"I think that the music is expression for the people and there’s always some kind of a big trend going on, but I think the blues will always be around like jazz and like people that want to play music on their instruments live and I don’t see any problem with it stopping. I think it’s going to keep going and keep going and there’ll always be new people to pick it up and run with it. I think it’s just going to keep going no matter what the fancy trends are and pop music, I think it’s going to keep going."
Jimmie Vaughan: The Story Of His Life
Blues guitarists have been the foundation of American music for more than a hundred years, back to early acoustic musicians performing in the Deep South. The evolution of the blues has been one of the truly captivating legacies of popular music in America, from early jazz to even country and, to everlasting success, rock ’n’ roll. The guitarists in the pantheon of blues players reads like a Who’s Who of the world's finest musicians, and for the past 50-plus years one of those people has been Jimmie Vaughan. The guitarist fell in love with that most moving of styles when he was still a young teenager in early 1960s Dallas, Texas, and while it took him a few years to find a true home for what he heard in his head and felt in his heart, once he got to Austin in 1969 and found some fellow blues lovers, he set off on a journey that still continues, playing the blues whenever and however he hears it. The man has spent countless years treating the blues with full respect. The Last Music Company's guiding light Malcolm Mills took on the mission a few years ago to create The Jimmie Vaughan Story a five-CD box set that captures Vaughan's blues journey, starting with some of his earliest recordings from the mid-1960s and continuing all the way to his most recent in the 2020s. The result is a stunning collection of not only music, but really Vaughan’s history, on the record and in person. From early bands Storm through the Fabulous Thunderbirds, including previously unreleased recordings with producers Joel Dorn and Doc Pomus; Jimmie’s collaboration with brother Stevie Ray Vaughan on 1990's award-winning Family Style album; and into the past 30 years of duets, shared albums and solo releases featuring a divergence of styles, the box showcases Jimmie’s take on the blues.
(Jimmie Vaughan / Photos Courtesy by Jimmie Vaughan Archive / © All rights reserved)
Jimmie Vaughan built a world of blues from the only sound that completely captured him as a very young Texan. He is often seen as being in a party of one in this pursuit, and he wouldn't have it any other way. Along with all the powerful music and newly discovered recordings on The Jimmie Vaughan Story, there is a treasure trove of never-before-seen photos and writings in the gorgeous book included in the set. There are images of the Vaughan family, including childhood photos of Jimmie, Stevie and their parents, and a bonanza of photos that illustrate, tour-guide-like, Jimmie’s entire career, from childhood onward to today. Among the writings is an interview from the 1978 Austin Sun, considered to be the first Jimmie Vaughan ever did, along with an essay by journalist and record producer Bill Bentley, and Jimmie’s life story in his own words: a lifetime of memories, historical occurrences and family insights, all shared now for the first time. The Jimmie Vaughan Story is a unique collection of music, words, and images, the kind of release that can only come based on a life of belief in the blues. It has given Vaughan an ability to take the music he loves so much on a worldwide journey of discovery, and one he is devoted to sharing with others. Listen, see and read how he’s lived it, and where it might be going.
Interview by Michael Limnios / Katerina Lefkidou (transcription)
Special Thanks: Jimmie Vaughan & Lisa Best (The Last Music Co.)
The Jimmie Vaughan story. Five CDs, five albums, what do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past?
Jimmie: I think, you know, the humans playing the instruments. It’s a time where having a real drummer is smoother. It’s not exact. The human part.
Too many experiences in your life, too many experiences in music, what are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience?
Jimmie: I think it’s to try and play from your heart. Play, ask yourself what it is that you’re feeling and then try to play that. That’s it. Play it from your heart.
What does the blues mean to you?
Jimmie: Well, the blues is the framework of expression for me. The blues and jazz, it’s the music and the people. You know?
