It’s not often that a “virtual deity” announces that he is a libertarian, but that is the case with Jimmie Vaughan. The blues guitarist — a founding member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, brother of fellow blues legend Stevie Ray Vaughan, and purveyor of classic blues riffs — told The Austin Chronicle, “I’m not a Republican. I’m not a Democrat, either. If I’m anything, I am Libertarian. Yes, I believe in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. That’s what I believe in.” (November 23, 2001)
In 2004, Vaughan took his support for libertarianism to a more explicitly political level. He headlined a benefit concert for Libertarian Party presidential candidate Michael Badnarik in Austin, and performed at a “Red, Rock and Blues” concert at the Libertarian Party’s national convention in Atlanta.
The involvement in libertarian causes didn’t come as a total surprise to Vaughan fans. For years, the Texas-born musician had featured links to the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution on his Web site JimmieVaughan.com. But it’s a fair guess that most fans visited the website for information about Vaughan’s groundbreaking blues albums, or to think about purchasing a Jimmie Vaughan Stratocaster guitar. After all, it’s the music that prompted Guitar Player magazine to call him “a virtual deity — a living legend.”
Vaughan’s life is synonymous with music. He picked up the guitar at 13, after he was sidelined by a football injury. By 15, he had started a band and by 16 had opened for Jimi Hendrix in Dallas. In the mid-1970s, he founded the Fabulous Thunderbirds. The band went on to storm the pop charts with the song “Tuff Enough” (1986) and record eight albums, including T-Bird Rhythm (1982), Tuff Enuff (1986), Hot Number (1987) and Powerful Stuff (1989). In 1990, he recorded Family Style with Stevie Ray Vaughan (His brother died in a helicopter crash later that year).
Vaughan then embarked on a solo career. With his Tilt-A-Whirl Band, he released Strange Pleasure (1994), Out There (1998) and Do You Get The Blues? (2001). In 2003, he released a career retrospective, Essential Jimmie Vaughan. Later releases include On the Jimmy Reed Highway (2007) and Plays Blues, Ballads & Favorites (2010). As a guest musician, he has played with some of the biggest names in music — and appeared on Bob Dylan’s Under the Red Sky, Carlos Santana’s Havana Moon, Willie Nelson’s Milk Cow Blues, and B.B. King & Eric Clapton’s Riding with the King. Vaughan has won four Grammy Awards, most recently for Do You Get The Blues? (Best Traditional Blues Album)
Ultimately, Vaughan’s love of music is intertwined with his love of liberty. “I love this country,” he told The Austin Chronicle. “The life I’ve had, I’ve lived my dreams and make art. That’s what I do, and I get to do it for a living partly because I chose it and pursued it, but also because of that Bill of Rights. I love this country.”
“I’m not a Republican. I’m not a Democrat, either. If I’m anything, I am Libertarian. Yes, I believe in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. That’s what I believe in.” — Jimmie Vaughan in The Austin Chronicle (November 23, 2001)
Are you a libertarian? Find out by taking the Worlds Smallest Political Quiz.