Stevie Ray Vaughan, one of my main influences and guitar players to listen and watch was one of the leading blues and rock guitarists of his generation, coming from obscurity to immediate success in the early 1980’s. Mr. Vaughan was a technical guitar virtuoso who played with fingers of lightening and was a master of the explosive sound effects that had been pioneered by Jimi Hendrix, one of the most significant of many influences on his playing. Essentially a blues master and traditionalist, he played solos in a style that was characterized by a smooth, long-solo of the Texas blues, phrase after phrase.
Stevie Ray, who was born in Dallas, was the younger brother of Jimmie Vaughan, of the successful rock band the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Stevie Ray never had a guitar lesson in his life. And it was through listening to his older brother’s collection of guitar records by B. B. King, Lonnie Mack, Albert Collins and others that he began picking up the instrument. Fairly accomplished by the age of 8, he became a part-time professional in his teens, playing with various Dallas-area bands in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. He dropped out of high school in his senior year to move to Austin, Tex., where he formed a blues group, the Cobras, in 1975.
Two years later he put together a rhythm-and-blues revue, Triple Threat, with vocalist Lou Ann Barton, W. C. Clark on bass guitar, Mike Kindred on keyboards, and Fredde “Pharoah” Walden on drums, which remained together until 1981, when he decided to form a harder-driving, more rock-blues band. The new group, Double Trouble, included the bass guitarist Tommy Shannon and the drummer Chris Layton. Double Trouble took its name from a song popularized by Otis Rush.
Word of mouth about Double Trouble’s abilities quickly spread outside Texas, and the unknown band was invited to perform at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in April 1982. There SRV, playing a 1959 Stratocaster, created more than a sensation and attracted the attention of David Bowie, who invited him to play lead guitar on his album ”Let’s Dance.”
The Rolling Stones subsequently invited him to play in a private audition, and Jackson Browne offered him the use of his Los Angeles studio. John Hammond, the producer and talent scout, prodded CBS Records to sign the band, and he co-produced its first album, ”Texas Flood,” which was released in early 1983 on the Epic label.
The record was a success, selling more than 500,000 copies and winning two Grammy nominations, for best rock instrumental performance (Rude Mood) and best traditional blues recording. The band’s second album, ”Couldn’t Stand the Weather,” released in the summer of 1984, exploded on the blues side to include jazz and hard rock with a version of Jimi Hendrix’s ”Voodoo Chile.” It sold over a million copies and won the band a third Grammy nomination. The following year, the band won its first Grammy Award for best traditional blues recording of 1984, for a track on an Atlantic Records anthology, ”Blues Explosion.”
Mr. Vaughan was developing as an excellent composer as well as guitarist, his 1985 album included three original songs. With that album, the group added a fourth member, the keyboardist Reese Wynans. One track from the album, ”Say What!,” won a Grammy nomination as best rock instrumental performance.
A Fifth Gold Album: In 1986, Mr. Vaughan and Double Trouble released a two-disk concert album, ”Live Alive,” which with sales of over 500,000, became his fifth consecutive gold album.
There was a three-year gap between ”Live Alive” and his next record, ”In Step,” which was released in the summer and won a Grammy for best contemporary blues recording. During that break the guitarist gave up drugs and alcohol. His abstinence was the theme of two of the new album’s songs, ”Wall of Denial” and ”Tightrope.”
Stevie Ray Vaughan took the basic 12 bar blues structure to new level. SRV will always be in the top two favorite guitar players of mine. The other qualifier is…Jimi Hendrix. Who is #1? Stevie Ray was one of the guitar geniuses that never needed guitar lessons. The geniuses provide us with new material to teach.
You know that the helicopter crash that killed Stevie Ray and 9 other people was pilot error. What a waste. The guy gets straight and then dies. Another great artist we will never know where he was going to. One thing about ir, there are plenty of Stevie Ray Vaughan imitators, and damn good ones too, but Stevie Ray invented the style we play. Thanks Ray. RIP. GuitarPlayersCenter.com