From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–
Life has now taken me to the great city of Austin, Texas. You can usually find me walking next to Lady Bird Lake early Saturday morning,completely stuck in my own head, and with my son in tow. He’s a bit of a freak for guitars, and on one of our walks he asked me, “Who is that statue of the man with the guitar?” As we walked closer a smile crossed my face…
It has been over twenty years since we lost Stevie Ray Vaughan in a helicopter crash– arguably one of the greatest blues guitarists ever, and one of the greatest musicians to come out of the Austin music scene. He was only 35 when he passed away, and was on a high from being clean and sober for four years. Stevie was making some of the best music of his life and then– gone in an instant.
Stevie Ray Vaughan played in my hometown of Chicago quite a bit while I was growing up. Any serious blues player will tell you that all roads lead to the Windy City– and Stevie was no different. He had a reverence for the blues and its history. Stevie was heavily influenced by Chicago legend Buddy Guy (who along with Albert King, Otis Rush, Lonnie Mack, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, and Jimi Hendrix really sculpted his style) and would show up at Buddy’s club Legends to jam after hours when he was in town. I was lucky enough to see him play there several times. You could tell that Dallas-born Stevie had cut his teeth playing the small clubs around Austin– he really liked that environment and usually played some great stuff. You had to be willing to stay well into the morning hours to catch Stevie jam with Buddy and any number of Chicago’s finest players, but it was well worth it. Well before the days of cell phone cameras and YouTube, most of these sessions will only live in the memory of those of us that were there to witness two of the greatest guitar legends take turns on classics– like Born Under a Bad Sign, Red House, Not Fade Away, and Mannish Boy.
I often pass Stevie’s statue on my Saturday walks, and wonder if others still stop and reflect on his greatness. Do they know how truly special this guy was? Sadly, time has a way of dulling our memory, and we can forget. Man, I hope not. I feel blessed to have seen Stevie play guitar back then. His incredible sound was pure Blues and pure Texas.
Eli M. Getson
The legendary Texas Bluesman and guitar great, Stevie Ray Vaughan, going behind the back.
1983, New York– Stevie Ray Vaughan Performing in Concert –Image by © Lynn Goldsmith
(Lt.) young SRV (Rt.) 1983, Berkeley, CA– Stevie Ray Vaughan –Image by © Clayton Call
It’s said that Stevie Ray Vaughan’s hands were so strong, that playing once, he cracked the neck of his Guild acoustic guitar, seen in the ’90 MTV unplugged special. 1983, NY– Stevie Ray Vaughn Near The World Trade Center –Image by © Deborah Feingold/Corbis
1980s, Los Angeles, California– guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan –Image by © Aaron Rapoport
1989, Los Angeles, CA– Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jeff Beck –Image by © Aaron Rapoport
1980s, Los Angeles, CA– guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan –Image by © Aaron Rapoport
October 1984, NY– Stevie Ray Vaughn Playing Guitar –Image by © Jacques M. Chenet
(Lt.) ca. 1990– Legendary Stevie Ray Vaughan Playing Guitar –Image by © Steve Jennings (Rt.) 1984, New York– Stevie Ray Vaughan Playing Guitar –Image by © Jacques M. Chenet
1984, Dallas, TX– Stevie Ray & big brother, Jimmie Vaughan –Photograph by © Tracy Anne Hart
Stevie Ray Vaughan
1983, Houston, TX– Young SRV relaxes backstage at Fitzgerald’s in Houston prior to sound check. –Photograph by © Tracy Anne Hart. All rights reserved.
(Lt.) 1986–SRV signs his own bootlegs (“asking me why!” notes Tracy) outside Sam Houston Coliseum (Rt.) 1987– Stevie Ray Vaughan goes Indian —Photographs by © Tracy Anne Hart
1989– The legendary Stevie Ray Vaughan —Photograph by © Tracy Anne Hart. All rights reserved. Stevie Ray Vaughan’s hands of legendary strength were key to the sustain and string bending that makes his sound so unique and incredible. Stevie needed strong hands because he used heavy gauge strings that would tear most peoples hands apart if they played like SRV. Also, story has it that he replaced the stock frets on his no. 1 Strat above with chunkier bass frets for added tone and sustain. He played an original wah wah pedal owned by Hendrix, and was known to play through a rig setup with two wah wahs, using both at once– crazy. –JP
1983– A young Stevie Ray Vaughan —Photographs by © Tracy Anne Hart. All rights reserved.
