By Kirby Warnock

Upon arriving in Austin, the self proclaimed “live music capital of the world”, most newcomers hear a common refrain: “You should have been here in the 70s/80s. You really missed it.”

This usually follows a listing of now-defunct nightclubs that once held sway, such as The Rome Inn, Soap Creek Saloon, The Armadillo World Headquarters, The One Knite and Castle Creek. Yes, to most folks there is the belief that the good old days are gone forever, and the “new” Austin may be shiny, hip and cool during SXSW, but it’s really a bit sterile.

As former Austin Chronicle writer, and blogger, Michael Corcoran wrote:
“Just as there are two SXSWs, there are two Austins. What you loved about this town when you first moved here is still there, you just have to look for it.”

C-Boys, Austin, Texas. Photo by Kirby Warnock

And nowhere does that statement ring more true than at C-Boys, a little club down on South Congress, in the shadow of downtown. Owned by Steve Wertheimer, who used to run the legendary Rome Inn, C-Boys is named after the black man who used to manage that club. His real name was Louis Charles Parks but he got the nickname C-Boy because he was a cook in the Army.

The Rome Inn became legendary because of its two “residencies”, that is, bands who always played on a certain night of the week. On Sundays it was Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, but on Mondays, it was The Fabulous Thunderbirds, the hottest band in Austin in the late 70s.

With Jimmie Vaughan on guitar and Kim Wilson on vocals and harmonica, Monday nights at the Rome Inn was the place to be. Major rock stars like Bob Dylan, Dickie Betts and Billy Gibbons could be spotted in the crowd on Blue Monday. Billy Gibbons even wrote a song about it for ZZ Top’s Deguello LP, “Low Down in the Street.”

Fabulous Thunderbirds at the Rome Inn, early 1970s. Photo by Mike Buck.

Sadly the Rome Inn was sold and eventually became a bakery. To add insult to injury, the building burned down a year ago.

But for those still looking for the heart of a Saturday night in Austin, you can find it at C-Boys, where the Mike Flanigin Trio featuring Jimmie Vaughan plays regular gigs on Fridays and Saturdays, whenever Jimmie is in town.

Yep, when he is not on the road with Eric Clapton, Steve Miller or fronting his Tilt-a-Whirl Band, Jimmie can be heard playing with the Mike Flanigan Trio on the small stage at C-Boys.

Jimmie Vaughan at C-Boys, Austin, Texas, December, 2022. Photo by Kirby Warnock.

The band usually starts up around 10:30 pm, throwing down the clean, Texas blues that Jimmie made famous with his early band, Storm, and later the T-Birds. It’s a strange experience to stand on the dance floor, only three feet from Jimmie just two nights after he was playing Madison Square Garden in New York City, but that’s part of his appeal.

“I like to keep my chops up,” he explains nonchalantly (as if after 57 years of performing he still needs to practice). Plus it doesn’t matter where I am, on Friday night I’ve got a gig somewhere.”

The crowd is a mix of “old Austin” (I saw Gretchen Barber there the night I attended) and 20-somethings, newcomers who have no idea what the Rome Inn was, or (and this may be blasphemy) who Jimmie Vaughan is. But they cram the small dance floor to shimmy and shake to the righteous Texas blues as only Vaughan can play them.

At 71, Jimmie has become the stand in for the older blues men who used to attract a youthful crowd. I was lucky enough in my younger days to see some legendary blues men like Freddy King, Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Lightning Hopkins perform in person. In an odd sort of way, you can experience that by seeing another living blues legend playing at C-Boys.

The Fabulous Thunderbirds first album was appropriately titled Girls Go Wild, and on this Friday night on South Congress Avenue, there is a new generation of 20-something girls vibrating on the dance floor. Vaughan and Mike Flanigan lay down a raft of standards, including “Can’t Sit Down” and “Scratch My Back” that gets your feet to moving, but it’s when he goes into “Texas Flood” that you see what made his younger brother, Stevie Ray Vaughan, pick up the guitar.

It is not lost on me that Jimmie lived the first half of his life with everyone referring to Stevie as “Jimmie’s younger brother” and today Vaughan is known (rightly or wrongly) as “Stevie Ray Vaughan’s older brother.”

As Bobette Riner wrote in The Houston Press, “We know the Vaughan brothers’ hits, together and separately, and their status in the R&B firmament in Dallas, the home of the King. But until now, the hoi polloi has been largely ignorant about the older Vaughan brother, who opened for Jimi Hendrix at age 15 and later took a sabbatical from his own, long-time career to cut a record with Stevie Ray.”

With Stevie’s tragic death in a helicopter accident in 1990, Jimmie has not only had to carry on the family name, but live with the constant comparisons to Stevie. It’s an unfair standard, because they each had their own distinct styles, but it’s Jimmie who has had to bear the burden.

But if there was any melancholy about carrying that mantle, it wasn’t shown on Friday night. Jimmie had the crowd in the palm of his hand, and they shared the love, dancing, shouting and just having the time of their lives.

There are other, nicer clubs in Austin, and some have a VIP status, but if you want to really enjoy yourself and hear the music that made this town “the live music capital of the world” you need to check the C-Boy’s calendar and catch the Mike Flanigin Trio featuring Jimmie Vaughan one Friday or Saturday whenever he’s in town.

You won’t be sorry.

Trust me on this.

Sign up for the Buddy Magazine email list, and stay in touch.

We'll send periodic emails to announce new print issues, special Texas music events, and more. You can unsubscribe at any time.