release. Their earlier album on ABC was commercially stillborn; ABC management seemingly had no interest in the band, and by the time Guinness Records released 1977's cleverly-titled "Thunderhead" the band had been inactive for a couple of years.



The funny thing about 1977's "Thunderbird" is that in many ways it kicked the crap out of their major label debut. Of the nine tracks featured on the Guinness release, only three tracks ('Busted In Georgia', 'Lay It On the Line', and 'Hit and Run Driver') were found on the earlier ABC release. The other six tracks apparently reflected material drawn from the demos the band had previously recorded with Johnny Winter (and ABC had elected to shelve). While the ABC tracks were good, earlier demos like 'Make Your Own Good News', 'Apathy' and 'Stop the Madness' were even better. That said, the album would have gotten an even higher rating from me were it not for the inclusion of one truly offensive song - 'Space Saver' with a lyric about a psychopath who feels he has the right to chose who gets to live and who dies, Curiously, the abbreviated liner notes credited all of the material to singer Mike Daggar (aka Mike Dagger), even though most of the songs were apparently collaborative efforts.



- One of the three carryovers from the ABC album and one of the standout performances, complete with police sirens, 'Busted In Georgia' offered up a rollicking, dangers-of-the-road tale of mayhem. rating: **** stars

- 'Roll Up the Hill' offered up a mindless slice of bar band boogie. To be honest the best part of this one was Pat Rush's sterling slide guitar work. rating: ** stars

- A mid-tempo rocker, 'Lay It On the Line' featured Dagger and Dobbs sharing lead vocals. Featuring one of the album's strongest melodies and some of the album's prettiest lead guitar, this one would have made a great choice for a single. Marshall Tucker would have appreciated Dagger's flute solo ... rating: **** stars

- Admittedly these guys weren't about to win a Pulitzer for their lyrics, but compared to your standard Southern rock outfit, I have to admit they turned in some interesting lyrics and combined with a great melody, Bobby Torello's frenetic drums, some killer guitar, and great harmony vocals, this was one of their best performances. rating: **** stars

- So how many mid-1970s bands even knew what apathy was, let alone would have used it as the title to a song ? A killer Allman Brothers-styled instrumental, 'Apathy' aptly showcased the band's twin lead guitar line-up with

Ronnie Dobbs and Pat Rush turning in what was easily one of the album's best performances. rating: **** stars

- 'Stop the Madness' was a nice rocker with tasteful progressive touches and a slice of social commentary that was surprisingly subtle and effective. One of my favorite performances and some forty years after it was written, still on target. rating: ***** stars

- Another track lifted from the ABC album, 'Hit and Run Driver' had a somewhat raw and under-produced sound - it almost sounded like it had been recorded live in the studio. Be sure to check out Torello's killer drumming ! rating: *** stars

- I'm not a particularly politically or socially activist person by nature, but I've got to admit that 'Space Saver' sported some of the most disturbing lyrics I've ever heard ... Daggar (aka Dagger) and company managed to make Scandinavian death metal sound positively uplifting next to these visions of how life and death should be determined ("I will not rest until I finally cast all the worthless people from this world for good ...). Definitely ideas you would not have wanted to promulgate among a crowd of young men who were suceptable to poor lifestyle choices. Also, as much as I like Torello's drumming, the extended drum solo was unnecessary. rating: no stars

- 'Home' was another strange track seemingly describing a rock concert that degenerates into a Kent State-styled confrontation. The song was also strange for the bizarre 'old man' vocal Dagger utlized on the track. rating: *** stars



As I mentioned earlier, song for song this is actually better than the ABC release, but what in the world were they thinking when the wrote and recorded 'Space Saver'?



"Thunderhead" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Busted In Georgia (Mike Daggar) -

2.) Roll Up the Hill (Mike Daggar) -

3.) Lay It On the Line (Mike Daggar) -

4.) Make Your Own Good News (Mike Daggar) -

5.) Apathy (instrumental) (Mike Daggar) -



(side 2)
1.) Stop the Madness (Mike Daggar) -

2.) Hit and Run Driver (Mike Daggar ) -

3.) Space Saver (Mike Daggar) -

4.) Home (Mike Daggar) -





The band apparently knew nothing about the Guinness release (it isn't even mentioned on their website).









In 2009 Dagger and Torello decided to reform the band with new members Jeremy Barrett, Chris Bickley, and Eric Klaastad. Their plans included releasing their original Johnny Winter produced material "Thunderhead '75," and extensive touring.






