The Stevie Ray Blues
Twenty-two years ago, the world lost one of its most beloved blues guitarists. Here are 20 things you may not know about Stevie Ray Vaughan, who died in a helicopter crash in East Troy, Wisconsin on this day in 1990.
This is an August 1989 file photo of the late blues singer Stevie Ray Vaughan, who died in an Aug. 27, 1990 helicopter crash neat East Troy, Wis. To honor Vaughan's memory and talent, a group of his friends and fellow musicians got together May 11, 1995, to perform an all-star concert, now released as the CD "A Tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan." (AP Photo/Files)
1. He was raised in the Oak Cliff community of Dallas, TX, and remained fiercely proud of the area throughout his life. When battling cocaine and alcohol addictions in 1986, he returned to his hometown to escape temptations. The lyrics to Vaughan’s song "Tick Tock" are engraved on a train station in the area. Oak Cliff also boasted the first 7-11, was the city where Bonnie and Clyde first met, and includes among its famous former residents Edie Brickell, Dennis Rodman and Lee Harvey Oswald.
2. Stevie Ray Vaughan was inspired to play guitar by his big brother, Jimmie Vaughan. Jimmie Vaughan would enjoy a successful career himself with the Fabulous Thunderbirds. The two would collaborate on an album called Family Style released just days after Stevie Ray Vaughan’s death.
3. At age 9, Vaughan got his first six string, a western toy guitar made by Sears.
4. The first record Vaughan ever bought was “Wham” by Lonnie Mack. Mack and Johnny “Guitar” Watson were among his biggest early influences.
5. Vaughan’s first band was an R&B outfit called Blackbird. He’d formed the group after dropping out of high school and moving to Austin, TX at age 17.
6. For a time he also played in a rock band named Krackerjack and later recorded an album with The Nightcrawlers for A&M Records, but the company refused to release the album.
7. It was finally released in 2009 by Chicago label Blue Skunk Music. Among its tracks is an early version of Vaughan’s “Dirty Pool.”
8. He next played with Paul Ray & The Cobras, but left in 1977 to form Double Trouble.
9. Double Trouble took its name from an Otis Rush song.
10. Before being signed to a record deal, Double Trouble were invited to play a private party hosted by The Rolling Stones.
11. Vaughan is featured in four songs on David Bowie’s Let’s Dance album.
12. Double Trouble were booked at the 1982 Montreaux Jazz Festival on the recommendation of producer Jerry Wexler. Inexplicably, they appeared on acoustic night, and were not well received. They played the festival again in 1985 with much better results.
13. Producer John Hammond – who’d worked with Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen – was instrumental in landing Double Trouble a record deal with Epic Records.
14. Their debut album Texas Flood was recorded at Jackson Browne’s home studio in just three days.
15. Released in 1983, it peaked on the Billboard 200 at #64 but has since gone on to multi-platinum status. The band received two Grammy nominations and Stevie Ray Vaughan was named Best New Talent by Guitar Player Magazine. Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble would go on to record three more studio records and release several live albums.
16. Vaughan appeared in the movie Back to the Beach performing "Pipeline" alongside surf guitar legend Dick Dale, who had very big hair at the time (it was the 80s, after all).
17. Vaughan also performed at George H.W. Bush’s 1989 inauguration party.
18. Vaughan most often plied his craft on a hybrid 1962-1963 Stratocaster he referred to as “Number One.” Another favorite guitar he named Lenny, after his wife Leonora. He also owned instruments named Red, Scotch, Charley and Butter.
19. Stevie Ray Vaughan’s final performance saw him in an encore jam with Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray and Jimmie Vaughan at the Alpine Valley Music Center in East Troy, Wisconsin. His helicopter was en route to Chicago when it crashed just after take-off.
20. In 1991, Texas Governor Ann Richards declared Vaughan’s birthday of October 3rd as “Stevie Ray Vaughan Day” in the state. Each year a remembrance motorcycle rally and blues concert is held to raise funds for the Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial Scholarship Fund. It’s a safe bet the following song is often performed at the event.
Originally published August 2010