Jimmie Vaughan is far more than just one of the greatest and most respected guitarists in the world of popular music. As Guitar Player Magazine notes, “He is a virtual deity–a living legend.” After all, Vaughan provides a vital link between contemporary music and its proud heritage, as well as being a longtime avatar of retro cool. Since releasing his first solo album in 1994, he has set the standard for quality modern roots music. Throughout his career, Vaughan has earned the esteem of his legendary guitar-playing heroes and superstar peers along with successive generations of young players. His musical ethos and personal style have had an impact on contemporary culture, from spearheading the current blues revival with The Fabulous Thunderbirds to his longtime, innate fashion sense of slicked-back hair and sharp vintage threads (now seen throughout the pages of contemporary fashion journals) to becoming a premier designer of classic custom cars. But for Jimmie Vaughan, none of it is part of a crusade or a career plan. It’s just his natural way of living his life and pursuing the interests that have captivated Vaughan since his youth.
Vaughan recorded eight albums with The Fabulous Thuderbirds: Girls Go Wild on Tacoma/Chrysalis; What’s The Word, Butt Rockin’ and T-Bird Rhythm on Chrysalis; and Tuff Enuff (certified platinum), Hot Number, Powerful Stuff and Wrap It Up on Epic. On the strength of such hits as “Tuff Enuff,” two Grammy Award nominations and years of worldwide touring, The Fabulous Thunderbirds brought the blues back into the pop charts and the contemporary musical lexicon, sparking a blues revival that continues unabated today. Prior to leaving the group in 1990, Jimmie had joined up with his brother Stevie to record Family Style, an album that reflected their mutually deep musical roots and maturing modern artistic sophistication. Then in August, 1990, just a few weeks prior to the album’s release, Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a helicopter crash in Wisconsin. The tragedy devastated Jimmie, who retreated from touring and recording, though he continued to play guitar every day, as he has throughout his life. Meanwhile, the success of Family Style further enhanced Jimmie’s reputation as a distinctive musical stylist.
As Jimmie Vaughan emerged as an artist in his own right, his reputation as a master musician became even more apparent, thanks to the admiration of blues legends like B.B. King and Buddy Guy, such guitar superstars as Eric Clapton and Z.Z. Top’s Billy Gibbons, and rising talents like Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. As Clapton notes, “The first time I heard Jimmie Vaughan, I was impressed with the raw power of his sound. His style is unique, and if I’ve learned anything from him, it’s to keep it simple.” Likewise, Buddy Guy once proclaimed: “He’s unbeatable when it comes to the blues. He just plays it like it’s supposed to be played.” Even Stevie Ray Vaughan acknowledged that when people would compare his playing to that of his brother, there was really no contest. “I play probably 80 percent of what I can play. Jimmie plays one percent of what he knows. He can play anything.”