When Jimmie Vaughan opens for Buddy Guy at the House of Blues on March 27, it will be just the latest chapter in the Dallas native’s 55-year love of the guitarist’s music.
“The first record that I got that had Buddy Guy on it was (1964’s) Folk Festival of the Blues,” Vaughan recalls.
“It was a live gig in Chicago at Big Bill’s Copa Cabana. It had Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Otis Spann and Sonny Boy Williamson. Most of it was live. It was a great record. It’s the greatest. And Buddy Guy’s playing lead on the whole thing. And it’s just absolutely wild. Everybody should get that album. It’s just pure magic. It sounds biblical (laughs). It’s so heavy.”
That sent the then 13-year-old budding guitarist on a quest to find more albums featuring Guy.
“I think the next thing I got was him and Junior Wells live at Pepper’s Lounge, It’s My Life, Baby," he says. "And then it was on for everything that I could find. I’ve always been a giant fan. He just had that thing. That thing that we all like about Buddy Guy now, he had that from the beginning.”
Vaughan doesn’t hesitate when asked what attracted him to the Chicago blues guitarist’s playing.
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“Buddy always sounds like he’s going to blow up,” he enthuses. “You had the feeling of musical danger when he would take the stage because you didn’t know what was going to happen. You can’t predict what Buddy Guy’s going to do, OK? Because he doesn’t even know what he’s gonna do. He gets up on stage and it just goes off at some point. And you don’t know when that’s gonna happen. He doesn’t always land where you think he’s going to land.”
Vaughan cites Guy’s late 1950s and 1960s recordings as being a big influence on his own playing in The Fabulous Thunderbirds and in his solo career. Although Guy is primarily known for his high octane solos, he also recorded extensively backing harmonica great Junior Wells, something Vaughan did for years in the T-Birds with Kim Wilson.
“You have to play a certain way to back up a harmonica player,” Vaughan says. ”It’s mostly playing like (Chicago blues guitarist) Jimmy Rogers. Jimmy Rogers was the greatest example of that at playing backup on those Little Walter records. Buddy knew all of that stuff. But he was also influenced by B.B. King and Guitar Slim. He knew both sides of it, which was kind of new.
"I was completely influenced by a lot of people, but Buddy Guy was one of the main ones. Because I loved his tone, his attitude on the guitar — musically speaking — he was unpredictable. That’s the way John Coltrane and the great sax players are. They have that element where it sounds like it’s going to blow up.”
Besides preparing for the House of Blues show, Vaughan is also looking forward to his next album, Baby, Please Come Home, which will be issued May 17 by The Last Music Co. It features a mix of tracks with his full Tilt-a-Whirl Band and the organ trio he co-leads with organist and Denton native Mike Flanigin.
“I picked a bunch of songs that I love, and I don’t think most people have heard and recorded them," Vaughan says. "They’re all basically live. I hope everybody digs it.”
The man behind the Jimmie Vaughan Tex-Mex Stratocaster is also excited about a new Fender Custom Shop version of the guitar.
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“It’s the best Stratocaster they can make,” Vaughan marvels. “And you can still buy my Tex-Mex Fender guitars if you want one for $800."
By the time he joins Guy at House of Blues, Vaughan will have just turned 68, but he’s just excited as ever about music. Even after playing more than 50 years, he still takes lessons.
“I’m always trying to figure out the reasons behind what chords you use," Vaughan says. "It’s really all just a quest to express myself. I enjoy learning about chords and progressions and things like that. But in the end it’s always the blues that I want to play.”
Jimmie Vaughan and Buddy Guy play Wednesday, March 27 House of Blues. Doors open at 7 p.m.