During the ‘80s, Ben Vaughn was to the Philadelphia music scene what William Penn is to the city skyline. The gifted but underheralded musician was part of Sickidz and led the inspired Ben Vaughn Combo.
The creative vocalist-guitarist was a fixture at a number of late, lamented Philly clubs such as The Ripley, J.C. Dobbs and Grendel’s Lair.
But the unthinkable happened during the early ‘90s, Vaughn wisely decided to leave the City of Brotherly Love for greener pastures.
Vaughn tried Nashville but discovered that Music City wasn’t a good fit.
“I gave it a shot there but I didn’t have the feel for the country music format or the attention span,” Vaughn said while calling while driving around South Jersey. “I could have redefined Reba McEntire’s career or ruined it.”
Vaughn went from rags to riches in 1994 when he visited Los Angeles. The quirky retro-rocker took some meetings in Los Angeles just as the ‘Pulp Fiction’ soundtrack, which is filled with pulsating surf and roots rock, went through the stratosphere.
“I was told that I could have a lot of work if I moved out there,” Vaughn said.
So he packed up his telecaster and moved to Hollywood. Within a year, he wrote the theme to the NBC hit ‘Third Rock From the Sun’ and his life changed dramatically.
“It was a great opportunity for me,” Vaughn said. “The people in LA had no idea that I played rock n’ roll every night. I was a composer to them. They had no idea that I wrote songs like “I Dig Your Wig.”
Vaughn cashed in courtesy of ‘Third Rock’ and he picks and chooses his gigs these days. “I’m semi-retired,” Vaughn said. “I play sometimes but not like I once did.”
Fans can catch Vaughn playing around his two California homes, one in Santa Monica and the other in 29 Palms. “I love playing in the desert,” Vaughn said. “There’s a little roadhouse out there in the Mojave desert by my house and I have fun with some local musicians.”
Four times a year Vaughn comes back to the other coast to deliver his witty and gritty roots-rock. Vaughn, who will perform Friday at the World Café Live, still has family in the area.
“It’s great to see them and the four seasons,” Vaughn said. “I miss that and I also miss performing for fans in Philadelphia. There’s no audience like it. Most other places, they just respectfully listen. They interact with you in Philly. They tell you if they don’t like you or just let you know what’s on their mind. I miss that.”