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Blues Musical Legend Stevie Ray Vaughan

Updated on October 11, 2018
Readmikenow profile image

Readmikenow enjoys writing about unique and interesting people. He likes to learn about individuals who live or have lived unusual lives.

Stevie Ray Vaughan playing at concert
Stevie Ray Vaughan playing at concert

Stevie Ray Vaughan is an acknowledged musical icon. The popularity of his abilities with the guitar and singing helped a blues revival to occur during the 1980s. There were many well-known bluesmen who inspired Vaughan. Buddy Guy, Albert King as well as Albert Collins and others. There were also several rock & roll musicians who Vaughan admired. Big names such as Lonnie Mack and Jimi Hendrix and more. All of them influenced Stevie Ray Vaughan and the development of his unique style of strong vocals combined with fiery guitar playing. Many believe no other musician brought rock and blues together like Vaughan. His career ended abruptly when he died at the age of 35.


Picture of Stevie Ray Vaughan when he was a child
Picture of Stevie Ray Vaughan when he was a child

Early Years

Stevie Ray Vaughan was born on October 3, 1954, in Dallas, Texas. His older brother Jimmie inspired him to play the guitar. At the age of 7 is when Vaughan started playing guitar. His brother would leave guitars around their home and tell Vaughan to not touch them. That's how he started playing guitar. Stevie Ray Vaughan actually wanted to be a drummer, but his family didn't have any drums. He had no guitar lessons and learned to play the guitar from a few tips told to him by his older brother Jimmie. He used a few guitar instruction books and had nobody to teach him technique. Vaughan learned it by watching his brother Jimmie. By the time he had reached 12, Stevie Ray Vaughan was regularly playing with a number of different garage bands. In a short period of time, he was invited to join semi-professional bands. These bands would often get paying gigs at local nightclubs. When he had reached the age of 17, Vaughan dropped out of school so he could spend all of his time playing guitar.


Natural Talent

During his musical career, Stevie Ray Vaughan depended mostly on his ability to hear music and play it on his guitar. When he was young, Vaughan would spend hours listening to records and playing guitar. He'd try to capture the sense of emotion contained within a song. Vaughan took a course in music theory for a year in high school. He flunked most of the year except for a single six-week period. Everyone else was eight years or more into musical theory. The teacher would play ten-fingered chords on a piano and require the students to write down all the notes they heard. Vaughan told people doing this made him feel like he was doing math. During his career, Stevie Ray Vaughan would write songs and not know the key they were in. He would have to ask someone to tell him. Vaughan could play it, he just couldn't name it. He told people he didn't know the musical name for what he was doing. During his entire career, Stevie Ray Vaughan couldn't read music.


Stevie Ray Vaughan with Paul Ray and the Cobras
Stevie Ray Vaughan with Paul Ray and the Cobras

Blues Bands

It was 1970 and Stevie Ray Vaughan was the guitarist for a nine-piece horn band. During the next year, the band formed the blues musical group Blackbird. This group moved to Austin and Vaughan went with them. Vaughan was able to play with a few other bands and in 1975 he became part of Paul Ray and the Cobras. In 1976, the Cobras were given the distinction of Austin's Band of the Year. Vaughan spent his time as a sideman and in 1977, he formed a band known as Triple Threat Revue. The band had Lou Ann Barton as vocalist and W.C. Clark as the featured bassist and Chris Laton on drums. Stevie Ray Vaughan became the band's guitarist. In 1979, the band became known as Double Trouble. The band's name came from a song by Otis Rush.


Stevie Ray Vaughan doing guitar solo
Stevie Ray Vaughan doing guitar solo

Early Eighties

During this time, Double Trouble played at a number of high profile venues as well as in New York City at a private party for the Rolling Stones. The band played in Switzerland at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Stevie Ray Vaughan's performance got the attention of David Bowie and Jackson Browne. Vaughan was asked by Bowie to be the lead guitar for his album Let's Dance. After the album was recorded, Vaughan gave up a chance to go on tour with Bowie. In 1982, Double Trouble was able to use Jackson Browne's studio to record a demo. This demo was able to be heard by John H. Hammond who was a well-known talent scout as well as a music producer. Hammond was credited with discovering such huge talents as Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. Hammond contacted Epic Records and got the record label to sign Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble.


Album Texas Flood
Album Texas Flood

Albums

John H. Hammond was the executive producer of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble's debut album called Texas Flood. During the first week of the album's release, it sold over half a million copies. That year, Texas Flood was nominated for two Grammys. The band's next album was called Couldn't Stand the Weather. It rose to the 31st spot on Billboard's top 200. This type of success seemed to harm Stevie Ray Vaughan. He started a time of serious alcohol and drug abuse. His marriage also became very strained. Vaughan's abuse of alcohol and drugs made recording their third album difficult. In 1985, the band's third album Soul to Soul was released. It didn't come close to matching the success of their previous albums.

Live Album And Cocaine Abuse

The next thing the band did was complete an album of their live performances called Live Alive. Once the album was released, the band went on a tour in Europe. Vaughan began regularly vomiting blood when they were in Germany. He went to a hospital in London. After being examined and treated by physicians, Vaughan was told the cocaine he put in his whiskey and drank in the morning had stayed in his stomach and become crystallized. This crystallized mass was cutting his intestines. Stevie Ray Vaughan was told by physicians if he didn't stop doing this, he could be dead in a month or less. Vaughan went to alcohol and drug rehab in the United States. Once he was finished, the band went back to performing and working with such established artists as Dick Dale, Stevie Wonder, and others.


