Listen to Stevie Ray!
Pride and Joy
(ra-file, 638 kb)

No one who crossed paths with Stevie Ray Vaughan or his music could fail to be enriched by the experience.

A kid with his first electric guitar, friends who knew him through good times and bad, even the blues legends he modeled himself after he had a profound effect on them all. To be sure, he was a Guitar Hero in the truest sense of the term (winning eight Guitar Player Readers Poll awards in six years), but the essence of the Texans's playing lay not in dash or technique, but in the heart and soul he infused into every lick.

And as bigger-than-life as he was onstage, he was as humble and down-to-earth offstage. In fact, of all of his achievements and contributions, two of the most lasting show his concern for others: He was always quick to credit the blues greats who influenced him, and after his much-publicized battle with and recovery from drug and alcohol abuse, he accepted his role-model status with dignity and humility.

SRV with B.B. King

Musically and socially, what he and Double Trouble did was virtually unprecedented. Not since Eric Clapton or Johnny Winter had a bonafide guitar hero surfaced playing stone blues. In fact, there had been a shortage of guitar heroes, period. Whereas Clapton and Winter reached their largest audiences after they had strayed from the genre, and Hendrix had from the outset transformed his blues base into a horse of a different color, Vaughan faithfully played the music he'd learned from T-Bone Walker, Freddie King, Albert King, and Guitar Slim, in front of thousands night after night.

Blues obscurities like Larry Davis' "Texas mood" got the same huge ovations as the intro to Jimi Hendrix' "Voodoo Chile." Although much of the press surrounding the 35-year-old's life and death focuses on his debt to Hendrix, influences such as Hubert Sumlin, Buddy Guy, Lightnin' Hopkins, Lonnie Mack, and the three Kings (Albert, Freddie, and B.B.)-not to mention older brother Jimmie Vaughan-made up as much or more of his style.

SRV and Hubert Sumlin

Howlin' Wolf's guitar virtuoso, Hubert Sumlin, says: "That was a friend of mine, partner - one of the best. I been knowing Stevie a long time, since he was a kid - him and Jimmie. I played with them so many times in Austin when Antone's had the first club on 6th and Brazos. I'll tell you the truth: That boy was something else, man. I feel like he was one of the greatest guys and guitar players who ever lived. And he was really just getting to do his thing. He bought a Rickenbacker for me about 10 or 12 years ago, but somebody stole it. Then he found the guitar somewhere in New York, years later. I was playing at Antone's, and here comes Stevie with the same guitar."

Throughout Double Trouble's repertoire, but particularly on Howlin' Wolf songs such as "Tell Me" and "I'm Leaving You (Commit A Crime)," Stevie Ray took Sumlin's style a step further. What did Hubert think? "I was so glad, because somebody had to do it, and I was glad it was him. It's so bad to have a loss like that. It seems like something like that always happens to somebody who's real good and truthful and knows what he's doing."

SRV with Albert Collins

Another collaborator in some legendary onstage shootouts was Albert Collins. "We jammed many times, and I had so much fun," the fellow Texan remembers. "I really miss him. He did some Jimi Hendrix, some Albert King, a little of me, but he had it together for what he wanted to do. He had a direction, and he made it work. The kids really liked his fire."

One of Stevie's seminal influences was Lonnie Mack; in fact, the first LP Vaughan ever owned was Lonnie's debut, The Wham Of The Memphis Man. Student and mentor later co-produced Mack's comeback, Strikes Like Lightning, in 1985.

"I met Stevie in Texas back in the '70s," Lonnie reminisces, "I went to see his brother's band, and Jimmie said, 'You've got to go see my little brother. He plays all your tunes.' Stevie was playing at a little club called Rome Inn, and as a matter of fact he was playing 'Wham' when I walked in the door. I remember he was playing the song exactly like I recorded it, which got me back into playing the song the way I originally did it. We got to be friends, and there was talk of me producing an album on him. I moved to Austin and got a deal with Alligator Records; Stevie said,'Why don't you let me produce it? I know your stuff as well as anybody.' So we did."

SRV and Lonnie Mack

Stevie seemlessly incorporated Lonnie's style, especially on instrumentals such as "Travis Walk" and "Scuttle Buttin'." "That's all that 9th stuff, which was like an old song of mine, 'Chicken Pickin',' and a lot of my songs," nods Mack. "Anytime he'd do a song like that, he'd call me up and say, 'listen to this. I'm using it again.' He was quite a guy."

Jamming with Stevie on his last night--along with Eric Clapton, Robert Gray, and brother Jimmie - was another Vaughan idol, Buddy Guy. "He was tremendous, one of the greatest players I ever met," Buddy says. "We really got to know each other as friends about 10 years ago. We did a show in Chicago, and he said,'They've got you opening, but I refused to come unless I open for you.' We played together a lot. Antone's, in Austin, is the only place where I don't take my own group, because with those kids, you can just grab a plane and go play. With him and his brother, it was like a dream come true, on- stage with all those kids playing guitar.

SRV and brother Jimmie

"Stevie told me how his brother Jimmie had learned a bit before him, and he kept hearing this record of mine. His brother wouldn't let him listen to it, so he went and stole it. He said,'These are the licks I want.' We laughed about that the night of his tragedy. I'll never forget some of the licks he was playing the last night. I think it was one of his best nights ever. They invited me up as a guest and said we were gonna jam. They all looked at me to see what we were going to play to. I said, 'Man, we all should know something about "Sweet Home Chicago."' That's what we did."

SRV with Buddy Guy
Blues Jam with Buddy Guy
Blues Jam with Buddy Guy (ra-file, 4 meg!!! - it's 25 minutes!)

For a recent taping of Austin City Limits, Buddy was backed by part of his own Chicago band and Double Trouble's Chris Layton and Reese Wynans, and in mid-set the group played "Mary Had A Little Lamb" and "Leave My Girl Alone," two of Buddy's songs that Stevie recorded.

"It was an honor to have him do those tunes," says Guy, "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. And he wasn't just some white kid saying,'I got it.' He told the truth.'I got this from Buddy Guy or Albert Collins,' or whoever he wanted to talk about. That was some of his greatness. All of us have a certain God-gifted talent. Blues was locked out with a skeleton key, but Stevie was the type of person where they gave this guy the key, he opened the door, and threw the damn key away and said, 'All of y'all come in here. Let's play and show people how this shit's supposed to be done.' He was like a brother to me. This year I won three W.C. Handy awards in Memphis, and I had to dedicate them to that kid, because that kid woke blues back up."

It's been said many times about many people, but never did the words ring truer:

His like will not pass this way again. Rest in peace, Stevie...

Taken from: "Guitar Player" March 1991
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