From a blues fan’s point of view, Tyrone Vaughan’s childhood was incredible. His uncle, Stevie Ray Vaughan, gave him a guitar when he was seven. His dad, Fabulous Thunderbirds co-founder Jimmie Vaughan, gave him lessons. His mom took him to see Albert Collins, Hound Dog Taylor and Freddie King. Oh yeah, and Muddy Waters gave him a harmonica.
So it’s no surprise that Vaughan, 44, is committed to the genre that has played a massive role in his family’s history and legacy. The Milligan Vaughan Project, his new band with singer Malford Milligan (Storyville), just unleashed their debut album, MVP. Its 11 tracks were recorded in Austin, Vaughan’s hometown.
“Ultimately, we’re a band that plays great blues,” Vaughan says. “If we aren’t playing a I-IV-V, we’re playing rock that’s blues based. I approach my solos from a blues standpoint, and Malford’s vocals are blues natured. Our fan base and circuit is the blues scene, which is alive and well from what I’ve seen.”
MVP includes original material by Milligan, Vaughan and producer David Grissom—including album highlights “Soul Satisfaction” and “Little Bit of Heaven”—plus Rev. James Cleveland’s “Two Wings,” “Palace of the King” (Freddie King’s signature tune) and Buddy Guy’s “Leave My Girl Alone,” which Stevie Ray covered on 1989’s In Step.
“[Influence wise] I loved Buddy first, then B.B., Freddie and Albert King,” says Vaughan, who caught the guitar bug when he was 19. “Then there was Otis Rush, Albert Collins, Jim Hendrix, T-Bone Walker, Billy Gibbons, Johnny Watson and Eddie Hazel. I loved blues as a kid, I always heard it playing…but the idea that Stevie really wanted me to play was very inspiring.”
Vaughan’s main ax is a custom 1995 Fender Strat Jimmie gave him around 20 years ago. “It’s to my dad’s specs and has actual car paint, [a finish called] Cream Dream, jumbo frets and a custom bridge by Killer Guitar Components. I get an incredible feel and sound with this guitar.” Besides Strats, Jimmie has supplied Tyrone with priceless playing tips. “He really showed me how to shuffle and to be steady. He also said to have a beginning, middle and end to your solos.”
Despite his last name, Vaughan says MVP’s major challenge is to be recognized as a group. “It’s a matter of covering as much ground and playing for as many people as possible, but it takes time. With our names or not, we have to pay our dues and do our time on the circuit. But it’s an honor to carry on the name and tradition. I feel like it’s in my blood and I have a blast plugging in every night. The comparisons are always there, good and bad, but I have to play for my own well-being and satisfaction.”