The Jimmie Vaughan story, a book written by you. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Jimmie: I had fun with the whole thing. I noticed that there was a lot of people, that are really not with us anymore, that was sad, but just looking back and just being grateful that I get to do this and that I still love playing music and that I still love making my art and experiencing myself.
How do you describe, what characterizes Jimmie Vaughan philosophy, where does your creative drive come from, for lyrics and music?
Jimmie: I think, it comes from a desire to express myself. It’s like just playing music with my friends and expressing myself, it’s like having a party. That’s a very deep question. A lot of things make me happy, but I think being with my friends and my family is at the top of the list.
"I think Texas is really big and there’s a lot of influences from all around the country. One thing is the size of it, it’s so big, there’s a lot of people, there’s always a lot of music coming from here, there’s jazz, blues, country, rock’n’roll, everything, so it’s a nice place, I love Texas, I’m from here. There’s a lot of influences, musically and culturally that come together here in Texas, I think." (Jimmie Vaughan / Photos Courtesy by Jimmie Vaughan Archive / © All rights reserved)
Jimmie Vaughan’s sound is synonymous with Fender Stratocaster. What touches you from the sound of Stratocaster?
Jimmie: When I first started playing guitar I had as telecaster, which was my first one and I loved it and then when I went at Stratocaster it was the ultimate for me, I love the way it looks, I love the way it sounds and I love the way it feels, so I love everything about the Stratocaster so what’s not to love you know? You can do any sound with it, it’s beautiful and if you get in trouble you can fight with it. You can hit somebody in the head with it if you need to.
Blind Lemon Jefferson, Robert Ealey, U.P. Wilson, Jimmie Vaughan and many others. Too many great musicians. What were the reasons, that make the state of Texas, to be the center of blues-rock research and experiments?
Jimmie: I think Texas is really big and there’s a lot of influences from all around the country. One thing is the size of it, it’s so big, there’s a lot of people, there’s always a lot of music coming from here, there’s jazz, blues, country, rock’n’roll, everything, so it’s a nice place, I love Texas, I’m from here. There’s a lot of influences, musically and culturally that come together here in Texas, I think.
What is happiness for Jimmie?
Jimmie: Being with my family, playing a gig with my band, that’s pretty much it. Being around my family and then playing with my band on a gig. And you know, it’s very exciting to put out a new record and it’s exciting to go on the studio, I have a lot of great friends and I’m grateful that I get to play guitar still, you know after all these years.
Ι know one other love of yours, are the classic and costume cars. What, do love about classic cars?
Jimmie: Before I started playing music, I was a little kid and I enjoyed cars and I used to fantasize about having an old car and I would draw cars and there I grew up in Dallas, I lived down the street from a thoroughfare where a lot of guys would drive to go to the drive-in restaurants and the drive-in movie theater. So, there was a lot of cars that would drive by and I just loved anything with wheels on it.
The late great Clifford Antone was a Greek-American. Which memory from Clifford makes you smile?
Jimmie: Ah, Clifford! Loved the music and he told me that the was going to open a club, the Antone’s and he would hire all our heroes, Lazy Lester and Jimmie Rogers, Buddy Guy, BB King, he would hire them for him to have days in a row. It was something and we were the house band. So, a lot of times we got to back these people up, our heroes and just the whole thing was fun from beginning to the end. So, we got to play with our heroes every night.
" I think, it comes from a desire to express myself. It’s like just playing music with my friends and expressing myself, it’s like having a party. That’s a very deep question. A lot of things make me happy, but I think being with my friends and my family is at the top of the list." (Jimmie Vaughan, Antone's Nightclub, Austin, TX / Photo Courtesy by Jimmie Vaughan Archive / © All rights reserved)
From the mid-60s to nowadays, from Storm, your early band to nowadays, what are your hopes and what are your fears for the future of the music and the blues especially?
Jimmie: I think that the music is expression for the people and there’s always some kind of a big trend going on, but I think the blues will always be around like jazz and like people that want to play music on their instruments live and I don’t see any problem with it stopping. I think it’s going to keep going and keep going and there’ll always be new people to pick it up and run with it. I think it’s just going to keep going no matter what the fancy trends are and pop music, I think it’s going to keep going.
