Tuff Stuff: A Jimmie Vaughan Playlist

It seems like only yesterday that the Fabulous Thunderbirds, an upstart rocking-blues band from Austin, Texas, released their debut album, Girls Go Wild.

It was, in fact, more than three decades ago.

Since that time, Jimmie Vaughan, the T-birds’ founder and guitarist from 1976 to 1989, has gone from being a skinny kid with a Strat and a perm to one of today’s elder statesmen of the blues.

Whether or not he knows it or accepts it, he’s approaching the “sacred trad-blues strata,” which includes Buddy Guy, B.B. King and, well, not too many other living players (Although, you really need to check out Ronnie Earl).

His approach to soloing has always involved economy—saying a lot with just the right combination of notes and bends—and that’s still the case with his latest solo release, Plays More Blues, Ballads & Favorites, which came out in 2011.

“Texas Flood”
(Jimmie Vaughan with Double Trouble, Tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1996)

Vaughan organized a tribute to his late brother, Stevie Ray, at Austin City Limits on May 11, 1995. He chose a tough tune to cover, but—backed by his brother’s old bandmates—he totally owned it, stamping it with his own brand of fire and passion, not to mention a biting tone. Check out the unusual note choices and phrasing at 4:08.

“Extra Jimmies”
(The Fabulous Thunderbirds, What’s The Word?, 1980)

“Extra Jimmies,” a pared-down jump-blues masterpiece in the key of B, is Vaughan’s signature tune.

This song—with its catchy riffs, tasteful bends and flawless timing—is indicative of the sound and quality of the Thunderbirds’ early albums on Chrysalis Records, namely Girls Go Wild, What’s the Word, Butt Rockin’ and T-Bird Rhythm.

Here's a toned-down, recent-ish live version by Vaughan.

“Full-Time Lover”
(The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Girls Go Wild, 1979)

Of course, there’s the classic studio version of this tune, but then there was the epic live version. T-birds singer Kim Wilson would leave the stage to let Jimmie do his thing, as I witnessed when I caught the band’s Wallkill, New York, show in July 1989. This video is from another show (and year), but you get the idea.

“The Crawl”
(The Fabulous Thunderbirds, What’s The Word?, 1979)

Me to Jimmie: “I’ve been stealing one of your solos for years; it’s your solo on 'The Crawl' from What’s The Word? I steal that solo from you about once a week. Jimmie to me: “Well, good. I can’t remember, but I think I stole that from Guitar Junior. So don’t feel bad!”

Here’s a live version featuring Jimmie and Stevie Ray, who’s playing a Telecaster. Be sure to check out the extended solo at the end:

For the rest of this playlist, check out the full story at guitaraficionado.com.

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Damian Fanelli
Editor-in-Chief, Guitar World

Damian is Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine. In past lives, he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor. He's written liner notes for major-label releases, including Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'The Complete Epic Recordings Collection' (Sony Legacy) and has interviewed everyone from Yngwie Malmsteen to Kevin Bacon (with a few memorable Eric Clapton chats thrown into the mix). Damian, a former member of Brooklyn's The Gas House Gorillas, was the sole guitarist in Mister Neutron, a trio that toured the U.S. and released three albums. He now plays in two NYC-area bands.