The 59-year-old Austin musician is a guitarist’s guitarist. His former band, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, put blues back on the pop charts in the mid-eighties with the single “Tuff Enuff.” After recording a duet album with his brother, Stevie Ray, who passed away soon afterward, he struck out on his own. Plays Blues, Ballads and Favorites (Shout Factory) is Vaughan’s latest solo album.
Since you’ve been in the public eye, you’ve never really deviated from what you do. Did you start out playing different music? Sure. At first we played whatever was on the radio. This was the early sixties, about the time the English stuff started coming out. I didn’t know the difference between blues and country and rock and roll. The country guys in Dallas were playing Jimmy Reed blues songs on TV. It was all kind of the same to me.
You’re known for being one of the more economical players out there. Has that always been true of you? No. I went through a period where I learned how to play fast, and then I figured out that it was just an exercise, like a math problem. If you figure out the trick, then you can do it, right?
Stevie Ray always credited you as one of his major influences, but it’s fascinating how different your styles were. I don’t really think they were that different, except that I would try to play like B. B. King and Freddie King and he tried to play like Jimi Hendrix. I’m four years older, so he watched me learn—I brought home a Hendrix album, and Stevie learned that. If he couldn’t get over with an audience, he’d do Hendrix, and everybody’s mouth would drop, so he sort of incorporated it into his style. He had to try harder ’cause he was a little kid.
You started the T-Birds in 1974 with the singer Kim Wilson. Were you surprised when you hit it big? We never really hit