Born: March 20, 1951 in Dallas TX
If only for teaching his younger brother Stevie Ray how to play guitar, we owe Jimmie Vaughan a debt of gratitude. The elder Vaughan has blazed his own trail in the blues, however, first as a founding member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and later as a solo artist and frequent studio musician.
Jimmie Vaughan developed his guitar technique based on the traditional Chicago blues of Freddie King and the Texas sound of Albert King. Filtered through Vaughan's natural talent, the sound is clean, elegant, and entirely unique. Although often overshadowed by his brother's legacy, Jimmie has delivered an impressive body of work through the decades.
James "Jimmie" Vaughan began playing the guitar at the age of 13 after being sidelined by a football injury. He took an immediate liking to the instrument and showed a natural musical talent. Influenced by both blues music and rock 'n' roll, Vaughan formed his first band, the Swinging Pendulums, at the age of 15 and began playing the hard knocks Dallas club scene several nights a week. At the age of 16, Vaughan joined the Chessmen, which quickly became the area's hottest young band, even getting the chance to open for Jimi Hendrix during a local concert.
After seeing Freddie King and Muddy Waters play in Dallas, Vaughan decided that he wanted to play the blues, and he took the first steps in developing the distinctive, articulate guitar style that has become his trademark. In 1969, Vaughan helped form Texas Storm, the band breaking from the typical cover song fare of teen bands to develop a playlist concentrating on Texas-styled blues, R&B, and soul. The band relocated to Austin, finding an audience in clubs frequented by African-American and Mexican-American patrons. Vaughan would later bring in his brother Stevie Ray to play bass with Texas Storm.
The Fabulous Thunderbirds
Vaughan formed the Fabulous Thunderbirds in 1975 with vocalist and harmonica player Kim Wilson, the two friends enlisting bassist Keith Ferguson and drummer Mike Buck into the line-up. The Thunderbirds gigged around South Texas for better than four years, building up a loyal following and earning a well-deserved reputation for their houserockin' style of electric blues. When the legendary Antone's opened in Austin in 1975, the Thunderbirds became the club's house band, sharing the stage and backing up blues legends like Albert King, Muddy Waters, and B.B. King, among many others.
The Thunderbirds signed a major label contract in 1979, releasing their self-titled debut later that year. The band would record four well-received blues-rock albums for Chrysalis Records before the label dropped them for lack of sales. While the Thunderbirds were struggling without a label deal, Vaughan's brother Stevie Ray launched his solo career with no little success. Although the Thunderbirds' relationship with the younger Vaughan no doubt led to their signing by Epic Records, the band's label debut, 1986's Tuff Enuff, would sell better than a million copies and spawning a Top Ten hit in the title track.
Vaughan would record two more albums with the Fabulous Thunderbirds - 1987's Hot Number and 1989's Powerful Stuff - as the band attempted to follow up on its previous commercial success. Vaughan left the band in 1990 over differences in the direction the band was taking, musically. Before launching a solo career, Vaughan recorded Family Style, a collaboration with his brother that would be released shortly after Stevie Ray's accidental death in August 1990. Although he continued to play the guitar each day, the tragedy caused Vaughan to stop touring and recording for two years as he grieved his brother.
It was Vaughan's friend Eric Clapton that lured him back onstage with an invitation to open for him during 16 nights at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1993. The response to Vaughan's solo work was overwhelmingly positive, and the guitarist recorded his solo debut album, Strange Pleasure, which was released in 1994. Vaughan would follow with Out There in 1998, and Do You Get The Blues? in 2001, the latter earning Vaughan a Grammy Award. The guitarist collaborated with fellow Texas bluesman Omar Kent Dykes for 2007's On The Jimmy Reed Highway. In demand as a session player, Vaughan has lent his six-string skills to recordings by Clapton, Bob Dylan, John Lee Hooker, and Willie Nelson, among many others.
Recommended Albums: Jimmie Vaughan's solo debut, Strange Pleasure is a good place to start, though Do You Get The Blues? is a strong contender. Credited to The Vaughan Brothers, Family Style features the talents of both the incredible Vaughan boys, while the Fabulous Thunderbirds self-titled debut is both an excellent collection of roadhouse blues, Texas-style, but also a showcase for Vaughan's scorching fretwork.
Jimmie Vaughan Discography
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The Fabulous Thunderbirds
- The Fabulous Thunderbirds (Chrysalis Records, 1979)
- What's The Word? (Chrysalis Records, 1980)
- Butt Rockin' (Chrysalis Records, 1981)
- T-Bird Rhythm (Chrysalis Records, 1982)
- Tuff Enuff (Epic Records, 1986)
- Hot Number (Epic Records, 1987)
- Powerful Stuff (Epic Records, 1989)
The Vaughan Brothers
- Family Style (Epic Records, 1990)
Jimmie Vaughan Solo
- Strange Pleasure (Epic Records, 1994)
- Out There (Epic Records, 1998)
- Do You Get The Blues? (Artemis Records, 2001)
- On The Jimmy Reed Highway w/Omar Kent Dykes (Ruf Records, 2007)