His younger brother, the late Stevie Ray, may have more fame, bigger record sales and the kind of larger-than-life impact that ironically comes only with an early demise, but Jimmie Vaughan is just as important and influential a figure in the blues-rock scene that sprung up around the fertile musical garden of Austin, Texas, in the ’70s and ’80s. Los hermanos Vaughan do provide an interesting dichotomy in styles, though. While Stevie was all Hendrixian flash, fire and feathers, Jimmie’s less-is-more approach left his clean, compact licks as neatly styled as his pompadour, his playing more akin to Lone Star State idols T-Bone Walker, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and Freddie King.
After playing in a number of Dallas garage bands in the late ’60s (including the seminal Chessmen), Vaughan and singer/harpist Kim Wilson formed the blues-rock outfit The Fabulous Thunderbirds in 1974. They knocked around for more than a decade before finally hitting it big nationally with “Tuff Enuff,” “Wrap it Up” and “Powerful Stuff.” But restlessness and disdain for that band’s ever-slicker direction led to Jimmie’s departure in 1990, forcing Wilson to replace him with not one but two guitarists while the Vaughan brothers collaborated on the underrated gem Family Style. A planned tour, however, was dashed by Stevie Ray’s death in a helicopter crash just before the album’s release.
Much guesting and a handful of solo records have followed, the most recent being 2001’s Do You Get the Blues? (though a better introduction is last year’s compilation, The Essential Jimmie Vaughan). Today, Jimmie Vaughan is a somewhat reluctant singer and frontman who stays well within his vocal limitations, and in concert would just as soon have the spotlight shine on backing band Bill Willis (Hammond organ, bass), George Rains (drums) and Billy Pitman (guitar). In fact, Willis’ organ sometimes gets as much playing time as his boss’s axe. Mixing a little R&B and rock into his blues, Jimmie Vaughan today stands in nobody’s shadow.
Jimmie Vaughan plays Sunday, Sept. 19, at UM’s University Theater, with Gary Clark. Doors open at 6:30 PM, show at 7:30. Tickets cost $25, available at all GrizTix outlets. Call 1-888-666-8262 for info.