By Don Sikorski

Some people don’t mind what they do for a living. Others may dread the thought of their workplace. Jimmie Vaughan proudly states that he has the best job in the world. And who could argue? After all, the 59 year-old Texan and blues guitar legend has been able to carve out a pretty good living doing exactly what he loves best; playing music. One of the most respected musicians of his time, Vaughan can claim over forty years of experience and a dozen albums to his credit. He has truly found a musical formula that works. Vaughan’s soon to be released effort, “Blues, Ballads and Favorites” (Shout! Factory) is due to hit the streets in July. His first new studio album in 9 years, Blues, Ballads and Favorites” offers Vaughan an opportunity to hand select his favorite tunes from a vast musical catalog and once again team up with many of his long-time musician friends. Featured are cover songs ranging from Jimmy Reed to Willie Nelson and everything in between, each customized with Vaughan’s signature style. The results are vintage Jimmie Vaughan. “It was a lot of fun,” said Vaughan of the new recording. “I just picked some songs that I wanted to do. To be honest, it was 100% selfish. They were just songs that I liked. Some of them were totally obscure, and then some of them were hits in the blues vein. In the case of “I’m Leaving It up To You”, that was a #1 hit three times. Don (Harris) and Dewey (Terry) wrote the song, but that’s not the version that people know. So I thought, I like this song; I’m going to do the bluesy version. It’s a good song and I just liked it.”

“Blues, Ballads and Favorites” is just that, totaling 13 tracks which range in musical style from melodic ballads (Wheel Of Fortune”) to up-tempo shuffles (“How Can You Be So Mean”) to jump blues (Roscoe Gordon’s “Just A Little Bit” a particular standout). Vaughan successfully stamps each tune with his own signature sound. “I record like I’m doing singles,” explained Vaughan of his approach in the studio. “I’ll do two or three songs, and then the next time in the studio, I’ll do two or three more. I’m over this idea, for the moment anyway, of going in and making an album. So I just go in and make 45’s and then put them all together the way they work.” Supporting Vaughan in his latest efforts are many long-time musical companions including George Rains (Drums), Billy Pitman and Derek O’Brien (Rhythm Guitars), Bill Willis (Hammond B3), Greg Piccolo (Tenor Sax), Kas Kasenoff (Baritone Sax), Ephriam Owens (Trumpet), Ronnie James (Bass), and Lou Ann Barton (Vocals). Vaughan himself even dabbles in the harmonica on his cover of Jimmy Reed’s “Come Love”. “The guy that I was going to get was out of town”, laughed Vaughan. “I have no chops, but I used to play the harmonica lot for fun.”

Ironically, it was football that may have provided the groundwork for Jimmy Vaughan’s musical career. Growing up in Dallas, Texas, football was king, and young Jimmie was told that playing football would be his path to acceptance at school. His junior high career at left halfback was short-lived, however, as a rough tackle resulted in a broken collarbone and a three month confinement to home for Jimmie. “A friend of my Dad’s gave me an old guitar with four strings on it,” recalls Vaughan. “The first day I had it, I learned how to play Jimmy Reed, except it was wrong. But it sounded good. And I’m still doing that.” Jimmie was now hooked, and he had now found his passion in life. Playing in a number of bands around the Texas area, his first notable band, The Chessmen, also featured drummer Doyle Bramhall and would once open for a young Seattle guitarist named Jimi Hendrix. Vaughan would later team up harmonica player Kim Wilson to form The Fabulous Thunderbirds in 1974. The band earned a strong following in the Austin area and would release their self-titled debut recording on CBS/Epic Records five years later. Vaughan would stay with the T-Birds another 10 years through 1989’s “Powerful Stuff” before departing for a solo career. His next recording would be his most successful commercially, as “Family Style” would deliver the music that everyone wanted to hear, a collaboration between Jimmie and his little brother Stevie. The younger Vaughan brother had by then become a six string legend in his own right, and both made the most of their chance to record together. The “Family Style” album still carries a strong significance for Jimmie, who is grateful to have had the opportunity to record with Stevie Ray before his passing on August 27th, 1990. “When I was a little kid and Stevie was a little kid (Jimmie was four years older), somebody would come over to visit my parents and my Dad would say, ‘Jim, get your guitar and come out here and play a song’. After a while, it became ‘you boys get your guitars and come out here’. We would play a song, and they would always say, ‘that’s good. Maybe one of these days you boys could make a record together’. Later on, the record company started asking for it. That record (“Family Style”) was a deliberate attempt to make a hit record and get on the radio. And I’m glad we did it, because it was a lot of fun. Of course, no one could have imaged what was going to happen.” Ironically, Stevie is pictured on the back of the “Family Style” album playing that very same guitar that big brother Jimmie first learned to play Jimmy Reed songs on.

