Jimmie Vaughan, Longhorn Band team up on orange-and-white rhythm & blues

When Jimmie Vaughan strolls onto the 50-yard line at Royal-Memorial Stadium with the entire University of Texas Longhorn Band behind him at halftime of UT’s Thanksgiving game with Texas Tech, he’ll leave no doubt that he was born to play guitar. But not football.

“I started playing guitar because of football,” Vaughan says, launching into a story about his junior high school days in Dallas. Friends told him, “‘If you want to be popular with the girls, you should play football.’ So I went down there and the coach said, ‘OK, next play, run out and catch a pass, let’s see what you can do.’ I mysteriously caught the pass, they piled on me and I broke my collarbone.”

To lift Vaughan’s spirits while he was recovering, his father gave him a guitar. “I was the world’s worst football player,” he concludes with a chuckle. Vaughan had the last laugh, becoming one of the world’s best guitar players.

Vaughan, who will turn 65 in March, served as the official Texas State Musician for 2015, an honorary designation that seems fitting for the memorable year he’s had. After performing at the Austin Music Awards in March, he helped induct his late brother Stevie Ray Vaughan into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in April.

He teamed with Steve Miller to launch KGSR’s popular “Blues on the Green” summer concert series in Zilker Park, and earlier this month headlined the annual “Help Clifford Help Kids” benefit at ACL Live in memory of his close friend Clifford Antone. On Dec. 4, he’ll be back in Zilker for “Night Lights,” a Trail of Lights Foundation fundraiser to kick off that long-running holiday tradition.

Playing at halftime of a UT football game is icing on the cake. “You can’t get any more Texas than that,” he figures. “The whole thing is just incredible to me. I could’ve never dreamed it up on my own, to even ask something like that. And why would they even do it?”

Longhorn Band director Scott Hanna can answer that question. “During the summertime, we had some broader conversations about the notion of collaborating with outside artists, in the broadest sense,” he says. “There’s been a little bit of a trend in recent years of college marching bands doing these sorts of things, but more on the pop music side of stuff.

“Over time, we narrowed it down to this more Austin-centric, Texas-centric idea. The opportunity we have in Austin to showcase the talent we have here is something that only we can do. It’s unique to UT and to Austin.”

This isn’t an entirely new notion. The 2008 Texas-Arkansas game featured a halftime performance by hometown western swing band Asleep at the Wheel, whose leader, Ray Benson, will sing the national anthem at Thursday’s game. And live music occasionally has been part of basketball games in the Erwin Center since the 1970s, when local singers such as the late Steven Fromholz performed during halftime.

But Hanna, who’s in his first year as the band’s director after 16 years as associate director, sounds eager to do it more often.

“At this point it’s too early for me to say much about it other than we have some big aspirations, for sure,” he said. “We’ll have more conversations after this football season is over. It’s more of a who-and-when kind of thing, but people are very excited.”

Intriguing possibilities abound. Some are obvious: Willie Nelson presumably would have a standing invitation, and Gary Clark Jr. is another easy call. Others might be riskier but with high rewards. Imagine the full band backing up psychedelic legend Roky Erickson, for example. And would UT invite the obviously musically deserving Dixie Chicks, past political kerfluffles aside?

In any event, Vaughan’s steeped-in-Texas rockin’ blues music provides an ideal place to start. At a rehearsal last week, his voice and guitar rang out loud and clear on a system set up by local company Big House Sound, the full band backing him on his 1995 tune “Boom-Bapa-Boom.” He’ll also perform his brother Stevie’s classic “Texas Flood,” and the band will do two more Stevie tunes as part of their marching program.

For Longhorn Band members, learning Vaughan’s music has been “very much a part of their musical education,” Hanna says. “I think the majority of them didn’t know who Jimmie is, but the ones who have told their parents about it, they invariably said, ‘My parents just went crazy.’ So maybe they’re learning to appreciate their parents’ musical tastes, too.”

No one appreciates the opportunity to bridge the generations more than Vaughan himself. “I’m two or three times older than they are, and I’m not really coming from the same musical school as them; I don’t read music and everything,” he says. But as he took the field with the band and gazed up at the stadium’s towering west side stands, “I was feeling my whole career in front of me, and thinking how amazing it was that this came up,” he says. “It’s just a real trip to be there and doing this thing with all these kids.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Music

This week’s music picks: Haley Heynderickx, Night Glitter EP release
This week’s music picks: Haley Heynderickx, Night Glitter EP release

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyvYIYwLzTw&w=492&h=307] Tuesday: Haley Heynderickx at Cactus Cafe. Portland, Ore., has consistently produced noteworthy indie acts for some time now, and Heynderickx (don’t try to spell it without a program) is the latest from the Rose City to attract nationwide attention. Her full-length...
The man who turned underdog grapes into Virginia's star wines
The man who turned underdog grapes into Virginia's star wines

Virginia's wine community is celebrating the life and achievements of one of its giants, Dennis Horton, the maverick vintner who defied conventional wisdom by planting grapes few people had heard of and in so doing convinced many skeptical oenophiles that Virginia could make great wine. Horton died June 19 at his home in Madison, Virginia. He had been...
'Fixer Upper' stars Chip and Joanna Gaines welcome baby boy, reveal his name
'Fixer Upper' stars Chip and Joanna Gaines welcome baby boy, reveal his name

The latest addition to Chip and Joanna Gaines' family has arrived. The "Fixer Upper" stars took to social media Saturday to announce the birth of their fifth child, sharing a photo of the baby boy and revealing his name. "Our baby boy, Crew Gaines, is here and we couldn’t be more in love," Joanna wrote Saturday night...
World's Ugliest Dog Contest: Zsa Zsa the English bulldog slurps up 2018 title
World's Ugliest Dog Contest: Zsa Zsa the English bulldog slurps up 2018 title

An English bulldog has fetched the crown in the 2018 World's Ugliest Dog Contest in Petaluma, California. According to The Associated Press, Zsa Zsa, a 9-year-old pooch from Anoka, Minnesota, won the pageant Saturday, beating out more than a dozen less-than-pretty pups for the $1,500 grand prize. According to the event's website, Zsa Zsa "...
Summer TV: ‘Sharp Objects,’ ‘Yellowstone’ and other shows worth a look
Summer TV: ‘Sharp Objects,’ ‘Yellowstone’ and other shows worth a look

What to read, where to go, what to watch: Summer can be rather bossy, culturewise, but it’s still mostly a no-pressure proposition where TV is concerned — especially since “Game of Thrones” isn’t expected back until next year. Aside from a few big-ticket temptations like HBO’s “Sharp Objects” (premiering...
More Stories