Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1973-76)

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


- 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,


NEW - Eric Klaastad -- bass (replaced Otho T. Ware)

- Bobby Torello -- drums, percussion




- Johnny Winter (Bobby Torello)





Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Thunderhead

Company: ABC

Catalog: ABCD-919

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'.  


"Thunderhead" track listing:
(side 1)

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

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.  I'm guessing there was at least a kernel of autobiographical truth in this one.    rating: **** stars

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

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

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

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

4.) Showdown   (D. Craig) - 3:16

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

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

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


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

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

2.) Juliette   (L. Georger) - 3:00

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

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

'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

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

'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

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

'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.



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




Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Thunderhead

Company: Guinness

Catalog: GNS 36073

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: still in shrink wrap (opened)

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 6094

Price: $180.00


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.


"Thunderhead" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Busted In Georgia    (Mike Daggar) -

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

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

'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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

'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

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

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

3.) Space Saver  (Mike Daggar) - 

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

4.) Home  (Mike Daggar)

'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'?




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.



And this unexpectedly came in the email:


First I want to thank you for the review of our Albums. As you can imagine after 35 years, it is still nice to know someone out there is still listening to Thunderhead stuff.
I am writing because in your review you stated that Guinness Records or Dellwood records put out the Album . You were right in stating that we had no knowledge of that recording release. I know that a very few people had those tapes and I am wondering how this Guinness got them. Can you provide any more information about the company other than what is stated in your review. I am puzzled by the fact that we never knew it was out there, but even more curious as to how it got into their hands.
Whatever insight you can offer will be appreciated and of course kept confidential.
Thanks in advance for your assistance,
Mike Ventimiglia (aka  Mike Dagger)
February 2010