Born: October 3, 1954 | Died: August 27, 1990 Primary Instrument: Guitar
Stephen Stevie Ray Vaughan (October 3, 1954 - August 27, 1990), born in Dallas, Texas, was an American blues guitarist. His broad appeal made him one of the world's most influential electric blues guitarists. In 2003, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Stevie Ray Vaughan #7 in their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. He was the younger brother of Jimmie Vaughan.
Vaughan was born and raised in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, Texas. Neither of his parents had any strong musical talent but were avid music fans. They would take Vaughan and his older brother Jimmie to concerts to see Fats Domino, Jimmy Reed, and Bob Wills.
Even though Vaughan initially wanted to play the drums as his primary instrument, he was given a guitar when he was eight years old. Vaughan's brother, Jimmie Vaughan, gave him his first guitar lessons. Vaughan later quoted in Guitar Player Magazine as saying, My brother Jimmie actually was one of the biggest influences on my playing. He really was the reason why I started to play, watching him and seeing what could be done. After his brother showed him a few basic chords, Vaughan taught himself to play. He played entirely by ear and never learned how to read sheet music. By the time he was 13 years old he was playing in clubs where he met many of his blues idols. A few years later he dropped out of Justin F. Kimball High School and moved to Austin to pursue music. Vaughan's talent caught the attention of guitarist Johnny Winter, and blues-club owner Clifford Antone.
Vaughan's first recording band was called Paul Ray and the Cobras. They played at clubs and bars in Austin during the mid-1970s, and released one single. Vaughan later recorded two other singles under the band name The Cobras. Following the break-up of The Cobras, he formed Triple Threat in late 1975, which included bassist Jackie Newhouse, drummer Chris Layton, vocalist Lou Ann Barton, and sax player Johnny Reno. Barton left the band in 1978 to pursue a solo career, followed by Reno in 1979. The three remaining members started performing under the name Double Trouble, inspired by an Otis Rush song of the same name. Vaughan became the band's lead singer.
Tommy Shannon, the bass player on Johnny Winter's early albums, replaced Newhouse in 1981. A popular Austin act, Vaughan soon attracted the attention of musicians David Bowie and Jackson Browne. Both Browne and Bowie first caught Vaughan at the 1982 Montreux Jazz Festival, where some members of the audience booed the band, because they disliked Double Trouble's hard blues sound. Nonetheless, the crowd response was quite different when they were invited to headline Blues Night at the festival again in 1985.
In November, 1982, Vaughan recorded in Jackson Browne's studio in downtown Los Angeles. The recordings were brought to the attention of A&R man, John Hammond and became Texas Flood. Later, Bowie then featured Vaughan on his 1983 album Let's Dance. Vaughan was also asked to go on tour with Bowie, but declined in order to focus his efforts on Double Trouble.
The band's critically acclaimed first album, Texas Flood (1983), produced by John Hammond, featured the top-20 hit Pride and Joy and sold 500,000 copies, earning the band a Gold Record. As well as this the album was nominated for a Grammy and Rude Mood was nominated for best rock instrumental. Vaughan 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 is Jeff Beck). Stevie won the Best Electric Blues Guitarist award every year until 1991.
The band's next album, Couldn't Stand the Weather, was recorded in January of 1984. During the summer of 1984, Vaughan and Double Trouble appeared on numerous TV shows, including Rockpalast, Much Music, and Solid Gold. During the Grammy awards of 1984 Stevie, along with George Thorogood presented Chuck Berry with a lifetime achievement award. Voodoo Child (Slight Return) from Couldn't Stand The Weather was nominated for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. In November, Stevie won 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 won either award.
In late September, the band rehearsed at the Caravan of Dreams in Fort Worth, Texas for their Carnegie Hall show on October 4, 1984. They had velvet mariachi-style suits made specially for the show. The appearance featured guests Jimmie Vaughan, Roomful of Blues horns, Dr. John, Angela Strehli, and George Rains.
In late January 1985, the band took their first and last Japanese tour. In March, the band started to produce their third album Soul to Soul. Reese Wynans, a former keyboardist of Delbert McClinton's band, was added to the band not long after. With the addition of Reese the title of the band was changed to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Serious Trouble, however no album was released under this modified title. The album's production lasted for two months. Soul to Soul was released on September 30, 1985. Stevie receives his fifth Grammy nomination: Best Rock Instrumental Performance for Say What!. He also produces Lonnie Mack's comeback album Strike Like Lightning and plays in several of its songs. On April 10, Stevie plays The Star Spangled Banner for opening day of the National League baseball season at the Houston Astrodome.