In addition to a new album, Jimmie Vaughan will also be making a stop in the area when he and his band visit The Knickerbocker in Westerly, RI on May 16th. The Southeastern Connecticut music roots run deep for Vaughan, and a return to “The Knick” will surely bring back some fond memories. Names such as Duke Robillard (Vaughan’s eventual replacement in the Thunderbirds), Ronnie Earl, Al Copley, Greg Piccolo, and Fran Christina can all claim ties to the area. “Those days were a lot of fun,” recalls Vaughan. “I haven’t played the Knickerbocker since the 70’s. We used to play there with Duke (Robillard) and with Roomful (of Blues). And I still play with those guys today”. In more recent years, Jimmie Vaughan’s personal life has also changed since his last solo recording, “Do You Get The Blues”, in 2001. “I got married and had twins,” said Vaughn proudly of his new responsibilities. His 6 year-old girls have already grasped their Dad’s musical influences, singing and learning to appreciate a variety of musical styles. Jimmie also has the luxury of appreciating music for what it is without having to worry about the next record. “I still play music every day,” said Vaughan. “It’s more important for me to play and to feel good about my playing than it is to have two albums a year or anything like that. I want it to feel good, and sometimes you have to step back and look at it. There’s a method to my madness; doing what feels right.” Vaughan is also comfortable with his musical direction, and his success has been the result of doing what he believes in. “I’ve always pretty much completely ignored the music business”, said Vaughan of his approach. “Every time I’ve put out a record, it’s all different. And they said, well you can’t do that. They’ve all said that, from the first time we’ve made a record, they said you couldn’t do that. Nobody wants to hear a band that plays 12 bar blues, why do you want that harmonica, and why do you want to play like that for. Nobody cares. They’ve been telling me that my whole life, and when I hear that, I think, well maybe I’m onto something here.”

With each recording, Jimmy Vaughan continues to expand his musical horizons yet at the same time remains true to what he does best. “I think my style has evolved a little bit,” explained Vaughan. “You can tell it’s me from the first time you’ve ever heard me to now. It sounds the same. That just happened naturally, I guess, from playing all the time. I learned from my heroes. At first, I tried to copy them. I stole a little bit from each one. I’d rather say “steal” than “borrow”, because if you really want to make it yours, you have to steal it. The guys that I love, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, they all learned from what they loved. And I listened to the same guys that they listened to because they told me about them. They had their own songs, and I wanted to be like them, so I made it my business to figure out what to do.” Eric Clapton came out when I first started playing. I heard him and I just went “wow”. A striking similarity between the careers of Clayton and Vaughan is certainly the loyalty that each had portrayed to deep rooted blues music. “I guess there are plenty of other people out there doing stuff they don’t love,” explains Vaughan. “I just like the kind of music that moves me,” Vaughan explained. “I figured out when I was a kid that there’s a whole world of music out there and you need to go find what it is that you want; what flicks your switch, and just reject the rest. Because nobody can tell you what you like.” Jimmie Vaughan’s success can certainly be attributed to his loyalty to what he believes in. “I don’t know if it was because I was selfish or if I was thick-headed or smart. I don’t know. It just seems like the most satisfying way to do it is to go out and seek what it is that you love. And that’s all I’ve done. I’ve got the best job in the entire world.”

Jimmie Vaughan will visit The Knickerbocker Café in Westerly, RI on Sunday evening, May 16th. Check out www.theknickerbockercafe.com for ticket information.



• The Fabulous Thunderbirds (1979)

• What’s The Word (1980)

• Butt Rockin’ (1981)

• T-Bird Rhythm (1982)

• Tuff Enuff (1986)

• Hot Number (1987)

• Powerful Stuff (1989)


• Family Style (1990)


• Strange Pleasure (1994)

• Out There (1998)

• Do You Get The Blues? (2001)

• On The Jimmy Reed Highway

(with Omar Kent Dykes) (2007)

• Blues, Ballads and Favorites (2010)