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Johnny and the Thunderbirds

Toledo, early 1960s - late 1960s


With the Royal Jokers: Sonny Brickman(top), Johnny Rank, Kay Yeager, Sam Kern, Bobby Senger

Johnny and the Thunderbirds started after the Storms, with several common members but we don't know if they changed names or were different bands. The Thunderbirds followed the Storms. John Rank was the lead singer, keyboard player, and the band's namesake. He graduated from Scott High School in 1958. The other original members included Sammy Kern (lead guitar), Bob Hardy (bass), John Eickel (drums) and Nick Palise (sax). A newspaper article from 2016 says Palise was from Detroit.

By the mid 1960s, Sonny Brickman was playing bass, Kay Yeager (who has also been in the Storms) on sax, and Bobby Senger was the drummer. Don Gerschultz was another later member. The band recorded a 45 for the Ric label which seems like it was recorded in Nashville. The songwriters were Mack Vickery, Carl Friend, and Lance Roberts. 

The band played Detroit often. Around 1964 they traveled to California as the backing band for the Royal Jokers, a Detroit R&B vocal group who released a few records. A Detroit newspaper ad in 1963 mentions the band returning from New York City.

The band lasted until the late 1960s. Most of the members, especially Johnny Rank, continued in other bands.

Johhny and the Thunderbirds from Logan were a different band. There were many bands named the Thunderbirds who made records in the late 1950s-early 1960s, the Toledo band only made the one 45.

John Rank is deceased.

Just This Side Of Mobile / The Fugitive - Ric 160, 1965