Stevie Ray Vaughan: Stories From Behind My Camera
"In Step" the Last Tour
Over the last 30 years I've worked with some of the best musicians in the world. There are a few of those encounters that were so memorable I'll never forget them. Stevie Ray Vaughan gave me one of the best memories of my career to date and I'm extremely grateful to him for that.
It was more than just an interview, it was the experience of a lifetime. I feel so honoured to have had the privilege to meet and "play" with him and his brother Jimmie, and was saddened by his sudden death less than two months later on August 27th, 1990.
It was July 10, 1990. Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble were on their "In Step" Tour and playing in Hamilton, Ontario at Copps Coliseum.
I was working at YTV Canada at the time as the staff camera operator. There were a few entertainment shows that were produced in house such as "YTV Rocks" and "Rock 'n Talk", so we did a lot of entertainment coverage. Bands coming through town, on location covering music videos, movies and series being shot in and around Toronto, award shows, film festivals and any other basic celebrity happenings made up the shows content.
Nanci Malek, one of the music field producers had arranged for us to shoot an interview with Stevie Ray Vaughan and the usual first two minutes of the concert generally allowed for news coverage, so off we went to Hamilton.
Stevie Ray & Jimmie Vaughan together in Family Style
In Step Tour in Hamilton
On the drive into Hamilton Nanci filled us in on the details of the day and what she had arranged to happen. She then proceeded to tell us the details of what she would like to have happen. This is the part when working in television gets to be fun; unexpected surprises...
In an ideal world Nanci was hoping that we'd be allowed to shoot the sound check and more of the concert: at least 3 songs. She was a big Stevie Ray Vaughan fan and knew his work intimately so wanted to do a feature special on him; but only if we could get enough content and coverage to make it a really good piece.
We arrived in Hamilton, went to his hotel and set up for the interview. Let it go on record that I hate doing interviews in hotel rooms; they are so confined, you don't have enough control of enough of the space and the beds just aren't needed. On the other hand sometimes it's the quietest place you can find ... Ok back to Stevie.
Copps Coliseum in Hamilton Ontario
- HECFI - Hamilton's Best in Entertainment - Copps Coliseum
the big entertainment venue in Hamilton
They walked in through the door of the hotel room with southern smiles in their eyes, Stevie Ray and his brother Jimmie Vaughan were going to do the interview together. Stevie wore his signature hat, was slim and not tall. We all chatted away as my audio guy put their microphones on, and there was a nice friendly energy in the room.
The atmosphere was intimate as it always was on our sets; the crews were small, and we usually only got 15 minutes to actually sit and interview with talent, so we were a very tight and well organized team; or tried to be. A hush came over the room as the first question was asked and we were off, the interview had begun.
It was very inspiring listening to Stevie Ray, one of the greatest guitar players of all time, speak so modestly of himself and his talents. It was nice to see the interaction and connection between he and Jimmie; YTV is a youth focused TV station and so that brotherly love and joking around was especially appreciated by us.
1985 - Pride and Joy Live
As the interview progressed it got lighter and more real, I felt that Stevie and Jimmie were relaxed and actually themselves, they seemed to have let the plastic protective shell that surrounds most talent down enough for us to have a peek in at their true selves for a few moments. It was refreshing to hear the excitement they shared for their album "Family Style" as well as "In Step". It was obvious that they were enjoying working together and touring together; they actually seemed to enjoyed each others company.
It was a great interview; it lasted 45 minutes and when it came to an end they hung out and chatted with us as we wrapped the equipment up. Just before they left the room Stevie looked at me and said "You can shoot the sound check and you can shoot the concert from where ever you want, I'll make sure they'll let you go anywhere you want to go." "Anywhere?" I threw it back at him, "Anywhere" he replied as he chuckled and left the room.
I was shocked, surprised and unbelievably excited, this was the opportunity of a lifetime. He also agreed to wear a wireless microphone during the sound check. We had the makings of a great feature.
Stevie Ray Vaughan - Live - MTV Unplugged 1990
The sound check was fun! I took shots from angles that you can never access as a camera operator, because you just can't; especially if you're shooting for an outside production company. Limited Access and All Access passes are two completely different stories. I had All Access and I intended to use it.
Although we only shot three songs at sound check I made them worth while. I went for it, pushed the boundary and got right up on stage with Stevie Ray at one point. He smiled and played right to my camera and I played right back with him as we got lost engulfed in musical moments that were spontaneous and unexpected. I was letting the music completely infiltrate my being and experiencing the vibrations of his rhythmic magic as I connected through my lens and watched with amazement as he played inches from my face.
He was intense when he played, and you can see how much he loved his calling in his eyes and in the way he almost caressed his guitar as he cranked out some of the best guitar riffs heard to this day.
Putting a wireless mic on talent who have a sense of humour is always fun and Stevie was no different. As we wandered around with him for a while he was playful and not the serious guitarist I was expecting. Cracking jokes and talking to the camera always makes great television content if done well and he played to the camera beautifully.
a Camera Operators View! 1990 live
The concert was spectacular, especially from my point of view. I really was allowed to go where ever i wanted. Bouncers helped me up onto and off of stage corners, made pathways for me to get through the crowds easily and opened gates for me everywhere. I shot much of the concert from down in front of the stage and off on stage left and right. Not being attached to any cables was very freeing as far as shooting goes and I had fun with it.
The fact that Stevie Ray Vaughan reacted, responded, played and enjoyed the interactions with me and my camera embedded that experience into my being and re-enforced my connectivity to the powerful magic that music holds. I have always loved shooting music more than any type of production because I love music.
I'm used to shooting live concerts up close and personal because hand held camera work was one of my specialties. I'm not used to being invited by the talent to having open access shooting and this was a dream shoot. It was an incredible day in my world.
Tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan
It truly saddened me the day he died. When I heard the news of the helicopter crash on August 27th, 1990, I couldn't believe it. This vivacious musician who had treated me so well, who I had connected with for those few fleeting moments in time had vanished in a moment.
I felt honoured to have shared the vibrations that Stevie Ray Vaughan put out to the world so well in such a playful and engaging way with him. It was an unbelievable experience to be lost in those moments where nothing mattered but capturing his energy through my lens for the world to feel.
official Stevie Ray Vaughan website
Before shooting with Stevie Ray Vaughan July 10th, 1990, I had no idea who he was or what his music was all about. I realized quickly that I did know many of his songs as the day went on, his work has been a part of our musical culture for years. I gained so much respect for Stevie Ray Vaughan as I watched his fingers move faster than I could imagine, making incredible music that made my body want to move to his passion.
I was the last Canadian camera operator to shoot with Stevie Ray Vaughan, and for me the experience gave me an opportunity to connect with not only one of the world's greatest guitar players but a great person as well.
So for giving me one of those days I'll never forget "Thank you Mr. Stevie Ray Vaughan, you still rock!"
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