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Jimmy Thackery and the Drivers reap the rewards after paying their dues. 

Driven to Success

It's been a long haul, but rock 'n' blues guitarist Jimmy Thackery is finally getting his way in the music business. Building on the critical acclaim he's received for more than two decades and selling healthy bundles of CDs, 48-year-old Thackery has eased back some on touring with his quartet, the Drivers. Thackery is rolling, and during a phone interview from Pennsylvania, he says things are going quite well, thanks very much.

As for most hardworking road dogs, it's taken a while for Thackery to hit a comfortable stride. But as he talks about the nine-year evolution of the Drivers from a power trio to a quartet — a quartet that comes to the Boulevard Deli on Friday, May 11 — Thackery is upbeat. He's excited about bringing sax player Jimmy Carpenter aboard to join bass man Ken Faltinson and longtime drummer Mark Stutso.

"Now we're able to swing a little more," he explains. "It's a little more controlled. ….I can think about what's going on next [and] what the hell I'm going to do next."

Looking back many years before the Drivers, Thackery recalls there was a time when he didn't have to think about what to do next. The first time he saw a rock band live as a 7th grader in Chevy Chase, Md., Thackery recalls he "absolutely" knew the guitar was his future. He bought a cheap Japanese electric and taught himself "how to hang in there" on the instrument. Around 1966, Jimmy accidentally saw Jimi Hendrix at a D.C. show and new ideas suddenly emerged. "Up till then it was all about music," he says. "…[Hendrix] was the circus as well as the symphony."

Also fond of Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, Thackery was tuned into the blues form from the beginning. But it wasn't until he heard records by B.B. and Albert King that the lights turned on.

Bitten hard by the blues and taking music to serious levels, Thackery and friend Mark Wenner formed the Nighthawks in 1974 and the 'Hawks became the band to see in D.C. For 13 years this lineup tore down barrooms from coast to coast, and Thackery became the focus of guitar-crazy fans.

With the current band, Thackery has finally realized a measure of personal and professional rewards for the years of motoring down the endless road "seeing the world through a bug-smeared window." He says his musical plate is full of new opportunity.

"I can complain," he jokes, "but who would
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