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Stevie Ray Vaughan

Books about Stevie Ray Vaughan:
Stevie Ray Vaughan - Caught in the Crossfire by Joe Nick Patoski

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In the annals of great guitarists, there is EC, there is Jimi, there is B.B., and there is SRV. These initials are synonmous with a charismatic, hard-living Texas blues guitar giant who had barely hit his career stride when it all ended in a fiery helicopter crash over Wisconsin on August 27, 1990.

Stevie Ray Vaughan was born Oct 3, 1954 in Dallas. His older brother, Jimmie, inadvertently became Stevie's first musical mentor when, at the age of 13, Jimmie was recuperating from a football injury and was given a guitar to help pass the time. This turned out to be a momentous milestone in both the Vaughan brothers' lives.

While Jimmie was learning the guitar, Stevie Ray, not to be outdone, was learning also. Influenced not only by brother Jimmie, Stevie Ray was caught up in the music of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, Albert King, and Otis Rush. Stevie Ray managed not only to teach himself the basics of guitar, but also managed to meld the styles of his heroes into one that became his own.

By the time he was in Junior High, Stevie was playing in garage bands around the Dallas area, and sneaking out to play in night clubs. At 17, he decided on a career in rock music and dropped out of school to pursue it full time. As he was having trouble staying awake in class because of his lack of sleep, the result of playing in night clubs sometimes until six o’clock in the morning, his education was suffering, and he had already begun to rely on drugs to stay awake. His concerned parents forbade him to have anything to do with playing music, but it didn't seem to do much good.

Brother Jimmie left home at 16 and moved to Austin where there were many opportunities for aspiring musicians. Austin, at that time, was known as the “San Francisco of Texas.” Young Stevie Ray decided to follow his brother and also moved to Austin. In the 70s, Stevie cut his musical teeth with the Nightcrawlers and then the Cobras.

In 1978, Triple Threat was formed, featuring Stevie Ray on guitars, with bassist W.C. Clark, Freddie Walden on drums, Mike Kindred on keyboards and vocalist Lou Ann Barton. Jackie Newhouse replaced W.C. Clark on bass that same year and Chris Layton replaced Walden on drums. Triple Threat enjoyed success mostly around Austin. In 1980, Lou Ann Barton left to pursue a solo career, and the remaining members elected to continue, with Stevie Ray as the front man. Their name was changed to Double Trouble, inspired by the song of the same name by Otis Rush. In 1981, Tommy Shannon replaced Newous on bass and the final lineup was set.

In 1982, Double Trouble was invited to play at the Montreux Festival in Switzerland. They were the first and only unsigned group to perform at this prestigious annual concert, and although their rowdy Texas blues left the audience puzzled, Jackson Browne and David Bowie, both at the festival, were very impressed. This led to an invitation to Stevie Ray from Jackson to use his recording studio in Los Angeles free of charge, while David Bowie asked Stevie Ray to lay down the guitar tracks on his upcoming album “Let’s Dance.” Stevie Ray gladly accepted both offers and went off to New York to record with Bowie. Shortly after this collaboration with Bowie, Stevie Ray returned to Jackson's studio to record, in only two days, what was to become “Texas Flood” with Double Trouble. This resulted in a recording contract with Epic.

Vaughan received kudos and critical raves for his work on “Let’s Dance” but the "Texas Flood” album was also a great debut success for Double Trouble and Stevie Ray became nationally known.

David Bowie contacted Vaughan again, inviting him to join his 1983 "Let's Dance" tour, but Stevie Ray elected to stick with Double Trouble. After a successful tour, Double Trouble released “Couldn’t Stand the Weather” in 1984 and the album went gold in 1985.

In 1985, keyboardist Reese Wynans was added, to take some of the pressure off Stevie who was having to carry the rhythm as well as the lead parts. “Soul to Soul” was released in August of 1985 and the album reached No. 34.

In 1983, their debut album, “Texas Flood,” was nominated for Grammy Awards for "Best Traditonal Blues Recording" and "Best Rock Instrumental Performance" for "Rude Mood" from that album. The band appeared on their first of two "Austin City Limits" PBS shows. And “Guitar Player” had Stevie win in three categories in the Guitar Player's Readers Poll: "Best New Talent," "Best Blues Album," and "Best Electric Blues Guitarist." He was the first to win three of these Guitar Player awards in one year and would go on to win "Best Electric Blues Guitarist" in that poll every year through 1991!

In 1984, Stevie won his first Grammy Award for "Best Traditional Blues Recording" on “Texas Flood.” "Voodoo Chile” was nominated for "Best Rock Instrumental Performnce." And finally, he was the first white man to win "Entertainer of the Year" and "Blues Instrumentalist of the Year," in the W.C. Handy National Blues Awards.

In 1985, Vaughan received a Grammy nomination for "Best Rock Instrumental Performance" for "Say What?" from the “Soul to Soul” album.

However, all was not well in Stevie's personal life. He had continued with his addiction to drugs and alcohol, and this began to catch up with him. On opening day of the National League baseball season at the Houston Astrodome in 1985, Stevie played "The Star Spangled Banner," however he was booed by the crowd for the pitiful slide work on the song.

In 1986, Vaughan and Double Trouble were on a tour in Germany when Stevie began experiencing serious physical problems, the result of cocaine and alcohol abuse. After only three performances on the German tour, he recognized that he was at a turning point. He could either continue the way he was going, or not continue much longer. He checked himself into a London drug rehab. While he was there the double album “Live Alive,” was released.

In 1987, Stevie had been sober for one year. He appeared on a Cinemax special "Blues Session" with Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, B.B. King, and Albert King. In 1988 he was in an MTV special “Stevie Wonder's Characters” and then jammed with with B.B. King, Albert Collins, and Katie Webster at the Jazz & Heritage Festival in New Orleans.

In 1989 he played for President George H.W. Bush, released “In Step” and won another Grammy in the "Best Contemporary Blues Recording" category for “Crossfire” from that album. After an American tour with Double Trouble, he taped his second show for Austin City Limits. “In Step” went to No. 1 and Stevie, sober and straight, was never in better shape. His performances always contained a testimony to the benefits of staying clean, and his creativity and performances had never been at a higher peak. He was on a fast track to lasting success and in the best form of his professional career.

In 1990 SRV appeared in “MTV Unplugged,” and he and brother Jimmie recorded “Family Style,” the only album they ever made together. He also toured with Joe Cocker.

On August 26 and 27, 1990 Double Trouble were booked at a blues festival at Alpine Valley in East Troy, Wisconsin, along with Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Jeff Healey, Robert Cray and Stevie Ray’s brother Jimmie. Just after midnight on August 27, along with three of Eric Clapton's road crew, Stevie Ray Vaughan boarded a helicopter to fly to Chicago. The helicopter crashed. There were no survivors.

© 2004