Blues guitarist Jimmie Vaughan stood on the 50-yard line of an empty Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. After traveling the world and performing with musicians from Eric Clapton to B.B. King, he said his most memorable performance would be with the Longhorn Band.
Vaughan, brother of the late blues musician Stevie Ray Vaughan, will perform with the Longhorn Band on Thanksgiving Day during the Texas vs. Texas Tech halftime show. After discussing the possibility in the summer, Vaughan’s performance became official a few months ago, and the band began rehearsals weeks before Thanksgiving.
“I think this might be my favorite performance,” Vaughan said. “I’ve had a lot of dreams. I’ve won GRAMMYs and been in movies and played with people all over the world, but I could have never guessed this one. It’s really beyond description.”
UT band director Scott Hanna said he was thrilled when he heard the band would have the chance to perform with an Austin icon.
“This performance is playing a role in [the band members’] musical education,” Hanna said. “This has been a great chance for them to learn about Jimmie’s music and learn about him.”
Music studies sophomore and clarinetist Chanse Morris said performing with Vaughan has been an unreal experience. Even without a packed stadium, Morris said the energy during the rehearsals was palpable. As Vaughan’s final note rang out, band members rushed to meet the musician, with iPhones and memorabilia at the ready for pictures and autographs.
“It just brings smiles to everyone’s faces,” Morris said. “It’s so different than just playing and marching. You can feel the energy coming off of him.”
With the performance just a few days away, Hanna said he thinks audience members will each take something different away from Vaughan’s music.
“The audience at football games is so diverse,” Hanna said. “It’s not like any other musical performance. We’ve got a whole range of people in the stadiums. For a certain group, it’s going to be their music. For other people, I think it’s a chance to gain some exposure to Texas music.”
The halftime show will close out a landmark year for Vaughan, who inducted his brother into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April and was named Texas State Musician in May. Despite his reputation as one of the best guitarists in the past 40 years, Vaughan said he still doesn’t feel as though he’s mastered the instrument.
“I’ve been playing for 50 years, and I’m still trying to learn,” Vaughan said. “I evolve, and I change, but I never feel like I’ve learned how to do it, so that always helps me to feel fresh about it. I love it. It’s not like going to work — it’s my art.”
Vaughan said his guitar and his family played an influential role in his recovery after his brother’s tragic death in 1990 — four years to the day after their father had passed.
“I was three months sober when Stevie died,” Vaughan said. “I thought I could really tie one over, and no one would blame me. But then I thought of my mother and about protecting her. I’ve always played guitar, though. It helped me after Stevie died. It probably kept me out of prison, and it’s taken me around the world.”
After spending countless nights in the back of his father’s pickup truck, on the way to his next gig or evenings keeping his guitar away from his brother, Vaughan said he wishes they could witness the historic performance as well.
“I can see them smiling in disbelief,” Vaughan said. “I know they would be proud, and that’s what I keep thinking of.”