- Badcat Records




Thuderhead never became households names like the Marshall Tucker Band or Lynyrd Skynyrd. They never even achieved the sort of FM radio credentials that the Outlaws did. In fact, they only released one album, their self-titled 1975 offering for ABC which was never promoted, never received airplay, and was virtually never heard. However, they had recorded another album prior to this which was largely responsible for them getting a record deal and it has recently been reissued as Thuderhead '75.

The album was produced by Johnny Winter and brother Edgar is featured as a guest on one track. It is pure hard Southern rock from start to finish, with a sound reminiscent of Molly Hatchet (if Molly Hatchet had included an excellent flute player who doubled as lead vocalist). The opener "Busted in Georgia" is on the level of "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Flirting With Disaster", if not "Freebird" and "Green Grass and High Tides". The rest of the album doesn't quite live up to those standards, but it does include social statements such as "Make Your Own Good News" and "Stop the Madness", jam-based pieces such as "Lay It On the Line" and the instrumental "Apathy", and the superb paranoid country-rocker "Houma" which closes the album and simply must be heard to be believed. This is a great purchase for fans of the Southern rock genre or '70s rock in general. - No Depression


hunderhead were a briefly active hard rock/blues act formed in New Orleans in the early 70's. Their only album, "Thunderhead", was picked up by ABC/Dunhill Records and issued in 1975. Though the band enjoyed minor success in portions of the country, their relentless touring and promotion of the album was met with general indifference and the band members parted ways the following year. Several of them went on to work with Johnny Winters and in studio production and engineering.


This album is an excellent foray into bluesy southern hard rock, much like early Point Blank or Hydra. The vocal harmonies are stellar and the performances are fluid and powerful. It's quite a shock that this band has been relegated to obscurity, as the songwriting is top notch and the production is quite exceptional given the year the album was recorded. The band's gritty style is embellished with flutes and congas, making them entirely unique entries in the southern rock genre. - Robots for Ronnie


Discography

Thunderhead LP- ABC Records 1975
Thunderhead 1975 CD- 2010

Photos

Bio

THUNDERHEAD

The Thunderhead Band was formed by Mike dagger, OT Ware, Bobby T and Ronnie Dobbs In 1974. Shortly thereafter Pat Rush was added and rehearsal began. Once out on the road, Johnny Winter, who became friends with the band during visits to New Orleans, offered to produce the group’s first album. They went to “The Studio in the Country” in Bogalusa, La and recorded nine songs and shopped the album to the major labels. ABC records liked the band but wanted a different producer. A new album was recorded and released, but politics within the record industry left Thunderhead hanging with no tour and as a result they disbanded in 1976
Now in 2009, Mike Dagger and Bobby T decided to reform the band with some new members and finally release the first album that was produced by Johnny.
The “new” Thunderhead Band is a powerful guitar driven hard rock, with influences reaching back into the 70’s style southern rock bands. Powerful vocals, strong rhythms, driving bass lines with guitar harmonies and accents on flute and harp, will put a smile on the face of even the most critical rock enthusiasts.
The Band:
The power behind The Thunderhead Band comes from the drums of Bobby “‘T” Torello. The original drummer for Thunderhead hails from New Haven Conn, with over 45 years of experience playing with greats such as Johnny Winter, Michael Bolton, Black Oak Arkansas, Grace Slick and National Tours and two MTV Videos with Michael Bolton. Bobby T. has also done two albums with Sean Chambers of Florida, and 2 years with Tony Stampley and Southern Renagade out of Nashville.
Lead Vocals are by Mike Dagger, also a founding member of the band, who, after taking a break to work as a Fire Fighter for 26 years, is back at the top of his game (also playing Flute and Harp) Mike kept his chops in various cover bands over the years and has opened for Joe Cocker, Edgar and Johnny Winter, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Peter Frampton, Zappa, Dr. John, ZZ Top and many more.
Three new faces to The Thunderhead Band: Chris Bickley, and Jeremy Barrett .
Chris Bickley Lead Guitar: Hailing from the southern part of the United States, Chris Bickley relocated to Connecticut and is becoming one of the most sought-after session players in the tri-state area. Possessing a great wit and sense of humor, he brings a passion and fire to all his performances. He currently is a session guitarist for Horizon Music Group.
Chris is endorsed by Zion Guitars, Bulletproof Guitars, and Modtone Guitar Effects.
Jeremy Barrett Lead / Slide Guitar/Vocals: With roots in southern rock and 25 years of experience Jeremy honed his skills in “The Whiskey River band “for the last several years opening for many National acts such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker, Foghat, to name a few.
Dom DeMonico Bass and Vocals:Growing up on a steady diet of guitar driven, hard rocking, high energy music thanks to my older cousin's record collection, There was never a doubt about the road I would take!