While we wait, here's a fun little article with lots of bells & whistles:
I love Thunderbird. Not as a beverage, of course, but as a concept. Out of all the great bum wines, street wines, hooch, rotgut, and ghetto libations Thunderbird is by far the most storied and easily the classiest. What strikes me about Thunderbird is how it unabashedly attempts to present itself as something refined. Maybe it's because it's a Gallo product and can't help it, but the Thunderbird Logo and the design of the bottle just screams "I want to be more than I am!"
It's classic winged crest (which apparently hasn't been changed since 1987) evokes a 40's Art Deco design sensibility and readily brings forth imagery of smoky dives and dangerous women pulled from the pages of a Raymond Chandler novel. Even the photo above which is well-traveled on the Internet and borrowed for the express purpose of its familiarity can't help pairing a bottle of T-bird with its natural compliments: smokes and shattered dreams. (I'm stretching for that last one based on the picture, but nobody with intact dreams and ambitions poses a bottle of bum wine.)
The history of Thunderbird has been recounted before, but I'll retread it now for the benefit of completeness: Despite the current label espousing its production at a front company called "Thunderbird Ltd." it's actually a Gallo product. Thunderbird's existence can be owed mostly to the sales-minded half of the E&J Gallo Co., Ernest Gallo who decided in the 1930's that his small, California-based wine company which he ran in partnership with brother Julio should be the "Campbell's Soup" of the wine industry. The company introduced Thunderbird in 1957 and unashamedly marketed it to lower-class, inner-city neighborhoods banking on its cheap price (Thirty twice!) and high ABV%. As Ernest was wont to tell, he once drove through a depressed urban slum, saw a vagrant on the street and called out "What's the word?" to which the homeless man replied "Thunderbird!"
Thunderbird has been in production now for 54 years and I don't expect it to go anywhere. Like it's red counterpart Night Train it's part the fabric of American life. Night Train has been referenced from the Blues Brothers to Van Halen and Thunderbird has manged to wrangle up its own decent set of media. In celebration of everyone's favorite piss-colored domestic hallucinogen, I present some of the finest Thunderbird-related videos YouTube has to offer. Some of these may be familiar to you, others not so much, but make no mistake: some of these songs are true miracles. If anything Thunderbird should retard your sense of creativity, not inspire it.
First up it's James Mason informing you that Thunderbird has an "usual" flavor. James Mason had a true gift for understatement.
Stick around 14 seconds in when the 1977 Thunderbird "Shake 'Em Up" commercial drags you down into a disco abyss.
Here's Jason Boland & the Stragglers playing a bit of the old "Thunderbird Wine."
The legendary Townes van Zandt and talking blues about the Bird.
The Tony Auton Band playing "Thunderbird Wine." This is my personal favorite of all the Thunderbird-inspired tunes floating around out there.
Seasick Steve's "Thunderbird."
Finally, here's ZZ Top covering "Thunderbird" by the Nightcaps. I tried to find a decent live video, but none of them had terribly good quality. Use your imagination to summon the beards.
So that's it for me right now. You can go on YouTube and do some more research if the mood descends. There are quite a few video blogs & channels dealing with wine tasting & reviewing that have humorously sampled Thunderbird. I'd link them up, but I don't want to step on toes. There's a whole world of Thunderbird aficionado's out there. All you have to do is look. They generally live in deserted buildings, railway cars, in shopping carts, and on heating ducts.
I'll leave you with my own entry; me and my pedestrian band called Substitute playing our own ode to the high-flying American Classic. Skip ahead about 40 seconds to avoid listening to us talk. It's not the best quality recording and you can't see me, the big silhouette in the center of the frame, but that's okay because I'm grotesque.