For now, at least, Breedlove is new enough to the business of rock and roll to be refreshingly oblivious to even the tiniest perks that come with being a band in demand. As four-fifths of the Austin quintet sidles up to the counter at a barbecue joint just around the corner from the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, where the group is booked for a private party on this unseasonably warm March night, no one, it seems, is able to fathom the idea of free -- as in, "This plate of ribs comes courtesy of the host nightclub." When that piece of good news makes its way to the whole band, everyone's stunned. You'd think they had just arrived from Los Angeles, where paying to play is commonplace and even free ice water is a luxury.
Don't expect Breedlove's pleasing naivet to last much longer, though. In a little more than a year, what started as a weekend hoot has become a nightclub draw, with sold-out shows at Steamboat in Austin and opening slots for Ugly Americans, Storyville and the Ian Moore Band all over Texas. In addition, the group was an award-winner in this year's Austin Chronicle Music Poll and has just wrapped up a small tour of Colorado with fellow Austinites Little Sister.
You can attribute at least some of Breedlove's speedy success to name recognition. Guitarist Tyrone Vaughan-Fullerton is the son of Jimmie Vaughan, former Fabulous Thunderbird and older brother of Texas legend Stevie Ray, and drummer Jason White is the younger sibling of high-profile Austin musicians Billy White (Billy White Trio) and Chris White (Ian Moore Band). Such family connections have admittedly served Breedlove well, bringing in plenty of first-timers curious to see if the new Vaughan generation measures up to the old (not quite, at least not yet) and, perhaps to a lesser extent, whether Billy and Chris' kid brother can pound the skins (he can, and then some).
But something other than curiosity has kept audiences coming back. Most likely it's the fact that Breedlove plays with an in-the-pocket finesse far beyond its years (the band's oldest member, bassist Josh Dawkins, is only 24), not to mention that the group can write memorable melodies to support its considerable musicianship. While a neo-hippie, jam-band haze hangs heavy in the air at a Breedlove show, the group's positive aggression is informed with a post-punk ingenuity that keeps the music's edges sharp, the hum-along choruses tight and the lyrics economical and direct. And don't expect any showboating on-stage from Vaughan-Fullerton. Like his father, he seems more concerned with rhythmic fluidity and holding things together than grabbing the spotlight with technical displays.
"It's like a unity thing," says Vaughan-Fullerton. "Everybody gets a chance to do their thing in this band."
Vaughan-Fullerton started Breedlove with his cousin, singer/guitarist Dan Dyer, who is the one band member on the missing list as the group sit down at a long table to wait for their food. On hand with Vaughan-Fullerton is Dawkins and keyboardist Ezra Reynolds, who fill out the lineup. As the conversation moves along, it turns inevitably, as it must, to the family issue, and Vaughan-Fullerton begins choosing his words with care. That hardly comes as a surprise, given the circumstances surrounding the relationship between father Jimmie and son Tyrone. Vaughan-Fullerton mumbles a bit at first, as if stalling, and it's not until his friends leave the area to pick up their meals that the soft-spoken, disarmingly polite 23-year-old begins to open up about the connection, which was nonexistent until about seven years ago.
"I met him crossing the street one day," says Vaughan-Fullerton. It turns out he's only half kidding.
Vaughan-Fullerton's mother was single when she had her son, and at the time, Jimmie Vaughan was caught up in a hard-living cycle of performing and partying that left little room for kids. Vaughan-Fullerton's mother later married, and her husband adopted Tyrone when he was in grade school.
"There's a lot of things I could say, but I want to be careful and speak the truth, because I'm not sure what's going to be written," says Vaughan-Fullerton, who learned who his biological father was when he was about six. "Jimmie's not a father figure; he's just a friend, if anything. I was raised in a pretty normal family environment, so I didn't really think about [Jimmie] until I was about 12. Then I decided I wanted to see him."
Trying to honor her son's request, Tyrone's mom worked the Texas grapevine to reach Vaughan, but he "never came through," recalls Vaughan-Fullerton, who bears a striking, if thinner, resemblance to his father.
Jimmie Vaughan changed his tune after Stevie Ray's death in 1990, re-entering his son's life for occasional visits. Eventually, he even gave him a few guitars, and Vaughan-Fullerton, who had shown little interest in playing before, went to work on the hand-me-downs in his bedroom, strumming along to everything from blues recordings to modern rock.
"When I first started hanging out with Tyrone, he was just a regular kid playing baseball and screwing up," says bassist Dawkins, Vaughan-Fullerton's pal since high school. "I used to tell him, 'Damn, dude, you need to grab a guitar.' "
By the time Vaughan-Fullerton finally picked up a guitar, he was pushing 20 -- an amazing footnote to keep in mind when viewing his considerable command of his instrument. When he finally emerged from his bedroom with enough confidence to try what he'd learned at home on-stage, Dan Dyer was writing for and fronting the popular San Marcos band Rainshine; meanwhile, Dawkins and White were cutting their teeth in the blues rock outfit Third Power. Vaughan-Fullerton initially found a place playing guitar with Rainshine, but things in that band soon began to sour. More and more frequently, the close friends from both groups began assembling for loose jam sessions. Depending on whom you ask, the fun turned serious somewhere around late 1994 or early 1995, when Dyer, Vaughan-Fullerton, Dawkins and White decided that the vibe between them was too special to neglect. "No one expected it to happen," Dawkins says, "but it did."
After a casual debut for family and friends in the living room of Dawkins' San Marcos home, Breedlove took its show to San Marcos and Austin venues, picking up former Billy White keyboardist Reynolds along the way to fill out its sound. Lacking a demo or anything resembling publicity, Breedlove relied on their audiences to spread the word. Soon, the buzz was strong enough to reach more far-flung places such as College Station, Corpus Christi, Dallas and Houston.
Still, although its ballooning popularity may not allow the band to drag its feet much longer, Breedlove is intent on taking things slow. And while the group says a CD or cassette is inevitable, the members claim that there are no immediate plans to record. Vaughan-Fullerton, however, did send his father a few homemade tapes.
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What does Jimmie Vaughan think of Breedlove?
"He hasn't really gotten back to me yet," Vaughan-Fullerton says. "If he thought we were doing well, he'd probably think it was cool. But he's very particular in the music he listens to -- an old-fashioned straightforward roots kind of a guy. But he did tell me he went to a Public Enemy show not too long ago, and I was kind of freaked out by that. So maybe he's coming out of his shell."
As Breedlove continues fine-tuning its road show, primary songwriter Dyer, the band's self-appointed spiritual leader, true gypsy soul and adrenaline-charged nexus, both on-stage and off, is working with the rest of the group to build a strong set list of original material, which now stands at 25 songs. The most experienced songwriter of the group, Dyer -- who finally arrives, smiling and giddy, as the interview enters its closing minutes -- is credited with finding words and melodies to match the riffs and fragments often thrown out by the others.
"We're pretty much into writing what feels good to us. Whether it's rock and roll, jazzy, psychedelic or whatever, between all of us, I think we pretty much cover everything," says Reynolds, finishing up his barbecue as the rest of Breedlove prepares to head back to the Satellite.
"And hey, where do we pay for this stuff, anyway?"
Breedlove opens for Ugly Americans at 9 p.m. Thursday, March 21, at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue. Tickets are $6. For info, call 869-