Poster from movie

“That boy came from nowhere and went everywhere,” is a quote from the documentary “Jimmie & Stevie Ray Vaughan: Brothers in Blues,” which tells how Stevie Ray Vaughan became one of the most influential artists of all time.

Writer/director Kirby Warnock strikes a nostalgic chord, blending music, memory, and raw emotion into a bittersweet symphony. It harks back to a time when music served not just as a backdrop but as the cornerstone of coming together and connecting with others.

The film hilariously begins by suggesting that attending a Beatles concert was the secret ticket to meeting girls considering they transformed the world. It signaled a cultural shift, turning the “cool kid” blueprint on its head––you no longer needed to be the handsome football player to win a girl’s heart; all you needed was a guitar and a dream.

The narrative intertwines the musical journey of brothers Stevie and Jimmie Vaughan, illustrating their humble beginnings in a small, post-war house in Oak Cliff, Texas, and their eventual rise to becoming rock and roll legends. Throughout their journey, they sold millions of records and shared the stage with renowned artists like David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jackson Browne, and Carlos Santana.

This story begins in the '50s and '60s, depicting children’s experiences growing up during that time. It is peppered with memorable accounts from Billy Gibbons and several other central figures from the early Texas rock and blues scene, giving us an intimate glimpse into the inception and evolution of their awe-inspiring careers.

Director Kirby Warnock, a childhood acquaintance of the Vaughan brothers, brings familiarity and warmth to the narrative, an appreciable Texas charm, and a genuine insider perspective rarely seen in documentaries. As he reveals the journey of the Vaughan brothers, Texas comes alive, not just as a backdrop but as a character itself. His narration forms compelling interviews featuring rock legends like Eric Clapton, Billy Gibbons, Nile Rodgers, and Jackson Browne, each contributing their unique insights and experiences with the Vaughan brothers.

This film distinguishes itself with a sense of authenticity by presenting the trials and tribulations on the brothers' path to fame. It carefully examines their battles with addiction, the emotional roller-coaster of their separations and reunions. While mournfully capturing the heartbreaking death of Stevie Ray.

There’s much to appreciate in the film’s treatment of the subject matter. The comedy of yesteryear’s guitar lessons, the unfiltered accounts of Stevie Ray’s death, and Eric Clapton’s touching recollection of helping the Vaughan brothers fight addiction lend a unique humaneness to this rockumentary.

The documentary has a few minor flaws. Initially, the grainy, time-worn clips might be off-putting for some viewers. Its slightly biased preference for the ‘good old days’ could potentially alienate younger viewers. The Vaughan brothers’ lack of live performance footage is somewhat disappointing. Despite these minor flaws, they don’t substantially diminish the overall enjoyment of the documentary.

“Jimmie & Stevie Ray Vaughan: Brothers in Blues” is an exceptionally engaging documentary that skillfully intertwines personal narratives with a potent musical heritage. Catering to seasoned Texas blues enthusiasts and novices to the genre, the film presents a balanced combination of history and rock and roll, making it a must-see for aficionados of music documentaries and admirers of the Vaughan brothers. The legacy of the Vaughan brothers persists, echoing through the corridors of rock history, with their melodies maintaining a rhythm that resonates through time.


Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Brothers in Blues will screen at 9 pm at the Gateway Film Center on July 21. The trailer may be viewed here.