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Blues great Jimmie Vaughan talks career-spanning ‘Story’ box set

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Jimmy Vaughan in performance. Jimmy Vaughan in performance. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The heart of Texas guitar legend Jimmie Vaughan has never strayed far from the blues that first grabbed him as a teenager in the 1960s. He jumped in headfirst without a backup plan starting in Dallas before moving onto Austin where he cofounded The Fabulous Thunderbirds and helped initiate a national blues revival that endured through the 1980s. With his solo career, now in its fourth decade, Vaughan took charge on a series of acclaimed albums where his signature attack, tone, and less is more approach to soloing is as instantly identifiable as his lead vocals.

U.K. label The Last Music Company has distilled the best of Jimmie Vaughan’s recorded legacy into “The Jimmie Vaughan Story,” a 5-CD anthology filled with highlights from every era of his career, including collaborations with his late brother, Stevie Ray, and a who’s who in rock and blues. Included are a number of unreleased recordings from Vaughan’s personal archive, as well as a 240-page fully illustrated hardcover book containing his self-penned story.

Vaughan told The Maine Edge during an interview that he dug up every recording he could find from the last six decades and sent it off to Last Music Company label founder Malcolm Mills.

“I didn’t realize all of the stuff I had until I started looking in my storeroom where I keep all of that stuff, mostly on tape,” Vaughan said. “This ‘Story’ box has almost a hundred songs on it so that’s quite a bit of stuff going way back.”

Vaughan says he fought to include some of his favorite moments heard in the collection and argued against including others, adding the label had final word on the box’s contents but says both parties were in agreement in the end.

Twenty-six previously unreleased recordings appear on “The Jimmie Vaughan Story,” including lost live recordings from his pre-Thunderbirds band, Storm. When legends like Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry came to town, Vaughan says Storm backed them up, adding that sharing the stage and interacting with some of his heroes was as educational as it was fun. Those experiences left him with a lifetime of stories, including a brush with one of the most influential musicians of the last century.

When another of Vaughan’s early bands, The Chessmen, opened a 1968 show for The Jimi Hendrix Experience at McFarlin Memorial Auditorium in Dallas, Vaughan says Hendrix caught his band’s set from the side of the stage before making a deal to acquire the teenaged guitarist’s just purchased Vox wah-wah pedal.

“It was a Saturday night and the music stores had all closed,” Vaughan remembered. “I had a brand new Vox wah-wah pedal and I used it when we opened the show. Backstage, Jimi told me he’d busted his DeArmond wah-wah pedal, so he offered to give it to me, plus $150, in exchange for my new pedal. I was such a big fan, it was amazing, and I still have the pedal he gave me.”

Some of Vaughan’s high-profile guests heard on “The Jimmie Vaughan Story” include Billy F. Gibbons of ZZ Top, James Cotton, Bonnie Raitt, Jimmie Rodgers, Susan Tedeschi, and brother Stevie Ray Vaughan, whose final studio sessions are represented.

The younger Vaughan’s virtuosic guitar work, and the music he recorded with his band Double Trouble, made him one of the most celebrated and discussed musicians of his time beginning with 1983’s “Texas Flood.”

Throughout the ‘80s, the Vaughan brothers toured relentlessly, often sharing bills. The younger Vaughan’s blazing guitar work and showmanship made him the decade’s leading blues artist at the same time Jimmie was helping lift the genre back into the mainstream with The Fabulous Thunderbirds and the Billboard top 10 “Tuff Enuff.”

“We used to argue that whoever had the biggest hit would open for the other,” Jimmie Vaughan said. “More than half the time, it was us opening for him.”

When Vaughan left the Thunderbirds in 1989, it afforded him the time to finally record an album with Stevie Ray. The resulting LP, “Family Style,” was an idea the younger Vaughan had brought up on numerous occasions during interviews during the decade, usually deferring to Jimmie as the superior musician in the family.

The album was released just weeks after Stevie Ray died in a tragic helicopter accident at Alpine Valley Music Theater in Wisconsin that also killed the pilot and three of Eric Clapton’s crew.

Jimmie had accompanied his brother for two shows with Clapton and an all-star guitar summit that included Buddy Guy and Robert Cray. Of the aftermath, and the release of “Family Style,” Jimmie says today, almost in disbelief that it occurred, “It was a crazy time.”

Vaughan completed a series of dates with Eric Clapton at the end of September and says he’s looking forward to continuing his own when his “Story” tour resumes this week.

“It was a great time with Eric,” Vaughan said. “We did a bunch of songs from the album, some songs from the past, and some songs that haven’t been recorded yet. After Eric’s set, I joined him for the encore numbers. and we had a great run of shows.”

(“The Jimmie Vaughan Story” box set is available in two editions, including a deluxe autographed limited edition containing an exclusive 12” vinyl album and 7” single, available at www.JimmieVaughan.com.)

Last modified on Thursday, 14 October 2021 13:25

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