Jimmie Vaughan performs at The Hamilton Live on July 20, 2019. (Photo by Chester Simpson)
“Worth the price of admission,” said the woman sitting next to Parklife DC photographer Chester Simpson after legendary Texas blues guitarist Jimmie Vaughan finished his solo on a piece by Slide Hampton.
For that number, Jimmie was accompanied only by organ and drums; the rest of his Tilt-A-Whirl Band took a break and left the stage. Jimmie had introduced the piece as the “ladies’ choice” number back home in Austin. He invited the women in the audience to grab a man, although The Hamilton hadn’t cleared out a dance floor for his show Saturday evening.
Born in Oak Cliff, Dallas County, Texas, Jimmie Vaughan moved to Austin in the late ’60s, where he has been based ever since. At the age of 18, he opened for Jimmie Hendrix. In 1974, he became the lead guitarist for the blues band The Fabulous Thunderbirds. While the Thunderbirds’ early albums sold in relatively small numbers, they are regarded as landmarks of white blues. In 1986, the band scored a top 10 hit with “Tuff Enuff.”
In 1990, Jimmie left the Thunderbirds and made a duo album with his younger brother, the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughan. Jimmie payed tribute to his brother, playing one of his signature songs, “Texas Flood,” written by Larry Davis. He also conjured memories of a young Stevie riding his bike to the Dairy Queen, carrying a roll of his coins. He’d play “You Can’t Sit Down” by Dee Clark and Kal Mann over and over, to the consternation of patrons and employees, Jimmie said.
Jimmie began the evening with a long instrumental intro, and he got the audience clapping along to the beat. Next, the band moved into “It’s Been a Long Time.” Periodically, Jimmie grasped the mic stand, leaning it toward him.
The band’s first cover of the evening was Mel Tillis’s “Ain’t Never.” Midway through the set, they tackled Rosco Gordon’s “Teenie Weenie Bit.” Later, Jimmie sang T-Bone Walker’s jazzy, romantic “I’m Still in Love with You,” which he covered on his latest album. From the Fabulous Thunderbirds catalog, he played “Scratch My Back.” There was also a cover of the great bluesman Howlin’ Wolf thrown in for good measure.
Introducing his latest album, Jimmie and his band played its title track, “Baby, Please Come Home.” Jimmie continued with material from the new album, playing, “No One to Talk To (But the Blues).” After he finished the song, he asked “Any of you fellas know ’bout that?” “Just a Game” also appears on the album.
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Jimmie’s notes were fat and thick, and his tone was fantastic. Stevie may have been flashier, but Jimmie is a true workhorse, a fantastic blues guitar player. Stevie was a maximalist; he’d hit you with everything he had. Jimmie’s style is subtler.
Jimmie could play more and harder than he does, but it’s not what he wants to do. He’s not going for the same speed and intensity as Stevie. It’s just a different approach. The quality of Jimmie’s sound, though, is truly superb, and his ability to put together beautiful solos is outstanding. Blues fan and guitar aficionados owe it to themselves to see Jimmie Vaughan live.
Here are some photos of Jimmie Vaughan performing at The Hamilton Live on July 20, 2019. All photos copyright and courtesy of Chester Simpson. At the end, catch a photo of Jimmie Vaughan with his brother Stevie Ray Vaughan taken by Chester in 1986.