Stevie Ray Vaughan. Just by mentioning his name, I am sure more than half of the people reading this couldn’t help but smile. Chances are a Stevie riff or memorable live performance came into your head as well as an image of the sensational axe slinger.
Not only was Stevie Ray a phenomenal guitar player, but he also had a dazzling stage presence that commanded respect and attention. He had a lot of influences whose music he was building off of, but he conveyed their messages in his own unique way. He bent strings to a height no one had ever seen and brought back a flare to the blues scene that had been covered up by eighties synthesizers and dance music.
Now, let’s take a look at a few facts about the legendary blues shredder that might interest you.
1). His earliest musical inspiration was his older brother, Jimmie Vaughan.
Stephen Ray Vaughan was born in 1954 in Dallas, Texas. Stevie began playing at the young age of seven and was instantly captured by the guitar and music when he heard his brother playing. Jimmie Vaughan is an accomplished blues guitarist in his own right and continues to perform today.
2). Stevie gets jazzy
That’s right, even though he and his brother dove head first into blues with artists like Albert King, Muddy Waters, Jimi Hendrix, and others, Stevie also was inspired by jazz music. Guitarists like Wes Montgomery, Django Reinhardt, and George Benson helped add jazz flare to his playing.
3). Stevie on the bass?!
Before he was superstar on the guitar, Stevie was briefly in the background playing bass for Jimmie’s band Texas Storm. In fact, he auditioned for bass because he wanted to try out something new. Then they heard his guitar playing…
4). He dropped out of high school in 1972
After playing in a lot of bands that couldn’t get off the ground, Stevie set his sights on Austin, Texas. The city had a booming music scene and offered him many opportunities to play the blues. Also, his brother Jimmie had already established himself there and founded the well-known blues band, The Fabulous Thunderbirds.
5). The Rolling Stones Hires His Band
After a three-year period with a band called Triple Threat, Vaughan left the group along with vocalist Lou Ann Barton. Together, they started the band that Stevie would be most famous for, Double Trouble. By the late 70’s and early 80’s, their presence in the music world was widely known and they were making a big mark. The band’s reputation even got around to the iconic and world-famous British rock band The Rolling Stones. In 1982, the Stones hired Double Trouble to perform at their private party in New York.
6). Who propelled Stevie into the spotlight?
Around the early eighties, things were going very well for Stevie Ray Vaughan and his band. Then, things got a whole lot better. The cherished and popular glam rock star David Bowie caught wind of talented Texas bluesman and wanted to collaborate with him. As a result, Stevie was featured as the lead guitarist on Bowie’s 1983 album Let’s Dance. This album essentially “served as the world’s introduction to Stevie Ray Vaughan.”
7). What note is that?
Stevie never learned how to read music. In fact, when he would write songs he usually didn’t know what key it was in. This is actually very common in the music industry, where musicians are self-taught and have a lot of natural skill. Didn’t hinder Stevie at all obviously.
8). Behind every great musician is a great producer
John Hammond was a producer and talent scout who was considered one of the ‘most influential figures in 20th century popular music.” This guy hand a hand in multiple lucrative pots and helped to jump start or enhance the careers of several legendary artists. Some include Bob Dylan, Charlie Christian (jazz guitar) Count Bassie, Leonard Cohen and many others. Even though he was retired at the time, Hammond discovered Vaughan’s immense talent and brought him to Columbia records. In fact, he served as the executive producer on Vaughan’s debut album Texas Flood.
9). And The Award Goes To…
Over the years, even after his death in 1990, Stevie has won a lot of awards and recognitions. One of the most surprising came in 1985 when he became the first white artists to win the “W.C. Handy Blues Foundation’s Entertainer of the Year award.” I mean, B.B. King even said it: “I’ve said that playing the blues is like having to be black twice. Stevie Ray Vaughan missed on both counts, but I never noticed.”
10). Hanging With Clapton
Eric Clapton is of course one of the best guitarists in the world and I’m sure he has countless stories about gigging and about various great musicians he has met and played with over the years. Two stories I’m sure make him feel very unsettled. One is that he was supposed to meet up with Jimi Hendrix on the night he died. Clapton even picked out a left-handed guitar for his friend who was always playing right handed guitars upside down. Clapton was overwhelmed with grief about the passing of his dear friend. Clapton was also one of the last people to see Stevie Ray Vaughan alive. The two blues virtuosos played at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre along with Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, and Jimmie Vaughan. Right after the show, Vaughan went on a helicopter back to Chicago that fatally crashed into a mountain range because the pilot couldn’t see the landscape.
Rest In Peace Stevie Ray Vaughan
October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990
By Patrick Ortiz