After 55 years as a working guitarist, playing concerts on stages around the world and with some of music’s most respected purveyors of rock and blues, Jimmie Vaughan says he enjoys playing music as much as ever.
Hawaii audiences can share his enthusiasm next week when the Jimmie Vaughan Trio arrives in Hawaii for two nights in Waikiki.
He’s be playing music drawn from an expansive body of work, including his stint as a founding member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, a critically acclaimed blues-rock band first formed in 1974. The four-man band is perhaps best known for its 1986 hit, “Tuff Enuff,” and its 1989 album, “Powerful Stuff,” remains a milestone in T-Birds history, 30 years later.
And there’s “Family Style,” the Grammy Award-winning album Vaughan recorded alongside younger brother Stevie Ray Vaughan, just after Jimmie left the Thunderbirds in 1990. Stevie Ray Vaughan was killed in an helicopter crash, a stellar career cut short, before the album was released.
Even 55 years after he starting playing guitar as a teenager in Texas, Vaughan said, music is the thing that he loves to do.
“I’ll play anywhere, just about,” he said, calling on the way to a one-nighter in Lubbock, Texas.
“I like playing in the clubs, I’ll play next to a gas station — it’s fun, you know? I just like to play. We’ve got this club in Austin that we play at called C-Boys, when when we’re not on tour we go and play there with a trio in different combinations. It’s like a home town gig, and we do it a lot so we don’t have to be on tour all the time and we can keep playing. It adds variety and keeps everything fresh.”
THE STORY begins outside Dallas, where Vaughan was born in 1951. He gravitated to the guitar in his early teens and starting playing as a professional paid musician while he was still in high school.
Three of his biggest influences were the guitarists known to blues fans as the “Three Kings” — Freddie, Albert and B.B. King.
“I had every B.B. King record when I was a kid,” Vaughan said.
“After I discovered him I went down to the record store and bought every thing that I could get. I would know the (instrumental) intro and the (guitar) solo and the ending of everything but I didn’t know what song it was, when I was a teenager. Then, later on, I started singing, trying to sing. I’ve always been a big B.B. King fan. He was incredible.”
Much later in his career Vaughan had the opportunity to play music with some of guitarists whose music had inspired him to take up the instrument.
He remembers B.B. King as “a really great guy,” and admits to have been “in awe” of Bo Diddley when he was invited to play on Diddley’s 1996 album,” A Man Amongst Men.”
“We were totally in awe of Bo Diddley, and who isn’t? I mean, Bo Diddley is Bo Diddley!” Vaughan said, sounding almost at a loss for words.
“He was just extra cool. I don’t know how you explain it. He was a really great entertainer and a cool guitar player.”
Vaughan’s interests aren’t limited to the blues and blues/rock music he’s so well known for, either. He is also a long-time fan of 20th-century Hawaiian music — “the hula records from the ’40s and ’50s” in particular.
“I love all that stuff and have a lot of those old records,” Vaughan noted.
He also has a direct musical connection to the islands. “I went to Hawaii about 30 years ago and was lucky enough to take steel guitar lessons from Jerry Byrd for a couple of months,” he said. “I don’t play steel guitar — I’ve played it on some of my records — but it was more because I was interested in it.”
“I still love it, and I love all that old music. Sol Hoopii and all that kind of stuff.”
FOR A preview of his performance style, Vaughan suggests visiting YouTube, where you can see and hear the veteran guitarist playing at New York’s Iridium club in March, with a lineup similar to what you’ll see in Honolulu — guitar, organ and drums.
Vaughan has also been captured on camera playing music from his most recent album “Baby, Please Come Home” — recorded with a horn section, and released in May — as well as his trio’s 2017 live album, “The Jimmie Vaughan Trio featuring Mike Flanigin — Live at C-Boys.” (Buy the albums through his website: jimmievaughan.com.)
“Mike Flanigin is playing B3 (organ) with me, he plays bass on the B3, and then we have a drummer, and we do some things that are a little more jazzy, but we also do a lot of the low-down blues stuff that we’ve recorded,” Vaughan said. “We’ll do some of the stuff off my latest record, ‘Baby, Please Come Home,’ but I’m not bringing a horn section.”
Albert King famously said during a “live” concert recording in 1968 that “everybody understands the blues.”
When Vaughan was asked what it takes to play the blues, he replied that you have to be willing to move past the people who say you can’t.
“A lot of times the media and people will make up all these reasons why certain groups of people can’t do certain things,” he said.”That just made me more determined and more interested.
“You have to want to do it enough to want to do it no matter what anybody says.”
Presented by Blue Note Hawaii
>> Where: Outrigger Waikiki
>> When: 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday
>> Cost: $35-$45
>> Info: 777-4890, bluenotehawaii.com