What was the best advice anyone ever gave you and you keep it like a motto in your life?
Jimmie: I would say if you want to be a musician and if you want to play from the heart, if you ask yourself what is it that I play what is my style and you keep playing, your head will tell you, your heart will tell you, ask yourself, what is my style and it will come to you. But you have to ask yourself “What do I do?”
You have met so many great musicians and personalities from Hendrix to Eric Clapton and many old-cats’ bluesmen. Which meetings have been the most important experience for you?
Jimmie: I would have to say, I won’t know that I can narrow it down to one, but I guess Muddy Waters, it was very exciting to meet Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy. Lazy Lester and Jimmie Rogers and the whole kind it’s like a fantasy come true. So, I couldn’t believe that it’s still going on and that I get to play with all these people and when I get to make records with myself and Stevie Ray, we get to play and make records and travel the world and the whole thing has been a fabulous dream come true.
Why do you think that Jimmie Vaughan continues to generate such a devoted following?
Jimmie: I think that maybe people hear that I’m sincere and they want to hear, maybe you know, they want to hear music that’s from the heart and are tired of all the stuff that’s on the radio maybe.
You’re 70 years old. Is it easier to play the blues as you get older?
Jimmie: I don’t know if it’s easier physically, but I think it’s natural now. And I have a really good band and it’s just fun from the beginning to the end. I don’t know if it’s easier, but it’s natural. You just play what your heart tells you. You have to ask yourself what do I play and then you know the same as the last question you have to play what you feel and then you have to express yourself. Ask yourself what do I do and then try to do it. And it gets easier and easier as you go along.
"Before I started playing music, I was a little kid and I enjoyed cars and I used to fantasize about having an old car and I would draw cars and there I grew up in Dallas, I lived down the street from a thoroughfare where a lot of guys would drive to go to the drive-in restaurants and the drive-in movie theater. So, there was a lot of cars that would drive by and I just loved anything with wheels on it." (Photo: Little Jimmie Lee & Stevie Ray Vaughan, early days, Texas / Courtesy by Martha Vaughan)
Let’s take a trip with a time machine. Where and why would you really want to go with a time machine?
Jimmie: I think, I’d like to go to the Bill Doggett Honky Tonk Recording Sessions and watch part one and part two with Billy Butler, Bill Doggett and all those great musicians record, that would be fun, huh?
Are there any funny memories from a gig, jam or studio session, which you’d like to share with us?
Jimmie: You know there was so many sessions on t. I think it’s being with the people that appreciate the music and just being with them is the most fun time thing. I want you to, if you get to listen to the album, I want you to listen to Soul Man Sam and Sue Foley and listen to all of them. The whole thing was very exciting and I’m very honored that I get to do this with all these different people. A lot of the people are gone and it was very exciting but a lot of them are still here and hopefully we can continue on and still keep making music and help things along. I think we need more music and less trouble, what do you think?
What moment changed your life the most?
Jimmie: I think when I started. I was in school in junior high, in 7thgrade and a friend of mine said “If you want to have a girlfriend you have to play football, so that the girls like you. So, I went to school practice, and I was tackled and I broke my collar bone, the keep me home for three months and that’s when I started playing guitar. And my father said “I don’t know what we’re going to be able to do with you son. So just play the guitar and stay out of trouble. And I’ve been playing the guitar now ever since. So, I think that was the luckiest accident that I ever had as I’m trying to play football and that was a real turning point. I’m grateful for that.
What is the impact of your generation and your generation’s music on the sociocultural implications?
Jimmie: I would say that I think that they should make music and quit fighting. It’s a very deep, difficult question. I think we need more music and less fighting. There you go.
(Jimmie Vaughan / Photos Courtesy by Jimmie Vaughan Archive / © All rights reserved)
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