Jimmie Vaughan and the Tilt-A-Whirl Band
With opening act, King Solomon Hicks
For four-time Grammy winner Jimmie Vaughan, country music and the blues all come down to one thing. “When I talk about country and blues, they’re the same thing,” he said. “It’s Muddy Waters and Hank Williams, Webb Pierce and Jimmy Reed. When I was a kid, I didn’t understand the difference. Everybody was always asking me, ‘Why do you want to play blues? Why don’t you play country?’ But I would listen to the country guys and they’d be doing a Jimmy Reed song. They’re playing the same lick. And Ray Charles, Little Milton, Guitar Junior, Lonnie Brooks, B. B. King - they all did country songs. Is Bob Wills country, blues or jazz? The answer is, it’s American music.”
Jimmie Vaughan fell in love with the blues while listening to it on a Black radio station in Dallas. When he first heard songs like Phil Upchurch’s “You Can’t Sit Down” and B.B. King’s many hit songs in the early 1960s, he knew he had found his music. Ever since then, it’s been a constant quest to play the blues, whether it was in early 1970s Austin bands like Storm and the Fabulous Thunderbirds or later, with brother Stevie Ray Vaughan on their Family Style album or on his own releases throughout the 1990s.
When it comes to the blues today, Jimmie Vaughan is one of a handful of artists making sure the music stays true to its roots. Vaughan has dedicated his life to making sure the blues not only stay alive but remain full of life and inspiration to all who listen. It’s a spirit he holds close and after 50 years of holding the blues close inside him, he isn’t about to stop now.
Vaughan’s career began when he was in high school, playing Dallas’ Hob Knob Lounge six nights a week, learning lessons you don’t learn in school. When he realized he wanted to play the music he felt the strongest about, the blues, he hitchhiked to Austin and found a crew of blues players who shared his excitement. When he left the Fabulous Thunderbirds, after worldwide success, it was to forge his own path exploring different approaches to the blues. “I wanted to find out what I could really do,” he said. “When I started singing, it gave me a whole new side to explore. When I was young, I didn’t really pay attention to categories of music. I just heard what I liked and decided to explore that. And that’s really what I’m still doing.”
For some time, Jimmie Vaughan has been recording a series of albums dedicated to the songs he has held in high esteem, recorded by artists that inspired him from the beginning. The sessions were held in studios near Austin, and he was surrounded by musicians who felt, as he did, that music is intended to ignite the heart and fill the soul. His 2019 album, Baby, Please Come Home, brings to the forefront music from original artists including Lefty Frizzell, T-Bone Walker, Etta James, Fats Domino, Gatemouth Brown and Jimmy Reed. The wide range of artists proves the point that Jimmie Vaughan has always believed: Music is not what it’s labeled, but how it makes the listener feel. Jimmie Vaughan has always looked to his soul as the ultimate barometer of when the music is right, and when he is satisfied, he knows the music is ready to be shared.
Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones called the blues “the most important thing America has ever given to the world.” Blues fans might add that Jimmie Vaughan was a pretty special gift as well.