The history of Stevie Ray Vaughan - Part I

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Notes: A lot of great infos about the Blues guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan

Image Stevie Ray Vaughan“Something of a legend”, says Rolling Stones magazine, who recently named Stevie Ray Vaughan one of the top 10 guitarists in rock history.

“His playing reached out to you. He wasn't so concerned with technique and flash, but at the same time, he had it by the truckload. He never let technique rule his heart; he always played directly what was on his mind", says Steve Vai.

“As a guitar player, he had an incredible signature tone and an extreme intensity. He played one of the most difficult guitars to play - the Fender Stratocaster - and he played with really heavy strings.”, says Joe Satriani.

“It was an honor to have him do [my] tunes, because just like I went to Muddy Waters and paid tribute to him, everyone pays tribute to someone they admired a lot. Music is handed down to the next generation”, says BB King.

Austin’s favorite son was born in Dallas, Texas, on 3 October 1954 at the Methodist Hospital. During his childhood, Stevie would be inspired into guitar playing by his older brother, Jimmie (b.1951), which eventually landed him his first guitar in 1964, a plastic toy from Sears, the same year Jimmie also received his first. When he was in junior high school, he began playing in a number of garage bands, which occasionally landed gigs in local nightclubs. It was in 1965 when a friend of Jimmie’s, called Doyle Bramhall was impressed at Stevie’s guitar talent at age 11, who encouraged him to keep on playing – “He was the first one that ever told me I was good."

However, in 1965, parents of Stevie and Jimmie, Jimmie and Martha Vaughan, tried to put a stop to their sons musical careers after being alarmed by their indulgences with such drugs and alcohol. The result saw the moving of Jimmie with Doyle Bramhall in an apartment. At home, Stevie’s life couldn’t have been more terrible. He was severely restricted from his musical activities leaving him bored and unhappy. An attempt at life outside saw Stevie working as a dishwasher in a Dallas burger joint called Dairy Mart, where he made his final decision: to quit and play guitar after falling in a barrel full of grease – "Part of my job was to clean out the trash bins. One night, I was standing on top of a barrel, [and] the top caved in. I fell in grease up to [my chest], and right then I decided 'I'm not gonna do this anymore. I'm gonna play guitar."

Leaving school at the age of 17, Stevie sat in with a high school band called Cast Of Thousands for two songs as they record an album called A New Hi. The following year (1972), Stevie joined a rock band called Krackerjack but quit after the lead singer wanted them to wear face paint on stage. Soon, Stevie would find himself in a major band (Double Trouble) with bassist Tommy Shannon from Krackerjack.

In 1973, Marc Benno invited Stevie to record in his band called the Nightcrawlers, which featured Doyle Bramhall. The Nightcrawlers were almost successful until their record label A&M decided not to release the record. Disappointed, the band traveled back to Texas. On his way back home, Stevie purchased a battered '59 Stratocaster in Ray's Music Exchange in Austin. He named it "Number One" or “First Wife” and this becomes his favorite guitar for the rest of his life.

Stevie left the Nightcrawlers disappointed, but instead, joined the Cobras with Paul Ray. The Cobras were one of Austin’s popular bands. For the next two and a half years, Stevie played with the Cobras on the Austin Club Circuit, who eventually won “Band Of The Year” on an Austin music poll (1977) (The line-up stars Stevie Ray, W.C. Clark (bass), Lou Ann Barton (vocals), Freddie "Pharoah" Walden (drums), and Mike Kindred (keyboards).

The following year saw the resignation of W.C. Clark, the bands bassists. He was replaced by Jackie Newhouse. For a while. Saxophonist Johnny Reno briefly joined the band. Freddie Walden later quit the band and was later replaced by Chris "Whipper" Layton. Following the departure of Freddie Walden, the band renamed itself Triple Threat. The core of Double Trouble was forming.