Drug addiction and alcoholism took a toll on Vaughan in mid- 1986. Cocaine and Crown Royal whiskey were among his addictions. After becoming acutely ill in Germany while on tour, Vaughan managed to struggle through three more shows and was finally admitted into a hospital in London. He then flew to Atlanta, Georgia to a rehabilitation center. He eventually recovered fully from his addictions and became a teetotaler.
Upon his return from rehab, Vaughan did a number of works with other artists including Dick Dale (making a cameo appearance as himself performing a duet of Pipeline in the movie Back To The Beach which was then released as a single), Jennifer Warnes, and Stevie Wonder (playing Superstition on the MTV special Stevie Wonder's Characters).
In 1988, Vaughan continued to tour with Double Trouble throughout Scandinavia. Vaughan and Double Trouble recorded In Step in February of 1989, which was their fourth studio album and is praised by some as the band's best work since Texas Flood. The album won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album. Vaughan shared a headline tour with guitarist Jeff Beck in the fall of 1989.
Stevie is well-known for playing many Jimi Hendrix songs in his own way, (rearranging them) e.g. Little Wing and Voodoo Child (Slight Return).
On August 25 and 26, 1990, Vaughan and Double Trouble played shows at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin. At the end of the show, Eric Clapton introduced Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, and Jimmie Vaughan, along with Stevie Ray Vaughan. All of the musicians played a 15- minute rendition of Sweet Home Chicago. After the song ended, all the guitarists hugged and went backstage.
Double Trouble drummer, Chris Layton, recalls his last conversation with Vaughan backstage. He then remembers Vaughan saying he had to call his girlfriend, Janna Lapidus, back in Chicago. He headed out the door to the helicopters.
The musicians expected a long bus ride back to Chicago. Vaughan was informed that three seats were open on one of the helicopters returning to Chicago with Clapton's crew, enough for Vaughan, Jimmie Vaughan, and Jimmie Vaughan's wife Connie. It turned out there was only one seat left, which Stevie Ray Vaughan requested from his brother, who obliged. Taking off into deep fog, the helicopter crashed moments later into a ski slope on the side of a hill within the Alpine Valley Resort. Vaughan, the pilot, and two members of Clapton's crew died on impact. No one realized that the crash had occurred until the helicopter failed to arrive in Chicago, and the wreckage was only found with the help of its locator beacon. The main cause of the crash was believed to be pilot error. The next morning Stevie Ray Vaughan's brother Jimmie and good friend Eric Clapton were called to identify the bodies.
The media initially reported that Vaughan and his band had been killed in the crash. Chris Layton saw this on the news and had security let him into Vaughan's motel room. Layton saw that the bed was made and the clock radio was playing the Eagles' song, Peaceful, Easy Feeling, which includes the lyrics I may never see you again. Layton and Shannon then called their families to let them know they were okay.
Stevie Ray Vaughan is interred in the Laurel Land Memorial Park, Dallas, Texas.
Vaughan memorial at Town Lake, in Austin, Texas.September 1990 saw the release of Family Style. The 1991 compilation album The Sky Is Crying was the first of several posthumous Vaughan releases to achieve chart success. Jimmie Vaughan later co-wrote and recorded a song in tribute to his brother and other deceased blues guitarists, entitled Six Strings Down. Many other artists recorded songs in remembrance of Vaughan, including Eric Johnson, Buddy Guy and Steve Vai (The track 'Jibboom'of the album 'The Ultra Zone' recorded in 1999).
In 1991, Texas governor Ann Richards proclaimed October 3, Vaughan's birthday, to be Stevie Ray Vaughan Day. An annual motorcycle ride and concert in Central Texas benefits the Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial Scholarship Fund.
In 1992, the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation released the Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature Stratocaster, which Vaughan had helped design. It was a reproduction of his battered 1959 Fender Stratocaster, which he had affectionately named Number One (and sometimes referred to as his first wife). As of 2007, the model is still in production. It depicts Number One as it would have been brand-new in 1963, though when Vaughan bought it in 1974 it was already badly weathered. In 2004, Fender also released a limited edition exact replica of Number One.
Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial Statue in 1994, the city of Austin erected the Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial Statue at Auditorium Shores on Town Lake, the site of a number of Vaughan's concerts. It has become one of the city's most popular tourist attractions.
Musicians such as John Mayer, Robert Randolph, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Colin James, Jonny Lang, Los Lonely Boys, Mike McCready and Eric Johnson have cited Vaughan as an influence.
Vaughan's name is mentioned as one of the upcoming acts in Stephen King's short story You Know They Got a Hell of a Band, about a town inhabited by late music legends.
In 2008, Stevie Ray Vaughan will become eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.