Jimmy Thackery headlines a festival in South Dakota or
jams for hours in one of numerous blues bars that dot
the musical landscape, he'll always unleash an intense
volley of rockin' blues guitar guaranteed to leave crowds
emotionally spent. His double edged guitar dynamics allow
him to fire off tracer missiles, bend a note so it will
fit under a limbo bar, run off dive bomber riffs, and
find space within the trembling of one stinging note.
"I put all my senses on hold and find the zone and
follow what's inside. There's an electricity from your
mind to your heart to your fingers. You just try and remember
one of the few blues guitarists who learned first hand
from the masters of the blues, not off a blues record
or DVD. Though most associate Jimmy with his 15 years
as the co-founder of the Nighthawks, he ended his time
with them in 1987. Since then, Jimmy has been on the road
as a solo musician for 15 years doing nearly 300 shows
a year proving each night that he is still the guitar
powerhouse in the blues.
has lived the life of a true road warrior; he's absorbed
the artistic lessons of life and filtered them into his
guitar playing and song writing. To get where he is today,
Jimmy has journeyed a highway of life filled with a series
of twists and turns. He met all the right people and they
have had a permanent influence on him.
was Thackery's time on stage with Muddy Waters that is
branded deep within his musical soul. "Muddy was
one of those guys who was constantly encouraging. He never
told you what to do, but he always told you what you were
doing wrong. He never minced words about that.
"The first time on stage with Muddy, I was in such
awe of him that I just kept my eyes and ears open and
just picked up on everything he did. It was the dynamics
they had that became so ingrained in us. We heard it on
the records and then stood on stage and saw how it worked."
left the Nighthawks in 1987 because he wanted the opportunity
to write and put newer material into the sets. First he
formed a six piece R&B band, the Assassins, an all-star
R&B, funk band from the DC area, and recorded three
albums with them. Then, in 1992, Thackery put together
his three piece band called the Drivers to highlight his
explosive guitar and hit the blues highway.
1990's were a fabulous time. We were working our butts
off doing" close to 300 shows a year. The irony is
that was one of the reasons I'd left the Nighthawks, I
was tired of working so much and not having a life outside
the music. When you're out on your own, you'd better rise
to the occasion. So I found myself back in the 300 night
niche. What made that satisfying is that it was my ship
and I was the captain of it. We were doing material that
I was writing. We were doing arrangements that I came
up with." Whenever Thackery plays live, a guitar
stand props up four guitars and Thackery will announce
to the audience, I'm gonna use all of them tonight!"
recordings are no different. In that time, he's recorded
eight discs for Blind Pig.
first record, Empty Arms Motel, was released in 1992.
"That one still seems to be the favorite of a lot
of people. I went into Kingsnake Records and rattled off
some covers and originals. Halfway through, Bob Greenlee
called Jerry Del Guidance at Blind Pig about the sessions."
From that session, Thackery began his years with Blind
1993 he followed up with Sideways In Paradise, a down
home, laid back acoustic duet with John Mooney. Then,
in 1994 Jimmy recorded Trouble Man, with Memphis producer
Jim Gaines. That began their five record association.
Wild Night Out, a 1995 live recording, Drive To Survive
in 1996, Switching Gears in 1998, and Sinner Street, which
added a sax to Thackery's music in 2000. "I think
that record, Trouble Man, turned the corner for me because
I had a real producer and I was doing original songs.
That gave me a direction. Jim and I did a lot of projects
together. He did everything through Sinner Street. I was
learning so much by watching him as a producer that by
the end of Sinner Street, we both came to the realization
that I was ready. I was telling him what was going on.
He knew that I'd lost my training wheels."
leaving Blind Pig, Thackery has released and produced
two of his own records, We Got It and True Stories, on
Telarc and two collaborations on Telarc with Tab Benoit,
Whiskey Store and Whiskey Store Live. And there was the
critically acclaimed reunion with his old friend David
Raitt on Blue Rock It"
this has lead to a new Jimmy Thackery. Because every record
is more about originals than covers, Jimmy traveled to
Nashville to work out his songs with some of the best.
This is not a Jimmy Thackery goes country. This is Jimmy
Thackery rocks the blues. "I think True Stories on
Telarc is my best song writing to date. For the newest
Telarc project I went to Nashville to work with Gary Nicholson.
I wanted to go and see how the guys in Nashville go about
writing songs. We wrote this from the ground up. I came
in with hooks and ideas and lines. I didn't want to be
overly prepared. I wanted to see how they build these
songs lyrically. What you do with Gary Nicholson is throw
out a hook or line and take off from there and you don't
leave that garage until you're done with a song."
describes what writing is like for him. "Inspiration
can come at any time. It might be a lyric first or it
might be a musical lick first. It might just be a form
thing. In my world, a lyric tends to be a musical road
map. It tends to set up the music I hear in my head. The
cadence of a lyric tends to suggest the way to go on the
guitar. There was one tune we labored over with a certain
groove and feel and it wasn't rising to the occasion.
At the very last second, Gary and I said, "Why not
just rock this thing out. We completely switched gears
and totally changed the patterns and chords and went for
something completely different. We did it in one take.
It's the first song on the record and it just kicks ass."
there is Thackery's guitar. "There are three guitar
instrumentals on this record because I wanted to make
a guitar oriented record. The guitar is still very rootsy
stuff that is very rooted in blues. But also rooted in
surf and spy music. I'm a sucker for that straight eight
beat, twangy, minor scale instrumental stuff. The first
thing every body did when they got a guitar in the early
1960's was to play the music of the Ventures. I'm still
staying true to those roots. Blues is well represented,
but so is all that other music I heard. But so is all
the other music I listened to."
make the best record possible, Jimmy hired some of the
best musicians Nashville had to offer. It's no coincidence
that many of these names also work with fellow blues rocker,
Delbert McClinton. Jimmy notes that even though it has
a Delbert feel, it still has all of his integrity. "Maybe
because of the way it's laid out and the common musicians,
it will strike a chord with fans who don't normally buy
support his newest project, Thackery's ready to do the
road time. "I started thinking that I missed the
days when I was just a full blown, kick ass trio. I thought
it would be fun to go back to that. I did keep Mark Stutso,
my drummer of 15 years. He knows what direction I'm going
in before I do."
constant road work with his own band, producing the latest
record by his Arkansas friends, the Cate Brothers, recording
Whiskey Store with Tab Benoit and touring in support and
playing various Nighthawks reunions, Thackery's plate
is overflowing, and that's exactly how Thackery likes
life - Overflowing.