In 1980 Lou Ann Barton left Triple Threat to join Roomful Of Blues. Stevie Ray renamed the group Double Trouble. Their big break came in 1980, when they performed at the Steamboat 1874 club in Austin on April 1. This performance was recorded for radio and later released as the 1992 album, “In The Beginning”. On January 2 1981, Tommy Shannon replaces Jackie Newhouse on bass. A taping of a performance at an Austin music festival ended up in the hands of Mick Jagger, Rolling Stones frontman. This taping landed the group a gig to play a semiprivate party for the Rolling Stones at New York's Danceteria on April 22. Almost rising to their peak, the band performed at the Montreux International Jazz Festival in Switzerland, the first unsigned and unrecorded band to do so. This became the bands big break. The reaction was mixed. The album, Live in Montreux features the crowd booing as well as applauding. The band were devastated, yet they met two musicians who loved the bands sound and would have a profound effect on the bands fortunes. One of these musicians was David Bowie, who gave Stevie the guitar spot on his “Let’s Dance” album. The second musician was Jackson Browne, who offered the band free use of his studio. The demo they recorded there became their debut album, “Texas Flood ”.

It was nominated for two Grammy awards: "Best Traditional Blues Recording" and "Best Rock Instrumental Performance" (for "Rude Mood"). The band also appeared on the "Austin City Limits" television show. Stevie won three categories in the Guitar Player's Readers Poll: "Best New Talent", "Best Blues Album", and "Best Electric Blues Guitarist" (beating out none other than Eric Clapton!). He became only the second guitarist in history to win three Guitar Player awards in one year (the first was Jeff Beck). Stevie also won the "Best Electric Blues Guitarist" award every year until 1991.

With the release of their debut album and the follow up, “Couldn’t Stand The Weather ”, the bands success grew.


Couldn't Stand The Weather is released on May 15. Stevie won his first Grammy: "Best Traditional Blues Recording" for his performance of "Texas Flood" from Montreux (this song appears on Blues Explosion from Atlantic Records). "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" from “Couldn’t Stand The Weather ” was nominated for "Best Rock Instrumental Performance". In November, Stevie wins two W.C. Handy National Blues Awards: "Entertainer Of The Year" and "Blues Instrumentalist Of The Year." It was the first time a white person has won either award.

In 1985, 1985 - Keyboard player Reese Wynans joined Double Trouble to record their third album, “Soul To Soul ”, which was released on September 30. It became Double Trouble's third straight gold album. Stevie received his fifth Grammy nomination: "Best Rock Instrumental Performance" (for "Say What!" from Soul To Soul). He also produced Lonnie Mack's comeback album "Strike Like Lightning " and played in several of its songs. On April 10, Stevie played "The Star Spangled Banner" for opening day of the National League baseball season at the Houston Astrodome, where he was booed by the crowd – the booing had a profound effect on Stevie.

However, the success grew with a price. The drugs and the alcohol taken by the band started to take it’s toll. By the time of “Live Alive ”, Stevie Ray Vaughan was about to break. In Germany 1986, during a tour in Europe, he began vomiting blood in his hotel room. Later in the tour, at the Hammersmith Palais, he fell off a gangplank when leaving the stage: the rest of the tour was cancelled.

Both Stevie and Tommy checked themselves into rehab and emerged sober. He produced two albums, which proved that he had lost none of his passion: 1989’s “In Step ” and 1990’S “Family Style ”, with his brother Jimmie Vaughan . At the end of August in 1990, Stevie and Double Trouble appeared on the bill at two Eric Clapton gigs at Alpine Valley, a ski resort in Wisconsin. After the show, on the 26th, Stevie boarded a helicopter on its way to Chicago. His helicopter never returned. In fog, it had flown into a hillside, killing all those on board: Stevie Ray Vaughan, the pilot and three members of Eric Clapton's entourage.

Stevie’s final resting place was at Laurel Land Cemetery in Dallas, Texas on August 31. Mourners include Billy Gibbons, Stevie Wonder, Buddy Guy, Bonnie Raitt, Ringo Starr, and Dr. John. Outside the chapel, more than 3,000 fans gathered to say goodbye.

Thanks for taking the time to read my article. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it for you. Next time, I shall be writing Stevie Ray Vaughan. Part 2 - his guitars.

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