Book Review: The Fabulous Vaughan Brothers: Jimmie and Stevie Ray by James L. Dickerson

Here is what the original press release for this book said last September:

"The Fabulous Vaughan Brothers follows the two brothers from their modest Dallas roots to their emergence onto the Austin music scene. The brothers' subsequent recording experiences in Memphis--which the author sees as being crucial to their overall development as musicians-are also described, as well as their early bands and, of course, their work together on Family Style."

Well I think that this is an understatement.

The Vaughn Brothers are actually two of the most important figures in the history of Black music over the past 30 years, yet they are almost totally unknown by the Black community at large. In my opinion this is damn near criminal. The book The Fabulous Vaughan Brothers explains exactly why these two unlikely individuals from Dallas Texas are so important, without ever even asking the question. The book is rather simplistic in that it really is a straight up narrative biography, that doesn't go into any deep analysis. It's only 205 pages long, including pictures and discography. That's because none is needed, a simple presentation of the facts is good enough. When understands the facts of the life story of Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimmie Vaughn, connecting the dots to the truth becomes a very easy thing to do.

In my case, I was fortunate in that I became exposed to the music of Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimmie Vaughn in 1979. This was before either of them became the big stars that they would later become in the 1980's. I was fortunate enough to be living in Houston Texas at that time and having the "honor" of many times being the only Black person in the audience at their shows. In fact I have seen Stevie Ray Vaughn (11 times) and the Fabulous Thunderbirds (w/Jimmy Vaughn) (7 times) more than I have seen ANY single performer in a lifetime of concert going. I also own most all of the albums listed in the discography of the book. My first encounter with the music of Stevie Ray Vaughn is recanted at the following link...

So for me the book hits home on a personal level because as a fan, I actually attended some of the live performances referenced in the book. My experience in reading this book only served to bring into much sharper focus, the things that I already knew and believed about the Vaughn Brothers. For others who are not already fans of their music and unfamiliar with their history this book will serve as something of a holy grail and will cause them to perhaps re-examine their own perspectives on "Blues and Race".

Here we have two young white guys living in a racist lower class Dallas neighborhood, who run away from home to play the Blues in Austin during the early - mid 1970's. Their basic story is so wild that it has to be true. Stevie Ray and Jimmie spend 10 years in Austin fine-tuning their craft and in the process actually become the real deal . Their dedication to not only playing Blues music, but also living the life of Bluesmen truly made them the ultimate "Blue Eyed Soul Brothas". Unfortunately, this lifestyle caused major problems for both of the Vaughn brothers during their lives

In his book "The White Negro", Norman Mailer talks about white people who "affect" the mannerisms of the "Negro" and do so in the false hope that somehow they will become "hip". In the case of Stevie Ray and Jimmie that is far from the case. What you have here is a case of two white guys that just fell in love with the music before they reached the age of 10 and decided right then and there to dedicate their life to it. They didn't do it because it was a popular thing to do. The fact is that it became a popular thing to do AFTER they did it and with that accomplishment created the "Blues Industry" as we know it today in 2005.

The story of how this all came to be in the late 1960's and how it evolved up until the time of Stevie Ray's tragic death in 1990, is well documented in the book. Jimmie Vaughn the founder of the 1980's hit making group "The Fabulous Thunderbirds" and Stevie Ray Vaughn the blues guitar wizard who was always just under the radar made Blues music "hip" during the 1980's. They created an environment, which enabled other white people to as Norman Mailer would say, "affect the behavior of the Negro" and to be "hip" in doing so during the 1980's.

That however wasn't their intent. They just wanted to play good music and play it on their own terms. That is what they did and they did it well.

As I am typing this review I am listening to my well-worn copy of the Fabulous Thunderbird's first album entitled "The Fabulous Thunderbirds (Girls Go Wild)". It's an excellent album of Texas Blues and Soul, featuring guitar and harp. It came out in 1979 and not many people have ever heard it. According to the book it sold less than 5,000 copies. I guess it would have sold 9,999 had it not been for me. After reading the book I sure feel proud that I own a copy of it.

