Through all the ups and downs of his fame, one thing is absolutely certain about Stevie Ray Vaughan – he could PLAY. He could play any genre, any time. His fame rose quickly, and he battled with addiction for years while touring the world. He pushed himself to the edge and in 1986 suffered a physical collapse. Rehabilitation and recovery allowed him to go further than ever with his music and to completely master his instrument.
The greats all agree he was one-of-a-kind; Eric Clapton, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, both B.B. and Albert King, Buddy Guy, Stevie Wonder, the list goes on. The man commanded the respect of every musician he ever encountered. So you can imagine the shock and grief felt by all of his fans when his helicopter crashed into a mountain-side outside of Alpine Valley in Wisconsin on August 27, 1990. On October 3, he would have been 58 years old.
Maybe my respect for him is mildly biased. I grew up in a house of blues-hounds. My parents and aunts and uncles all love the blues, and travel to concerts and festivals regularly to catch their favorite acts. I have this memory of when I was about 7 or so. I was miming air-guitar to a song on the radio, and my dad turns to me with this grin on his face and says “you wanna hear some real guitar playing?”
Of course I did, and this is the song he played for me.
It’s the song “Testify” by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, and from that moment on I was hooked. Over the years I have noticed that every single piece of music I find myself truly drawn to has some tie or resemblance or flavor of the blues, and subsequently Vaughan.
Here is his track “Mary Had A Little Lamb.”
Below is a video of SRV shredding out Jimi Hendrix’ classic “Little Wing” from his 1991 album The Sky Is Crying. Take a moment out of your day to listen to one of the best.
And last (but never least), here is Stevie’s MTV Unplugged live performance in 1990 shortly before his untimely death. The opener “Scuttle Buttin’” is a true testament to his skills.
So this was my way of saying on behalf of all blues-hounds, everywhere, you might be gone but you are certainly not forgotten. RIP SRV!
“He was the greatest blues guitarist of his generation.” –Mick Jagger
“I don’t think anyone has commanded my respect more, to this day. The first time I heard Stevie Ray, I thought, ‘Whoever this is, he is going to shake the world.’ I was in my car and I remember thinking, I have to find out, before the day is over, who that guitar player is.” –Eric Clapton