Hey everybody, we haven’t done a Flashback Friday feature before but this Friday happens to be Jimmie Vaughan’s birthday. I thought it would be a great time to revisit a tremendous show Jimmie and his friends put on at Lincoln Center back in 2011. Billed as the Texas Blues Summit, the show featured Lou Ann Barton, W.C. Clark, and Billy Gibbons. A fun time was had by all and the talent was bigger than the republic of Texas itself!
Here we go folks, way way back to 2011…
TEXAS BLUES SUMMIT
When Jazz At Lincoln Center was planning it’s second annual Blues Summit, legendary guitarist and performer Jimmie Vaughan was chosen bring together a night of Texas Blues. A better choice would be hard to find. Jimmie Vaughan has been a fixture of the Texas blues scene for nearly 40 years. One of his first bands opened for Jimi Hendrix. In the mid-70’s he founded the Fabulous Thunderbirds, a band considered by many to be the most important white blues band of all time. The band became a fixture at the seminal Austin club Antone’s and backed up major figures of the blues like Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Albert King, Gatemouth Brown, Albert Collins and countless others. Jimmie learned the blues from the masters and earned their respect in return. Since those days at Antone’s, Jimmie Vaughan has accumulated many devoted fans including some famous ones like Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt and B.B. King. Even Jimmie’s little brother Stevie Ray Vaughan often cited Jimmie as his favorite guitarist and biggest influence.
Jimmie Vaughan has experienced the blues in ways many can only imagine, not the least of which is the death of his younger brother in 1990 after a night of glorious music. He brought all his life experiences and musical influences to the stage of Jazz At Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall Theater on Thursday, June 16, 2011. He also brought some famous friends.
Lou Ann Barton has been a fixture of the Texas Blues scene for almost as long as Jimmie Vaughan. Her inimitable style, laced with a bit of Texas twang is still formidably robust and she wails the blues with the power of a singer half her age.
Austin native W.C. Clark has been called the Godfather of Austin Blues and has been involved in the city’s music since the late sixties. He originally left Austin. Believing the R&B music scene was dead, he hit the road with the Joe Tex Band. A chance meeting with Jimmie Vaughan and Paul Ray changed his mind. A few weeks later he was back in Austin and has remained ever since. He has served as a mentor to both Vaughan brothers, taught Charlie and Will Sexton how to play guitar, backed up superstars like B.B. and Albert King, played in Triple Threat Revue with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Lou Ann Barton, co-wrote “Cold Shot” – one of Stevie’s biggest hits – and toured the world with his own band.
The Rev. Billy F. Gibbons is familiar to millions as the guitarist and singer from that little old band from Texas: ZZ Top. Billy and Jimmie have been friends since the early 70’s, sharing many experiences of the Texas music scene over the course of the last 40 years. All three musicians joined Jimmie Vaughan and his Tilt-A-Whirl Band for a salute to Texas Blues.
The night started off with upbeat instrumental “Comin’ And Goin’” from Vaughan’s recent Plays Blues, Ballads and Favorites album. It was a great way for the band to pick up a groove and each soloist got their moment in the spotlight, hinting at the level of musicianship and imagination that was to be heard over the next two-plus hours.
The band, which features tenor saxophonist Greg Piccolo, baritone saxophonist Doug James, guitarist Billy Pitman, bassist Ronnie James, and drummer George Rains launched into Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s classic “Dirty Work At The Crossroads” and continued the nod to their regional partners in Louisiana with Guitar Junior’s (aka Lonnie Brooks) tune “Roll Roll Roll” which Jimmie Vaughan covered on Plays Blues Ballads And Favorites. Vaughan’s mastery of these songs is a heartfelt tribute to his influences and the music of his youth and is a testament to his talent and love of the idiom.
Jimmie Vaughan is a formidable guitarist and appreciation of his technique and approach to the instrument is greatly enhanced by seeing him live. His fingers work magic as they weave their way around the neck of his variably capoed guitar. His use of open strings, drone notes, and percussive picking attacks all add exponentially to the flavor of his musical gumbo. The guitar jams were a highlight of the show and W.C. Clark came out for a few songs before the end of the first set and kicked things up a notch as he tore through some down home blues and even threw in a vocal tribute to Little Milton with a few snippets of “Blues Is Alright.” W.C. Clark feels at home on the stage and became the de facto band leader almost as soon as he plugged in his guitar. Jimmie shared a story about his first gig with W.C. Clark being held at a converted funeral home. Their mutual admiration is obvious and during some extended jamming, they converse with their guitars like the old friends they are.
Lou Ann Barton joined the band at the start of set two. The Texas Blues Summit found the Queen of Austin in fine form as she belted it out gloriously. The Rev. Billy F. Gibbons joined the fray and together with Jimmie Vaughan and The Tilt-A-Whirl Band he barnstormed through two Night Caps tunes, “Thunderbird” and “Wine, Wine, Wine”. Gibbons joked about he and Jimmie having written “At The High School Dance” back in 1962. Billy was having fun and kept begging for Jimmie to play more and then feigned fanning the smoke coming from Vaughan’s guitar.
The most poignant moment of the evening came when the band left Jimmie Vaughan alone on stage as he performed a stirring tribute to his brother. Jimmie plucked the rhythm with his thumb and the melody with his fingers in a swampy, reverb drenched rendition of “Six Strings Down” from his Strange Pleasure album. The arrangement conjured apparitions from the ether and angels from the heavens as he belted out his salute to Stevie Ray and a host of other Blues Stringers including fellow Texans Freddie King, Albert Collins, Lil’ Son Jackson, and T-Bone Walker to a mesmerized crowd.
After more songs with Lou Ann Barton including a few from their upcoming Plays More Blues Ballads And Favorites, Billy Gibbons and W.C. Clark came out for a revved up version of “DF/W” from the Family Style album. The three guitarists let loose the blues in New York City and they’re probably still running amuck in the Upper West Side. The spirit of the Texas Blues cannot be confined, reigned in or broken. Jimmie Vaughan, the Tilt-A-Whirl band and their guests were a perfect choice to showcase the history and vitality of the music that has influenced generations of musicians and listeners alike.