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Updated on July 12, 2012

How To Sound Like Stevie Ray Vaughan

His daddy's name was Big Jim.

The regular house band (literally) was The Texas Playboys.

He left school to go on tour with his rock band, Blackbird at the ripe old age of 17.

Nearly fifteen years later, he would collapse in the middle of a worldwide tour and seek treatment for an alcohol and drug addiction.

He emerged from rehabilitation stronger than ever, and played with the likes of Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Phil Collins, and Gladys Knight.

Then tragedy struck: the helicopter carrying Stevie Ray and four others flew into the side of a hill and all passengers were instantly killed.

It don't get much more rock 'n' roll legend than that.

The Making Of An Original

But Stevie Ray Vaughan was much more than just a rock 'n' roll guitarist, as any SRV worshiper worth his fanpage will tell you. His was a unique combination of blues, rock 'n' roll, and jazz that crossed every genre there was and challenged everyone who heard it to define him. And although big brother Jimmie was the first to take up the guitar, little Stevie would eventually surpass him in both talent and recognition.

Nobody who grew up in the sixties could avoid being influenced by guys like Jimi, Clapton, and the Beatles, but the Vaughan brothers also picked up licks from guys like Albert King, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, and Otis Rush. Stevie even developed a little jazz guitar flourish, with a fondness for Kenny Burrell, and Jimmie Vaughan (a respectable guitarist himself) claims that he and Stevie became unofficial Johnny "Guitar" Watson experts as well.

Stevie Ray Vaughan - Hideaway (Montreux '82)

After several bands that didn't go anywhere, Triple Threat became Double Trouble when Stevie fired the vocalist, Lou Ann Barton.  Their big break seemed to have come when they were invited to play the Montreax Festival, but the performance turned out to be a disaster because the band had mistakenly been booked on "jazz acoustic night."  The silver lining was that their performance led in a roundabout way to a recording contract with Epic Records brokered by John Hammond, Sr. 

The Rise And Fall Of An Icon

And so, on June 3, 1983, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble released their debut album, Texas Flood. The album received enthusiastic reviews as well as going on to become SRV’s first album to go gold, although at the time it only reached as high as #38 on the Billboard music charts. "Texas Flood," the 3rd track on the album, would go on to become one of Stevie Ray's most iconic songs and a favorite in concert. The only single from the album, "Pride and Joy," would make it to #20 on the charts.

Couldn't Stand the Weather

Less than a year later, Stevie and the band had another album ready, Couldn't Stand the Weather. He was also awarded "Entertainer of the Year," and "Instrumentalist of the Year," at the Blues Awards in November of the same year. The album would also go on to become gold and also contained their next popular single by the same name: "Couldn't Stand the Weather."

Another year had another album, this time titled Soul to Soul, which went on to go platinum in sales. While Stevie was flying high professionally, though, he was sinking deeper and deeper into addiction.

When he collapsed after a show in Germany in '86, it was time for a change.

He checked into rehab in London, and managed to get sober. The first song to chart #1 for the band, "Crossfire," emerged from this period, as well as Stevie's final album with Double Trouble, In Step.

He would, however, record one last album (with his brother Jimmie) which was released just after his death in August 1990: Family Style.

Guitars And Equipment:

The most well-known guitar Stevie used was "Number One," a.k.a. "First Wife." Although Stevie described it as a '59 Fender Stratocaster, when Custom Shop employees disassembled it after his death they discovered that the neck was a '62 and the body a '63. However, the pickups were indeed from 1959, which is why Stevie presumably referred to it as such. He also changed the fretwire to Dunlop 6100, switched the vibrato to a left-handed setup, and changed out the strings to a much heavier gauge, usually .013-.058. He tuned down a half-step to compensate for the heavier string uge and the increased tension on the neck.

Stevie's favorite effects were the TS-808 Ibanez Tube Screamer distortion box and a Crybaby Wah pedal.  Anyone wanting to sound like Stevie is going to have to invest in these two effects boxes at the very least.  Along with that, you'll have to fork out some bucks for a few amps, too: a 1967 Fender Super Reverb blackface 4 x 10" amplifier, and a Fender Bassman   1959 Reissue for the later stuff.  Round out your amplification with a blackface Fender Vibroverb, circa 1964-65, and you've got a good start. 

A more exhaustive list of the guitars and equipment Stevie Ray played can be found at

Things To Remember Him By

The SRV Signature Stratocaster is one of the longest running Signature models still in production. Released just two years after his death in 1990, the model has been available for more than 15 years now, and is a reproduction of Stevie Ray's famous guitar, "Number One." With 21 frets, Pao Ferro rosewood fretboard, and 3 special Texas Special Single Coil pickups, the guitar is generally considered to be a faithful reproduction of Stevie's favorite axe. The Fender Custom shop also made a very limited run (235 copies, to be exact) of "Lenny," SRV's guitar that was used mostly during the song by the same name.

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Stevie Ray Vaughan Guitar Lesson

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    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great well written hub on SRV, he was one of a kind and a true rock icon . I just love all his music !

      Vote up and more !!!

    • lindalou1963 profile image

      Linda 5 years ago from Texas

      LOVE LOVE LOVE Stevie Ray!!! Pride and Joy is my favorite of his.... thanks for the memories and the great post