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Blues legend to play Kona Brewing Co.

April 18, 2014 - 6:06am

He didn’t know it at the time, but Jimmie Vaughan hit a crossroads at the age of 13.

Plunging into the hormone-fueled melee of a junior high school football game near Dallas, Vaughan snapped his collar bone. He could have healed up and once again thrown himself into the meat grinder, trying to meet some masculine benchmark. Instead, he went home and picked up a guitar.

The world of music is better for that day.

“I love football because it led me to the guitar,” said Vaughan, 63, in an interview from his home outside Austin.

Vaughan will bring his distinctive rhythm and blues rock to the Kona Brewing Co. on April 26, part of a three-island tour that will also take him to Maui and Kauai. He will be coming from a series of gigs in Australia, in the company of the Tilt-a-Whirl Band — with Austin blues vocalist Lou Ann Barton, Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King and also featuring Texas guitarist Chris Duarte. Concertgoers can expect a bluesy night that will include some saxophone, Vaughan’s trademark lean and powerful guitar work and samplings from a career spanning more than a dozen albums and four Grammy Awards.

Heralded for his lyrical guitar riffs and retro personal style that includes a passion for classic cars, Jimmie Vaughan is the older brother of blues legend Stevie Ray Vaughan, who died in a helicopter crash in 1990 in Wisconsin with members of Eric Clapton’s entourage.

In the early days, Jimmie — who was four years the senior — tutored Stevie Ray. He went on to hone his own skills and garner the respect of such greats as Clapton, B.B. King and Buddy Guy. Guitar Player Magazine has called Jimmie Vaughan “a virtual deity — a living legend.”

It’s hard to say where Stevie Ray Vaughan might be today. But it’s clear he broke out in a big way quite a bit earlier than his older brother, playing guitar on David Bowie’s 1983 hit album “Let’s Dance.” At the time, Jimmie’s group, The Fabulous Thunderbirds — born out of the creative ferment that was and is Austin — had released four albums but was still hunting commercial success. The disparity in the two brothers’ careers didn’t lead to hard feelings or rivalry that are always possible where siblings are concerned, however.

Jimmie has been told by other people that he wasn’t doing as well as Stevie Ray back then — but it didn’t feel that way, he said.

“When you have a record that sells 35,000-40,000 copies, we thought we were doing pretty good,” he said. “We always said if we can’t get ’em separately, we’ll get ’em together. When (Stevie) was doing well, he’d open for us. When we were doing well, we’d open for him.”

Jimmie made his only duo album, “Family Style,” with his brother — a light blues-infused rock creation. It was released just days after the helicopter crash. Jimmie has pursued a largely solo career since.

Vaughan’s long musical journey led him to the beach at Waikiki 20 years ago, where he learned steel guitar from Jerry Byrd, a country music figure from the ’50s and ’60s. Vaughan’s been back to the islands several times since to play; he was at the Kona Brewing Co. in 2003.

“My family is going to come so we’re going to hang out and meet up to enjoy ourselves,” Vaughan said. “We’ve had a good time in Hawaii before so we’re looking forward to it.”

Tickets are available online at and at the retail section of the Kona Brew Pub. Tickets are $45, with gates and music at 6 p.m. and the show at 7 p.m. V.I.P. seating is $65.

“We’re really excited to have him come back through and rock out a killer rock and blues set. It’s going to be amazing,” said Kona Brewing Co. general manager Shane Johnson. Big Island Honda will provide extra parking for the event on Kuakini Highway, Johnson said.