Jimmie Vaughan 2010
Fri., July 16, 2010
Jimmie Vaughan: I didn't plan it that way. I got married and had twins. And I wrote some songs but didn't like them. Then I did the Jimmy Reed album with Omar [Kent Dykes], and that got me excited. Then I met bassist Ronnie James and started playing with him, but then [keyboardist] Bill Willis got sick [and died], which was sad, so I started playing with [saxophonist] Greg Piccolo and Kaz Kazanoff on baritone. Between all that, it got me going again.
AC: Was there a specific sound you were going for?
JV: You have to try to be happy, and this kind of music makes me happy. And it still feels like I'm learning how to do it. It still feels fresh. Like I heard a new song today by Guitar Slim and wonder if I can play it. I'm still trying to get better.
AC: Is it a quest you're on?
JV: You don't really have a choice. It's either that or quit, and it's too late for that now. I've never done anything else.
AC: Has it made a good life for you?
JV: I've had a wonderful life, and the guitar has been very good to me. When I first started playing, within a couple of days I went: "Man, this is it. I can do this, get a car, and then split home."
AC: Is the guitar your best friend?
JV: I have a lot of great friends, but the guitar was a godsend. I didn't go out looking for it. I was interested in it and always liked music. I remember watching Elvis Presley on The Ed Sullivan Show, and my dad's friends were guitar players. My uncle played guitar. Dallas was just about guitars, it seemed like. The first thing I learned how to play was Jimmy Reed, but kind of backwards. I didn't know. I still play that way, don't I?
AC: What took you in the direction of the blues?
JV: All those records that I had. I can't really explain it. It's more like a yearning, like I want to be that when I grow up. Still do. I want to be a blues guitar player.
AC: What was it like when you started playing with all the greats?
JV: I've been very fortunate. I got to meet T-Bone Walker and see all those guys play.
AC: Did you think you could do it when you began?
JV: They said a white guy can't play the blues during the Sixties. So I thought I'd just play it and call it something else.
AC: What about when they said the Fabulous Thunderbirds sounded like a Chicago blues band?
JV: I had a Muddy Waters record and a Little Walter record and a Buddy Guy record, but they weren't from Chicago either. They moved there. Like the Texas guys then went to L.A.
AC: Was there ever a period when you thought you were really getting there?
JV: Well, the difference between before the T-Birds had a hit and after the hits was instead of one gig a day they booked us on three, and you couldn't keep up. There wasn't much difference except there was more work than we could do, and it wasn't fun anymore. It was about traveling and business, and we could never get ahead no matter what we did. We always had great fun playing though, and we got to make all those records, and I loved that. I still love playing.
AC: Why did it take you so long to start singing?
JV: When I first started playing as a little kid, my voice hadn't changed. I was listening to Muddy Waters and Bobby Bland records, but my voice didn't sound right doing those songs so I didn't sing. I was probably scared then too. I turned 40, and I got to do the Family Style album with Stevie. We had a meeting with producer Niles Rodgers, who said the instrumental "D/FW" was great and asked Stevie what he was going to sing. Stevie said he had a few songs, and then Niles looked at me and said, "What are you going to sing?" I said, "I don't sing," and he said, "You do now." So it was put up or shut up, and that was perfect to make me have to try. I had quit smoking at the same time, and having to sing helped me not start up again. It's been awhile, and I'm still learning how to sing, but I enjoy it now.
AC: All these years playing and your music has never really wavered. What's the key to that?
JV: I'm still trying to figure how to do it. I play every day, and I'm still chasing that dream about the guitar and how to get inspired. It's been a huge reward, but I have to try harder. The pleasure's all mine.
AC: What's the payback now?
JV: I love it. I love liberty. Nobody can tell you what to play and what kind of music you like. That's your choice. And there's always so much great music to hear. W.C. Clark is still playing, Gary Clark Jr. [no relation], Johnny and Jay Moeller, Nick Curran is tearing it up. And I'm just getting started again. We got a second wind. It never ends.