Houston bluesman Big Walter ‘Thunderbird’ Price died on March 7th. He was aged 97¬†and had been in a nursing home in north Houston. As recently as August 2009, he was performing at his own birthday party singing his best known hit ‘Pack Fair And Square’ – a song covered by the J Geils Band and Nine Below Zero.
Price was was born in Gonzales in 1914 and moved to San Antonio around aged 11.¬†He recorded three singles for San Antonio’s TNT label in 1955, and began calling his band Big Walter and the Thunderbirds.
In 1955, Price moved to Houston, where he cut several singles for Don Robey’s Peacock label, including ‘Pack Fair And Square’ – one of rockingest R&B songs of all time. He cut the number with several members of Little Richard’s band including Grady Gaines. Price also recorded several swamp pop songs around this time, including ‘Shirley Jean’ for Peacock and ‘Oh Ramona’ for Lake Charles’ Goldband Records and went onto record for a number of tiny indie labels during the 1960s.
Walter often felt cheated by the music business and complained about his worked being bootlegged. He also owned a record store, worked in a strip club, was a disc jockey for Houston’s KCOH, and owned his own publishing company, Dinosaur. But he never stopped performing.
In 2004 the Sons of Sunshine label released four CDs, with 46 songs in all:¬†’Tell Me’, ‘Pain In My Heart’, ‘Six Weeks of Misery’¬†and ‘Cool Breeze’. His last appearance for a U.S. label appears was the 2006 CD ‘Texas Southside Kings’¬†on Austin’s Dialtone Records.