I enjoyed reading this book; it was a fast read for me. I think that other people will enjoy reading it also, if they are interested in the evolution of Black music during the 1970's and 1980's. What Stevie Ray and Jimmie did was to stay true to Black music, during a time when Black music did not stay true to itself.

And that my friends is one hell of a story and makes this book a must read….

NP: "Soul To Soul"
--Stevie Ray Vaughn & Double Trouble

--Bob Davis

CD Review: Family Style - Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimmie Vaughn

Stevie Ray Vaughn did a lot of material that fans of "traditional" Classic Soul would like, if they were to hear it. The two most famous examples of that are the work that he did on the hit songs:
- "Livin in America" - James Brown
- "Lets Dance" - David Bowie

I believe that many Classic Soul fans would also like the album "Family Style" which features a "partnership" on record for the first time between Stevie Ray and his brother Jimmie (who was a member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds). Most "hard core" Stevie Ray Vaughn fans consider this album (which was released shortly after his death) to be lightweight because of the involvement of Jimmie Vaughn, who while a fine artist is NOWHERE in the class of his brother.

Family Style is not a "serious" album (Nile Rogers of Chic fame is the producer), however it's one of my favorites by Stevie Ray, because the relationship that he had with his brother comes thru loud and clear. They obviously had a lotta fun during the making of it and the love that they had for each other is really there.

I also think that it represents the kind of music that they both liked the best and quite possibly played together as kids (Jimmie taught his younger brother Stevie how to play the guitar). This album sounds to me very much like a tribute to the soul/funk music that two white kids from Dallas grew up listening to during the 1970's as teenagers. For that reason, it's probably the most accssible of Stevie Ray's albums for fans of traditional Classic Soul.

Here are a few key songs that i think that many folks here will instantly fall in love with from this album, if they listen to it...

Track #4 - Good Texan
This song is very humerous and features as much boasting about sexual prowess as ANY late 70's/early 80's rapper did. I think that this tune is actually inspired by rap music that the Vaughn brothers were probably listening to in Dallas during the late 70's/early 80's.

" So I can do it to you baby like a Texan should..."

Track #5 - Hillbillies from Outerspace
Here on Soul Patrol, we have discussed the historical connections between Blues and Country music many times. Stevie Ray Vaughn thruought his carrer placed those connections front and center in the way that he dressed, spoken and in his music. This particulair song is perhaps the ultimate in his desire to "fuse" the two together. With Jimmie Vaughn on organ and Stevie Ray on guitar they create an instrumental song that can best be described as "Wes Mongomery/Charles Earland On Crack after being held captive on a Dude ranch for 30 years". People here who are fans of P-Funk/Sun Ra will love this song. One other thing about it, most everyone here has already heard this song before. During the mid 1990's it was used as part of an American Express commercial!

Track #7 - Tick Tock
This song was the first single that was released from "Family Style". It's quite possible that if you have never heard any other Stevie Ray Vaughn song in the past, you may have already heard this one. It's a song which is VERY clearly influenced by the Philadelphia International "message songs" of the 1970's with a "Motown style" 1960's kinda beat to it. The key message of the song is something along the lines of "We are running out of time, so we had better start learning to live together". Very similar to the message of the Philadelphia International message songs. The song, which started being played on the radio at almost the same time that Stevie Ray died, takes on a whole different meaning than it was originally intended as you listen to Stevie Ray softly sing the refrain: " Remember that Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock people, Time's ticking
away..." With the full knowlege that his own "time", had just run out. Whenever I hear this song it brings a tear to my eye.

Track #9 Baboom/Mama Said
DownYourArmsAllTheWayToYourArmPitsProjectApt#2C FUNK"

That is the terminology that i have used in the past to describe the music of the Meters. The song Baboom/Mama Said, sounds like it fell off of a Meters or JB's album. It's actually one of the FUNKIEST cuts I have ever heard and features the MIND BLOWING SOUL SHOUTING of an unknown (at least to me) Chaka Kahn/Lyn Collins/Rosie Gaines style "bold soul sista", doing a SERIOUS "call and response" with the Vaughn brothers.

