Guitar Player magazine once called this Texas guitar slinger “a virtual deity – a living legend.”
Because while his kid brother may have stolen the spotlight, Jimmie Vaughan is as genuine a guitar icon as has ever come along in modern blues.
He is, in short, the real deal.
(photo courtesy of explorechicago.org)
The onetime co-founder of The Fabulous Thunderbirds and big brother to the legendary Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmie Vaughan has carved out an impressive career among the era’s greatest blues musicians.
He got his start in his hometown of Dallas, but relocated to the music hub in Austin with his band, Texas Storm, formed in 1969. The band even helped launch Stevie Ray’s career — he played bass for the Storm at one point.
The band quickly won over fans and critics alike, with Jimmie’s soulful blues leading the way. He developed a unique style, belting out traditional blues that often carried a hint of rockabilly, rhythm & blues and country.
His big break came when he formed The Fabulous Thunderbirds with singer Kim Wilson. They became the house band for blues club owner Clifford Antone, and started to make a name for itself as a gritty blues band.
The band would eventually release six albums, starting with their self-titled debut, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, in 1979. Their success continued to build, highlighted by the release Tuff Enuff in 1986, perhaps their most commercially successful album.
However, by 1989 Jimmie was running ragged after years on the road. That year, the TBirds released their sixth studio album, Powerful Stuff. It would be his last new release with the band.
“I had just burnt the candle at both ends too long and I just wanted to go home,” he told mnblues.com in a 2002 interview. “I wanted to get off the road.”
And he did – heading right into the studio. The break allowed Jimmie to finally record with his brother. The two teamed up for Family Style, their first full-length recording together. It would be their only joint effort: Before the album was even released Stevie Ray was killed in a helicopter crash after a Wisconsin blues show.
Jimmie Vaughan was devastated, but would continue to do what the Vaughan brothers always did best: Play blues. He released his first solo album, Strange Pleasure, in 1994, and would go on to record three others, the most recent being 2007’s On the Jimmy Reed Highway.
He continues to tour and even worked on a tribute album to his brother, who remains an iconic figure in the realm of electric blues. And Jimmie’s right there with him.
Because you shouldn’t sell big brother Jimmie Vaughan short — the man’s got chops.
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(NOTE: This is part of my ongoing series of reports on guitar players who fly under the mainstream radar. Keep checking The Listening Room for future installments of guitar players you should know – JF)
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