Bluesman Jimmy Thackery dedicated his new album, We Got It, to mentor Eddie Hinton, but that doesn’t mean that the guitarist will be adopting Hinton’s training schedule. Thackery, who toured with Hinton, says Hinton would get up at 5 in the morning and run 10 miles, “but not before he’d filled the bathtub up with ice and loaded it up with a case of Schlitz. Then he’d come back and get in the bathtub with the ice in it and drink up all the beer.”
Hinton played lead guitar on virtually everything that came out of Muscle Shoals from 1967 to ’71. His work was heard on hits for Elvis, Dylan, Wilson Pickett, Toots Hibbert and Otis Redding. He could sing too–though it sounded like he was gargling barbed wire, there was so much pain and soul in his delivery that he rivaled the black soulmen of the time. He was so much in demand as a session man that he turned down Duane Allman’s offer to be the lead singer with the Allman Brothers Band. “He was definitely a mad genius,” Thackery says. “The songs that he wrote, they just hit you right in your soul. But he was prone to wigging out on you. He’d just go off, and it had something to do with stuff they found out in cow patties out in back of Muscle Shoals. There were nights when he’d get onstage and he’d be Otis Presley, and he would just blow your mind. And another night he’d get up and he’d take a nap on the monitors.”
Thackery got the idea for the tribute (seven out of the 11 cuts are Hinton tunes) when he and his wife couldn’t get a recently unearthed Hinton demo compilation, Dear Y’all, out of the CD player for a month. Thackery recently switched record labels from Blind Pig to Telarc, and the company wanted a Thackery product ASAP. “I had just signed a deal and didn’t know much about ’em. I had trepidation about handing them a bunch of original material and watching yet another company completely drop the ball on it. You put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into that stuff, and then a record company just lets it go to hell; it’s really disappointing.”
His wife suggested he make a “cool kind of tribute record,” but the record company wasn’t sold on the idea. “They were afraid that there wasn’t gonna be enough guitar work on it. I said this stuff is custom made for bunch of cool guitar work. And once I showed them that, they said, ‘Oh, OK–fine.’ Well, they actually said, ‘Oh, we got it.’ And I said, ‘Seein’ how that’s the title of one of the songs, why don’t we just call the record We Got It?’”
Thackery hasn’t inherited any of the Hinton madness, but he has managed to get inside Hinton’s style. He’s even got the vocalizing down to that same gargling bobcat scream. But when the guitar comes in, there’s no mistaking Thackery’s style, the sound he’s been honing since co-founding the Nighthawks in ’72 and polishing to a lustrous shine with his band The Drivers.
Some claim that style was similar to a well-known Texas guitar slinger, but Thackery is ready for that one. “We discovered Stevie Ray Vaughan in Texas when he was just a local guy down in Austin, and (brother) Jimmy and the Thunderbirds were out touring, playing sort of semi-nationally. We got down to Austin, and I got Jimmy to take me to see Stevie. We went wow–this kid is hot shit. So we invited them to go out on an East Coast tour, and they’d never been out of Texas.” At the time, Thackery and the Nighthawks were a national touring act, and had Vaughan and his band Double Trouble opening for them.” We dragged them along for I don’t know how long, seemed like forever, ’cause I had to follow the little son of a bitch every night,” Thackery laughs.
“We had the same influences, we were doing exactly the same thing, and not knowing the other guy existed. Our styles came out a little different, but with the same approach, which was crank it up and go balls to the wall and see if we can excite somebody. The obvious comparison is there, but I didn’t feel like either one of us was taking anything from the other guy.”
Thackery’s new record company suggested a reunion with Vaughan’s rhythm section for another new Telarc release, Whiskey Store, a collaboration with Tab Benoit. “These days, you have to try to make some sort of circus event out of anything if you want to draw anybody and get the press to write anything about something,” Thackery explains. “So we thought, let’s do some gigs together where you come out with my band or I come out with your band. Logical progression was, let’s do a record together. We’ve been friends together for a long time, we like the same stuff.” It’s an eclectic mix of material, from the Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time” to Dylan’s “Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat” with Chicago blues virtuoso Charlie Musselwhite sitting in on assorted cuts.
Thackery will get another crack at the Stones in yet another upcoming Telarc specialty record that the guitarist says will feature various blues people and rock ‘n’ roll people playing songs from the Exile on Main Street album. “I picked the straw that gave me ‘Rocks Off,’ which is my favorite song. I get to go play and sing on that, so I’m excited.”
But nothing matches the excitement of writing and performing your own material, which Thackery is now ready to commit to for his next Telarc project. “Sometimes you get lucky, and you just find a natural thing, and it works,” says the guitarist about the craft of songwriting. “Sometimes you just pull a gem out of your pocket and say, ‘Yeah, I love this.’”