Stevie Ray Vaughan at Grammy Awards
Stevie Ray Vaughan at Grammy Awards

Big Success

In 1987, Sony Music entertainment obtained Epic Records. The band's contract was renewed. They began recording their next album called In Step. In June of 1989, the album was released and the single Crossfire was in the top spot of Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks. Their album In Step would win a Grammy in the category of Best Contemporary Blues Album. Stevie Ray Vaughan went to Ardent Studios located in Memphis in 1990. He spent time recording an album with his brother Jimmie called Family Style. Once this was completed, Vaughan and Double Trouble went on a tour with Joe Cocker. During this time, the band also played with Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton as well as Jimmie Vaughan.


Stevie Ray Vaughan Burial Marker
Stevie Ray Vaughan Burial Marker

Death

On August 27, 1990 helicopters booked to fly performers to Chicago from Wisconsin took off in a dense fog around 1 a.m. The helicopter carrying Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton's crew hit a ski slope shortly after taking off. Everyone aboard the helicopter died instantly.

Stevie Ray Vaughan statue at Lady Bird Lake
Stevie Ray Vaughan statue at Lady Bird Lake

Burial

Stevie Ray Vaughan was put to rest in Dallas at Laurel Land Memorial Park. Over 1,500 people attended his funeral. Notable celebrities such as Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, Dr. John, Bonnie Raitt, and others were there. At Lady Bird Lake in Austin, a memorial statue to Stevie Ray Vaughan was erected. October 3, 1991, was proclaimed as Stevie Ray Vaughan Day by Texas governor Ann Richards.


In the minds of music lovers around the world, Stevie Ray Vaughan will always be a blues legend. Since his death, a number of tribute and other posthumous albums have been recorded. These albums have sold more than the ones recorded when he was alive. Stevie Ray Vaughan may be gone from this world, but his work continues to inspire generations of aspiring blues singers, guitarists and others who love blues music.

Stevie Ray Vaughan Biography

Comments

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    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

      Readmikenow 

      9 months ago

      Dora, thanks. I agree. His talent is missed.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      9 months ago from The Caribbean

      What a pity to have this talented young man die so young. Glad that he got some enjoyment (but for the cocaine abuse) since he started so early. Thanks for the information on Stevie Ray Vaughan.

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

      Readmikenow 

      9 months ago

      Yves, thanks for mentioning he was clean when he died. I agree, he was taken from this world too soon.

    • savvydating profile image

      Yves 

      9 months ago

      Stevie Ray Vaughn was free and clear of drug addiction when he died. Don't know if all of your readers understood that, so I just wanted to point this out. And again, he was a remarkable talent, much more than most realize. I can only imagine how much more he would have produced had he lived longer.

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

      Readmikenow 

      9 months ago

      Liz, Thanks.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      9 months ago from UK

      Such a sad ending to a very well-written biography.

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

      Readmikenow 

      9 months ago

      FlourishAnyway, thanks. SRV is missed and I'm sure his family is still hurting from this loss. So are is fans.

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

      Readmikenow 

      9 months ago

      Ken, I agree. I can only imagine the music he would have made had he not died at such a young age.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      9 months ago from USA

      It’s so unfortunate that some of the brightest stars struggle so much with addiction. He was a brilliant musician and it’s so tragic how he and the others died that snowy night.

    • Ken Burgess profile image

      Ken Burgess 

      9 months ago from Florida

      Readmikenow,

      Good article, SRV was one of the greats to come out of the 80s... its amazing how many greats that Eric Clapton played with, that man spans so many decades and has played with the best of them, Hendrix, Santana, BB King, Page, etc.

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

      Readmikenow 

      9 months ago

      Ken, thanks for stopping by and sharing more about SRV.

    • Ken Burgess profile image

      Ken Burgess 

      9 months ago from Florida

      Let's Dance was Bowie's best album IMO... and the primary thing that made that album stand out from his others was the addition of SRV.

      SRV became well known a short while after Let's Dance came out, and because he didn't go on tour with Bowie few knew that SRV was behind those great riffs.

      SRV was most prominent on the hit China Girl, the extended version that played on the radio, you can hear it in this video, go to 3:20 to listen:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QM-u1zXW36U

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

      Readmikenow 

      9 months ago

      Yves, thanks and I agree with you.

    • savvydating profile image

      Yves 

      9 months ago

      My understanding is that Stevie Ray fought a valiant effort to get clean and remain clean. On occasion, he would speak directly to his fans about the danger of drugs. There was a lot to this man. I believe he was one of the most talented guitarists to grace this earth. May he rest in peace, although by now, he is likely with the Lord in heaven.

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

      Readmikenow 

      9 months ago

      Mary, thanks. I agree with you. He is gone but his music will live on for generations.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      9 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      I do like listening to blues once in a while but I enjoyed reading about Stevie Ray Vaughn. Success often intoxicates. It is sad to lose talents like him.

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

      Readmikenow 

      9 months ago

      Karen Kay, thanks for stopping by. I agree. He is one of my favorite musicians of all time.

    • DreamingBoomer profile image

      Karen Kay 

      9 months ago from Jackson, MS

      Love me some Stevie Ray! That boy could play! And he looked good doing it! lol! Thanks for the reminder of the legend!

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