“Justin Pickard and the Thunderbird Winos are a band apart. Whereas many bands imitate the shades of giants in their respective genres, the Winos stand on the shoulders of them, taking the past into their own creative process and churning out something completely new but still familiar. Whether seeing Pickard live when he goes into a sort of fugue state, rehashing guitar lines that could come straight off a 1950s country porch, or hearing his recorded work which tightrope walks between rockabilly to country, punk to rock’n’roll without falling, the effect is unforgettable.” -Jamie Vahala, Dallas Observer
For many years Justin Pickard has been regarded as a true Dallas “hidden gem” and the proof is in his labor. He has been playing upwards of 200 shows a year for 10 years, making him not only a gem but a journeyman - a journeyman gem if you will. Over the past several years, however, Pickard has refocused on getting a group of musicians together for the long haul. There began the Thunderbird Winos.
Much like wine, the Thunderbird Winos as a name has been aging in Justin Pickard’s brain for years. “Thunderbird is a hobo wine... like Night Train or Mad Dog 20/20...,” Pickard says. “When I was like 12, my friend’s dad was joking around and said we should call our band the Thunderbird Winos. I never started disliking the name so I decided all these years later to use it.”
Since adopting the name, Pickard has eked forward towards a truly original combination of all of his favorite genres. The first record, High Price for the Low Life, stayed mostly in the country lane, but it carried the fervor and raw power of punk rock. His sophomore release, Heavy on the Heart, also stays in this lane but with an extra helping of Pickard’s personality – a sense of humor equal parts goofy and dark. The Dallas Observer described the song “Chicken & Jesus” as follows:
“The way Pickard lauds his predecessors is most perfectly represented in the culminatory ‘Chicken and Jesus,’ where he ties all of these forefathers together with a series of this-or-thats. Pickard either needs ‘Jesus or Otis [Redding],’ ‘Vision or Jim [Morrison],’ ‘Breakfast or Elvis.’ One thing’s for sure, the world and, more importantly, Dallas, needs more Justin Pickard & the Thunderbird Winos.” -Jamie Vahala, Dallas Observer
His newest record continues on this trend and almost doubles down on it, considering now Pickard is not only standing on the shoulders of his musical giants, he’s being actively engineered by one - Jim Heath of Dallas’ own Reverend Horton Heat on his label, Fun-Guy Records.
“We were fixing to record at Sun Records and I ran in to [Jim Heath] and said ‘You've been to Sun, right?’ and I asked him about recording there and eventually convinced him to mix one of our songs, ‘Exes.’ He did and said something like ‘Do you have another one where the lyrics are a little sweeter?’ so I showed him and he ended up mixing the whole record.”
Pickard & the Thunderbird Winos’ most recent release The Memphis Recordings is the first fruit of this collaboration, the release of which will be at the storied Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center - the anchor of Dallas’ Arts District.
“I like to think of it as Dallas’ Grand Ol’ Opry,” Pickard laughs.