“I like to do the best music that I can…That’s where my heart lies”
Stephen Ray Vaughan was born in Dallas Texas on the 3rd of October, 1954. From an early age, Stevie got used to constant travels with his parents and an older brother. His father’s work had them moving cities whenever a need for a new project arrived, often before they were fully unpacked. At age 12, Stevie and his brother Jimmie Vaughan got their first guitars. The boys quickly began listening to the Blues legends such as Albert King, Muddy Waters, Otis Rush and developing their playing skills around the sounds of Blues.
At 24, Jimmie had formed “The Fabulous Thunderbirds” which turned into a large success. Stevie’s first band called “Triple Threat” did not share the same vision of direction and fell apart leaving Stevie and his drummer Chris Layton at a loss. One day a bass player Tommy Shannon heard SRV play and knew that it was the place for him. Stevie Ray Vaughan and The Double Trouble, which was the bands new name, set off on a path to eternity.
Unsigned and without a contract the band went all-in to record their first sample album and send it to a major talent scout John Hammond. The man was so impressed that he got the Double Trouble their first record deal personally. Such was the energy and the thirst to finally make it happen that the first album “Texas Flood” was mastered in two days. After many years of doubt and painful effort, the result showed over 2 million albums sold. Stevie Ray Vaughan became known to all in the music world and rejuvenated the Blues Music once again.
By 1984 the Double Trouble had been nominated for 4 Grammy’s and have been going around the world on tours that filled the crowd with immense energy from each pluck of Stevie’s pick. At the same time, mid 80’s saw how exhausted Stevie Ray Vaughan had become from excessive touring, drugs and alcohol. Everything was taken to an extreme and had a devastating impact on personal lives and inspiration of the band. The first two albums were created in days but the ones that followed, lacked any sign of spark and felt dry.
The 1986 saw some bitter events in the life of SRV. His father died and in a few months Stevie was admitted to a rehab. The drugs and alcohol affection took the turn for the worse. Cocaine he had been dissolving into his whiskey gave him a stomach of a 70 year old man and put him on the edge of dying.
After two months of rehab, Stevie had entered a new mental state, making each day of his life worth living and well-spent. A year later, Double Trouble was back on the road. Rested, reinvigorated and filled with desire to live, the new stream of creativity flowed through Stevie’s veins and into his Blues guitar. It seemed as if the old band was replaced with a completely new set of people. People that were happy and willing to help others, willing to live and share their lives with others through words, actions and music. Stevie Ray Vaughan was a new sight to see and a great pleasure to listen to.
The records that followed were best-selling, best-playing and happiest in Stevie’s entire career. When asked what were Stevie Ray Vaughan greatest hits, one would answer “all of them”. When Double Trouble was asked what were their dreams/goals for the band, they just said “to keep going”.
Inspired by the Kings, Buddy Guy, Howlin’ Wolf, Albert Collins, Stevie Ray Vaughan was now one of them, accepted and loved by them. He gave 120% of himself to his music, he removed the color from the Blues and channeled his feel of it for future generations to hear. It was SRV who was the first white Bluesman to get a Grammy in the Blues category. He was the one who had given people the understanding that the Blues is the feeling that will get you up when you fall down. Despite or your origin or color.
Late August 1990 saw the best and the worst events in the life of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Wisconsin saw his happiest and greatest performance alongside Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, his brother Jimmie and Robert Cray. Everything seemed perfect that day and that evening during the show. After the performance, SRV took the seat at one of the helicopters flying to Chicago and left. It was the last journey that Stevie took in this world. At the age 35 his life ended abruptly. It did not seem that he gave it all, it did not seem that he was done and finished.
Stevie was one of those people who arrive once in a century and seem like they are way ahead of their time in skill, knowledge and ability. At his beginning, SRV had given more than most had given by the end of theirs. Stevie Ray Vaughan death occurred on August 27th the same day his father did, but only four years earlier. Stevie Ray Vaughan songs however will live forever.
Stevie Ray Vaughan guitar is known among most guitar players across most genres. He called his first guitar (59′ Strat) a “First Wife” or “Number One”. It was a Fender Stratocaster made out of different parts of everything and having a rugged if not cheap look that turned into one of the top ten most expensive guitars in the world, valued at over $600,000.
“Charley” was a Custom-built white Fender Strat made by Charley Wirz in 1983.
“Lenny” was a 1963 Strat given to him by his first wife of seven years Lenny.
Stevie Ray Vaughan – Lenny
Hamilton was the guitar that everyone was okay with getting wet in 1984 “Couldn’t Stand the Weather” clip.
The rest of Stevie’s axes were mainly called after colors Red, Yellow Scotch etc.
Other guitar gear
SRV used Marshall Club & Country amps for clean and Fender Super Reverbs and Vibroverb amplifiers for gain.
He was always minimalist with pedals and used primarily a 1968 King Vox Wah and all kinds of Ibanez Tube Screamers on occasion.
Stevie used heavy guitar string gauge going up to .012.
For some reason beyond my understanding, I heard names SRV and Stevie Ray Vaughan but held back from listening to their music or learning of the person behind them. When I finally did, my first impulse was to go and tell someone about this guy I just heard. My second impulse was to go meet him…
I wish I could. I truly do find the story of SRV and the Blues behind it as much unique as it is inspiring. My whole world is being built around the concept that if you work at something hard, you give it 120% and you do it for it rather than yourself, you will achieve great heights. Stevie is my inspiration and my motivation. His story is the one I turn to when I feel discouraged and his work is the reason why my fingers are often hurting. I listen to and learn Stevie Ray Vaughan, music of whose will make many generations of Blues guitarists pick up an instrument.
Stevie Ray Vaughan – Little Wing
At some point, Stevie had taken a few songs of Jimi Hendrix and almost made them his own. I have heard “Little Wing” for the first time in his version and made myself a fool arguing that he was the author.
Stevie Ray Vaughan – Crossfire
Stevie Ray Vaughan – Pride and Joy
Stevie Ray Vaughan – Texas Flood
The man is widely considered one of the best guitar players in history. I think he could have been the best. Given his love for life and work he put in, doubling his short guitar career of 7 years might have lead to him discovering a cure from cancer through the Blues. He was my discovery of the Texas Blues and soon I will celebrate his 60th Birthday Anniversary with the young and old of all generations. There are musicians whom you love but fear that they will one day be forgotten and there is SRV who you know will always be remembered.
Buddy Guy – Rememberin’ Stevie