Anyhow, those are the key cuts, here is the rest of the track listing for the album. I think that fans of traditional Classic Soul will like this album and it will serve as a very nice introduction to this young man from Dallas, whom i belive was the single most talented artist to appear on the music scene during the 1980's (yes even more talented than Prince :-))

1 Hard to Be 4:41(Vaughan Brothers)
2 White Boots 3:50(Vaughan Brothers)
3 D/FW 2:49(Vaughan Brothers)
4 Good Texan 4:22(Vaughan Brothers)
5 Hillbillies from Outerspace 3:35(Vaughan Brothers)
6 Long Way from Home 3:15(Vaughan Brothers)
7 Tick Tock 4:57(Vaughan Brothers)
8 Telephone Song 3:28(Vaughan Brothers)
9 Baboom/Mama Said 4:29(Vaughan Brothers)
10 Brothers 5:05(Vaughan Brothers)

Pick up on Family Style, you will be glad that you did...

--Bob Davis

Subject: Stevie Ray..... "The Sky Is Cryin"

Happy Birthday man.....:)

"The sky is cryin. Cant you see the tears roll down the street The sky is cryin. Cant you see the tears roll down the street Ive been looking for my baby And I wonder where can she be I saw my baby early one morning. She was walking on down the street I saw my baby early this morning. She was walking on down the street You know it hurt me, hurt me so bad Made my poor heart skip a beat Ive got a real real real real bad feelin that my baby she dont love me no more Ive got a real real bad feelin that my baby dont love me no more You know the sky, the skys been cryin cant you see the tears roll down my nose."

  • I’m still cryin :(

  • I'm crying right along with you 'Train. I don't know where my head was, but I discovered this guy way too late, and then the end came. He is undoubtedly one of the worlds greatest musicians, 1) because of his abilities and 2) he never failed to give homage to his influences, especially Jimi. His humbleness, in comparisons to his talent is a rarity today, I still miss him

  • I guess I was fortunate. I had just relocated from New York to Houston Texas in the spring of 1979 and in June people started telling me about something called the "Juneteenth Blues festival". Being from New York I had absolutely no idea what Juneteenth was all about & had never until this point ever been to a "Blues" festival. But they told me that it was free music soI said "why not" I arrived on the scene and there was a sea of Black people surrounding a huge amphitheater in one of the city of Houston's biggest parks. By now I discovered what Juneteenth was all about and that it was in fact the biggest party of the year for Black people in the state of Texas.
    Naturally I had my cooler with me so i found a nice spot where I could just "chill with my cooler" Anyhow I got really comfortable & eventually drifted off to sleep to the sounds of some really cool music. Then all of the sudden I woke up & heard

    "Lord knows i'm a voodoo chille baby..."

    Since I was only half awake at that moment, I just figured that someone nearby had a Jimi Hendrix tape going in their portable tape deck. I turned my head a little bit & looked on the stage & there was this real skinny "white boy", dressed like a "funkateer"(he had on an 'applejack hat', 'nik-nik' shirt, platform shoes, etc) playing the chit out of the great Hendrix song "Voodoo Chille"
    ……………….My jaw dropped

    The most amazing part of it all was that the huge crowd which was 100% Black sat in silence completely mesmerized by this young man doing a cover version of a song originated by a man that the music industry said "didn't play Black music". I became a fan of Stevie Ray Vaughn forever at that very moment !!! I own EVERY single one of his albums !!!!!!!!!!!!! Before his untimely death I saw him live 11 times (the same number of times I have seen P-Funk live) I have seen him perform in all knds of venues ranging from small nightclubs to Madison Square Garden. One of the things Many of the fans reading this may be surprised to even see a post here about Stevie Ray here in this topic.
    But you know just as well as I do that if there ever was such a thing as a "Soul Man", Stevie Ray was it !!

    (and yes.....I do cry for him)

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