|Stevie Ray and Jimmy Lee|
|Early Seventies Rocker Days|
At 17 Vaughan dropped out of school to try to make a go of music and moved from Dallas to Austin. In the early Seventies he played in a variety of cover and blues bands trying to find what fit his vision. He developed a reputation as the hot new Texas blues player. In 1977 he formed a blues band he called Triple Threat Review. Two years and a couple of personnel changes later the band solidified as Steve Vaughan’s back-up band, rechristened Double Trouble. With the change in the band name Vaughan also began to use his middle name as a musician.
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble spent the next two years on the Texas bar circuit honing the blues-rock groove that became their hallmark. In 1982 they got their first major gig outside Texas with an opportunity to play the Montreux Jazz Festival. This was their breakout moment. One reviewer who was there recounted SRV’s performance.
|Stevie Ray Vaughan - Montreux Jazz Festival 1982|
Over the next few years Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble built a reputation as a powerhouse live act through incessant touring and recording. However with the success came the downside of drugs and alcohol. The downside bit Stevie Ray Vaughan hard. By 1986 he was ingesting a quarter ounce of cocaine and a quart of whiskey daily. Performances became erratic and on a tour in Germany the guitarist collapsed. An emergency hospital stay and intensive rehab followed. For Stevie Ray Vaughan, it worked. As he reflected later, “I hit rock bottom, but thank God my bottom wasn't death.”
By June 1989 a sober SRV and Double Trouble had rebounded and reached new heights as a band. With the release of the album “In Step” the guitarist and his band had become both a critical and commercial success. “In Step” went gold and won a Grammy for best blues album of the year. Blues legend Bonnie Raitt summed up the rejuvenated power of a drug free Stevie Ray Vaughan,
An album was to be released in the fall of the year. In August of that year, the Double Trouble tour arrived in East Troy, Wisconsin. During a show on August 26 Stevie Ray participated in a jam that included a who’s who of contemporary blues guitarists – Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton and even Stevie’s brother Jimmy Lee. It was to be Vaughan’s last performance. Fortunately, video of that final jam on "Sweet Home Chicago" has been preserved.
Following the concert around 1:00 am on Aug.27, he jumped on a helicopter with some of Clapton’s crewmembers. Shortly after take-off in foggy conditions the chopper crashed, killing all on board. Stevie Ray Vaughan was 35 years old.
Stevie Ray Vaughan was buried in his home town of Dallas following a memorial service that included many of the great musicians who had come to appreciate the gifts and art of the quiet and universally liked guitarist. Among the notable reflections, maybe the words of Eric Clapton best capture the essence of the musician Stevie Ray Vaughan.
The legacy of Stevie Ray Vaughan has grown since his untimely death. Unlike most musicians who die prematurely, the artist who passed from the seen in 1990 was not a tragic figure. He had won his battle with the excesses of rock and roll stardom and had brought the blues he loved to a wider audience. Stevie Ray Vaughan is universally considered to be one of the top ten guitarists in rock music history.
On a trip to Dallas for a conference I connected with a friend of mine, Steve Gonzalez, who had moved to Texas from the Philly area. I had asked him if he minded if we tried to find Stevie Ray’s grave. Little did I know that Steve is a huge SRV fan and he was all about the plan. We found Laurel Land Memorial Park in a suburban area south of Fort Worth.
Just a few months after this, in March 2014 I had the opportunity to be in Austin, where there is a great statue of SRV memorializing the artist in the town where he made his name.
|At SRV statue in Austin with SG church planting guys|
I can't end this post without a few recommendations. Here are a personal top three videos of SRV at his best.
- Perhaps Stevie's most well known composition,"Pride and Joy" from the legendary 1982 Montreux Jazz Festival show that put him on the map as a guitarist.
- Here's a killer live version of SRV's cover of Stevie Wonder's Superstition, played on his famous guitar "Lenny".
- Given the acknowledged influence of Jimi Hendrix, Stevie's cover of my favorite Hendrix song,"Little Wing", has to be on my list. I couldn't find a video with quality to do justice to the live recording on his greatest hits album, but this at least gives a feel for SRV's take on it.
|The beauty of the blues|