As a founding member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Jimmie Vaughan was one of the leading Austin, Texas guitarists of the late '70s and '80s, responsible for opening the national market up for gritty roadhouse blues and R&B. Influenced by guitarists like Freddie King, B.B. King, and Albert King, Vaughan developed a tough, lean sound that became one of the most recognizable sounds of '70s and '80s blues and blues-rock. For most of his career, Vaughan co-led the Fabulous Thunderbirds with vocalist Kim Wilson -- and cut Family Style with guitar-slinging younger brother Stevie Ray Vaughan. The album was issued in 1990, just before the younger man's death in a helicopter crash. It wasn't until 1994 that Jimmie launched a full-fledged solo career with the Sony-issued, Nile Rodgers-produced Strange Pleasure, that featured assistance from Lou Ann Barton on backing vocals and Dr. John on bass. After hitting the road across the United States, Europe, and Asia, Vaughan delivered Out There in 1998. Using many of the same cast members, the guitarist turned in a gritty, hard-grooving performance, with his vocals sharing real prominence with his playing. His best-selling and most critically acclaimed achievement from the period was Do You Get the Blues? for Sony's Artemis imprint, issued in 2001; it took the Grammy for Best Blues album. Oddly, it was his final album for the label. Over the next six years, Vaughan worked with his own band in Austin and on the international festival circuit. He recorded only collaboratively until 2010. He and fellow Texas bluesman Omar Kent Dykes released On the Jimmy Reed Highway in 2007 for Ruf and, with Lazy Lester, delivered 2009's Blues Stop Knockin' for Retroworld. In 2010, he dropped the acclaimed Plays Blues, Ballads & Favorites -- with Barton on vocals amid an all-star cast -- on Proper and followed it the next year with Plays More Blues, Ballads and Favorites featuring Lou Ann Barton, that placed on blues charts across the U.S. and Europe. Vaughan returned to the road and to the studios of Austin, Texas over the next eight years, contributing his signature guitar sound, songs, and deep knowledge to others' recordings and demos, including Sue Foley's celebrated The Ice Queen. Vaughan returned to recording under his own name later in the year and released Baby Please Come Home in mid-2019.
Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Jimmie Vaughan began playing guitar as a child. Initially, he was influenced by both blues and rock & roll. While he was in his teens, he played in a number of garage rock bands, none of which attained any success. At the age of 19, he left Dallas and moved to Austin. For his first few years there, Vaughan played in a variety of blues bar bands. In 1972, he formed his own group, the Storm, which supported many touring blues musicians.
In 1974, Vaughan met a vocalist and harmonica player named Kim Wilson. Within a year, the pair had formed the Fabulous Thunderbirds along with bassist Keith Furguson and drummer Mike Buck. For four years, the T-Birds played local Texas clubs, gaining a strong fan base. By the end of the decade, the group had signed a major-label contract with Chrysalis Records and seemed bound for national stardom. However, none of their albums became hits and they were dropped by Chrysalis at the end of 1982.
At the same time, the T-Birds were left without a recording contract, Jimmie's younger brother, Stevie Ray Vaughan, came storming onto the national scene with his debut album, Texas Flood. For the next few years, Stevie Ray dominated not only the Texas blues scene, but the entire American scene, while Jimmie and the Thunderbirds were struggling to survive. The T-Birds finally received a new major-label contract in 1986 with Epic/Associated and their first album for the label, Tuff Enuff, was a surprise hit, selling over a million copies and spawning the Top Ten hit title track.
The Fabulous Thunderbirds spent the rest of the '80s trying to replicate the success of Tuff Enuff, often pursuing slicker, more commercially oriented directions. By 1989, Jimmie Vaughan was frustrated by the group's musical direction and left the band. Before launching a solo career, he recorded a duet album with his brother, Stevie Ray, Family Style. Following the completion of the record, Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a tragic helicopter crash in August of 1990. Family Style appeared just a few months later, in the fall of 1990.
After Stevie Ray's death, Jimmie took a couple of years off, in order to grieve and recoup. After playing the occasional concert here and there, he returned with his first solo album, Strange Pleasures, in 1994; it received good reviews and sold respectably. Vaughan supported Strange Pleasures with a national tour. Out There followed in 1998. Released in 2010, Plays Blues, Ballads & Favorites found Vaughan covering songs by Jimmy Reed, Little Richard, Roy Milton, Roscoe Gordon, and others who inspired him when he was first starting out as a musician. The like-minded Plays More Blues, Ballads & Favorites followed in 2011. Vaughan spent more time playing live and doing session work over the next eight years. He, Billy Gibbons, and Charlie Sexton played pivotal roles in encouraging guitarist and singer/songwriter Sue Foley to return to Austin from her native Canada. They worked with her on-stage and appeared on 2018's globally acclaimed The Ice Queen.
Vaughan had been quietly demo'ing blues and R&B covers over the years. He issued the fruit of those labors in mid-2019 with Baby Please Come Home, a set of classic blues, R&B, country, and soul covers associated with Lloyd Price, Jimmy Donley, Lefty Frizzell, Richard Berry, Chuck Willis, Bill Doggett, T-Bone Walker, Etta James, Fats Domino, Gatemouth Brown, and Jimmy Reed. Vaughan's band included his longtime host of compadres and guest vocalists Georgia Bramhall and Emily Gimble all playing live from the floor of a San Marcos studio with producer Mike Flanigin helming the sessions. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine