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When "Tuff Enuff" took off and the band's profile got bigger and bigger, how did you manage to keep your drug habit secret? Did people know or did they just turn a blind eye?
Some people knew, for others it was none of their business. We were all doing coke. I was the only junkie. Those other guys didn't mess with dope. That was the time when backstage everybody would have a bag of coke. It was the last days of sex, drugs and rock & roll, before everybody cleaned up or died. I kept it from certain people. The band knew and didn't approve. My wife at the time was a junkie too. It was what it was. It was a different life.
The first album the T-Birds made without Jimmie Vaughan was Walk That Walk, Talk That Talk in 1991, which I know is a special record for you, and it's really underrated. It's probably the T-Birds' most soulful release.
I agree. I tell people that arguably it's our best record. But at that time we lost our whole Epic crew. Grunge was the big thing, labels were signing anybody out of Seattle. So I thank you for that; it's a great record.
One of the things about that record, and about every T-Birds album you could say, is that the material is really strong, whether originals or covers. How much input did you have on the band's material?
Everything with the T-Birds was a democracy. Nothing was done business wise or song selection -- we were all always involved. Kim [Wilson] was the primary songwriter; he wrote some of the T-Birds classics, even on the early records, great stuff. Sometimes all four of us would get together and write songs. On others, Kim would bring them in and we'd tighten them up. And that was with business too. We'd all have to agree and sign the papers. Kim and Jimmie were the stars, clearly, but it was always the four of us.
When you were cut loose from the T-Birds, did you try to start working with other bands, or was it pretty much straight into the dope world?
I went straight into slinging. I had already been a junkie for years as a consumer, but I went straight into slinging and wound up supplying half of Austin for six years. It caught up with me. It always does. I remember it was a two-week stand in Reno, and I just walked. It was all due to the dope. Those guys knew it. Even a little while ago Kim thanked me for not dragging my drama into the band.
Even as that world had become your life, did you ever think, OK, this is good, the drugs feel good, but it isn't as good as making music?
Sometimes. But when you're in that life, you don't think about things a lot. Insane behavior seems normal. When I think back now on some of the shit I did when I was in that life, I can't believe it -- besides the fact that I should have been dead half a dozen times.
Your brain changes, literally.
Everything seems normal. Everybody had abscesses, and I lost a lot of friends from ODs or abscess. You look at it as part of the life. It's hard to explain unless you're there. I always say that a lot of us got out alive, but I lost a lot of friends, a lot of customers, from dope-related stuff. A lot of us made it out. This is my first health issue -- I had abscesses and mild stuff like that -- but I hadn't been to a hospital since I was twelve years old! Then I was in Barnes on death's door. They were pumping me full of stuff, blood transfusions. But I've been lucky. I blew out my whole circulatory system. It's all scars, I don't have many veins left. I survived it all. It's a miracle.
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