I Hope to Play Until I Drop

The Texas Story Project.

It started in the late 1950s with a five-dollar guitar and only three strings. After more than fifty years, four Grammy awards, thousands of live performances, and a million miles of touring, Jimmie Vaughan is still playing the blues.

Jimmie moved from Dallas to Austin in 1969 with an idea to form a band and play the style of music that touched him the most, the blues. "Back then, Austin had a reputation for being a little bit…crazy. A little over the edge," he remembers. Clubs and their audiences were open to most any style or genre. His band played for several years and helped to kick start the town's burgeoning blues scene.

Club owner Clifford Antone was another big fan of the blues who booked musicians from Louisiana and blues-enriched cities like Chicago and Los Angeles. Jimmy recalls, "He was just in the right place and he wanted to open up a great club. My band was the house band." Clifford's joint, Antone's, provided a steady flow of classic acts like Jimmy Rogers, Albert King, and Jimmy Reed who influenced the local musicians — including Jimmie's younger brother and future guitar legend, Stevie Ray Vaughan.

One night, Antone asked Albert King if Stevie Ray could sit in. "If you every saw Albert King play, he's like Goliath with the guitar. He's the meanest, baddest guitar player you've ever heard of," says Jimmie. "You don't go and ask Albert King, 'Can I sit in?' It's crazy!" But Stevie Ray jumped up on stage, started playing King's own licks and impressed the master who took the young musician under his wing. Jimmie laughs, "[King] didn't like anybody else, but he liked Stevie."

I like to play music because I'm able to express myself. I hope to play until I drop. Jimmie Vaughan

Jimmie and Stevie Ray both went on to fame and fortune, helping to put the blues in its many forms back on music charts around the world. In 1990, Stevie Ray was killed in a helicopter crash. "You can go off and be sad or you can get back and enjoy yourself and do the best you can," Jimmie shares. "I've done a little bit of both. I'm just going to play until I can't play anymore."

Editor's note: This story was produced by the Bullock Museum for the Texas Story Project. It complements the exhibition Pride & Joy: The Texas Blues of Stevie Ray Vaughan, on view March 10, 2017 to July 23, 2017.

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