The life and art of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan long ago passed into Texas musical myth. His was an incandescent, once-in-a-generation talent taken from the world far too soon.
Despite having first achieved success with the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Vaughan’s older brother, Jimmie, often seems to be shortchanged when it comes to his own abilities and influence — somewhat lost in the long shadow of his sibling, but also somewhat overlooked by subsequent generations.
“Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan: Brothers in Blues,” is as much a corrective for both musicians as it is a fond, slightly grumpy reflection upon an era in North Texas music long since passed. Kirby Warnock, the writer, director, producer and family friend, indulges viewers in a flurry of footage and stills. This film continues a thread Warnock began with his 2013 documentary “When Dallas Rocked.”
The vintage clips in “Brothers in Blues” are augmented by fresh interviews with the men and women who were on hand to witness the Vaughan brothers rise out of Oak Cliff and stride onto the world stage.
The film will screen this week over two nights at the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff, with Jimmie making an appearance Thursday night (it’s sold out), and Warnock appearing for a Q&A on Friday.
“This film is the compilation of what I saw after more than 45 years of watching and writing about the Vaughan brothers,” Warnock said in a statement. “With the full blessing and all-access cooperation from Jimmie Vaughan, I am privileged to share with the world the depths of their life story, and fans will hear tales that have never been made public as told by people who were actually there when it all happened.”
Chief among those “people who were actually there” is Jimmie Vaughan, whose vivid, off-hand recollections form the spine of Warnock’s 107-minute film.
Additional notable talking heads include Eric Clapton, Nile Rodgers, Jackson Browne (whose anecdote about Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble’s grateful gift after recording its first album at his California studio is almost worth the price of admission alone) and Billy Gibbons.
“Brothers in Blues” unfolds largely chronologically, tracing the Vaughan brothers’ ascent from gigging high school musicians to award-winning artists sharing stages with childhood heroes.
The film functions as much as a pocket history of Oak Cliff’s creative vibrancy and primacy among Dallas neighborhoods as an artistic incubator as a rambling portrait of the Vaughans’ legendary influence.
Warnock’s focus can stray — fond memories of youth give way to earnest digressions into very specific styles of playing guitar — but there are several powerful moments, including watching adult men and former bandmates of the Vaughans playing the songs of their youth and transporting themselves back in time, as well as Jimmie’s terse, poignant recounting of Stevie Ray’s untimely death in a helicopter accident in 1990.
Dissipating legend can take some of the allure out of rock stars, particularly those taken before their time. Count Warnock’s lovingly rendered documentary about Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan, then, as the rare rock doc that serves to enrich those stories — paying tribute, even as it provides emotional and cultural context.
“Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan: Brothers in Blues” at Texas Theatre, Dallas. 7 p.m. March 23-24. March 23 is sold out, but tickets for March 24 ($17-$19) are available.
Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.