Eric Clapton and Jimmie Vaughan: At the Crossroads
Eric Clapton and Jimmie Vaughan share a bond that dates back further than the first time they met and solidified on stage. Most recently Vaughan, who opened for Clapton at a trio of concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall in May, was invited to be the supporting act for Clapton concerts scheduled in San Francisco, Las Vegas and Phoenix before the two bluesmen head to Dallas for the fifth edition of Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival (Sept. 20-21).
They’ve played at each other’s shows and together alongside blues masters that influenced them both, but it was a Clapton concert on Aug. 26, 1990, near Chicago that would forever link the two musicians. Clapton invited Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, Vaughan and his younger sibling Stevie Ray to join him onstage to play Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago” before the end of the second of two shows. Shortly after midnight, Stevie Ray Vaughan and members of Clapton’s crew perished in a helicopter crash on the way back to the Windy City.
Jimmie Vaughan had introduced Stevie Ray to the guitar and Clapton’s playing, which was in rotation on the turntable they shared alongside influences such as Guy and the Three Kings (Albert, B.B. and Freddie). At a time when Clapton had left power trio Cream and was soaking up inspiration from roots music acts like The Band and Delaney and Bonnie, Vaughan left his hometown of Dallas for Austin, where he played with a group that would open for his little brother’s idol, Jimi Hendrix.
Clapton’s search for the sound of his soul led from collaborating with George Harrison to being vocal coached by Delaney Bramlett and being pushed to his limits by Duane Allman in Derek and the Dominos. That band’s 1971 self-titled album contains a rendition of blues standard “Key to the Highway” and Clapton’s most enduring classic, “Layla,” which are still staples of his live sets. A period of seclusion followed, broken by his return to recording in 1974.
461 Ocean Boulevard was the album where everything fell into place for Clapton. He figured out how to create balance as the bandleader of an ensemble, touring with musicians who inspired him to play his best, and who he could leave space for to fill out the live sound. Currently that ensemble includes keyboardist/vocalist Paul Carrack, keyboardist Chris Stainton and guitarist Doyle Bramhall II, whose late father played drums for Lightnin’ Hopkins and Freddie King.
Jimmie Vaughan, who released his latest album Baby, Please Come Home in May, has been solo since leaving Austin’s favorite ’80s blues sons Fabulous Thunderbirds. His sandpapery shout pairs well with distinct, trebly Stratocaster fretwork that would make T-Bone Walker proud. That was on display when he joined Clapton at two of the London concerts to jam on Bo Diddley’s “Before You Accuse Me” before Clapton played his preferred show closer as of late, an immaculate cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain.” Expect to hear both songs at the T-Mobile Arena concert, and both guitarists to share the stage once more.
T-Mobile Arena, 8 p.m. Sept. 13, starting at $69 plus tax and fee. 888.929.7849 AXS