1984, Houston, Texas– Stevie Ray Vaughan and Joe Ely backstage at Fitzgeralds.
Stevie Ray Vaughan
1983– Tracy Anne Hart’s 1st Meeting With Stevie Ray Vaughan. —Photograph by © Tracy Anne Hart. “I’d been sent with two writers in tow by a local free new wave paper to photograph the guitar phenom who was about to become David Bowie’s right hand man and leave Oak Cliff behind for good. This small, unassuming Texan stood up there with his battered Strat and his beautiful, huge hands and let loose a flurry of chords that flew around us and enveloped us in… disbelief? Shock? It was the second coming of Hendrix, Muddy Waters, and something so unique and alive there was nothing to compare it to. And this was a sound check? He was playing for us, for his bandmates, Whipper and Tommy, and his man Cutter, he was playing for himself, he was playing for a ride on the train to glory, he was playing because he just couldn’t hold back from the sheer need to wring and wrench those sounds out of his hands, his heart, and his soul. I was in heaven: I’d dreamt of capturing Hendrix on film but I was several years shy of that goal. Here was a man who made me forget I couldn’t be Jim Marshall, that my Leicas had been denied their shot at immortality. This music man would fill that classic 35mm frame with a talent enormous enough to match any headcutter who ever filled a club with his riffs and his voice—he and his instruments’ voices—and sear that sound onto the film and into our brains with an unmatchable intensity. The desire to raise my photography and my (as Ansel Adams would call it) fluency with my instrument near his level was almost unbearable. It was truly the turning point in my work—that special moment when everything becomes clear and sharp and intuitive—and it was because of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Something about him, his playing, the way he gave, made that possible for me. Through some wonderful gift and the size of his spirit, I hear him still. And this, this first witnessing of the sound that shot right through us—this was just a sound check?” —Tracy Anne Hart. via
stevie ray just like hendrix was one of those guys that was just magic he came and just as fast he went .
Amazing. I remember when my mom and I heard about the crash, and my mother being so sad. What a loss to the music world! Even kids like me who were obsessed with MTV were being turned on to SRV at the time and bam! Gone. Thanks for including Tracy Anne Hart’s comments; it’s great to read about him from someone who actually met him.
You know, I think when Stevie was playing voodoo chile (slight return) Ol’ Hendrix was up in heaven standing next to God they all clapping their hands and smiling and Jimi saying to God, “Hey Man you may have one upped me with him Lord” and God smiles and says “Awe you know Jimi, I had to keep your vibe alive down there for a little bit…..He’s your spiritual brother you know, you’ll be seeing him soon enough”
Wow, great photos of a great man. I still get goose bumps every time I see (sometimes even think about it) his ACL performance of Riviera Paradise…
I remember getting the news of his death from my new roommate on the move in day of my freshman year in college. We set up the stereo first thing and started in with Texas Flood.
Great work by the way…I’ve spent hours here…all great.
I missed ever seeing him in concert but always was a fan of his, there is nothing like putting on headphones, closing your eyes and listening to “Lenny” an amazing piece of music! The he can “tear the house down” and turn it up to “11” with a rockin’ guitar like no one else!!
Sadly he was taken way to soon by one of the “three H’s”, but his music lives on forever!!
I saw SRV twice in NZ, got to chat with him twice too. First time he looked like death warmed up, second time he looked as healthy as a new born babe. Lovely man and, as noted, massive music fan – he just loved to talk about his favourite blues and soul artists. Where would he have gone with his music, I wonder? The album he cut with Jimmie that came out after his death is the weakest in his catalogue.
My brother and I grew up and spent some extremely formative years in Houston. Years later, especially after he picked up playing guitar, we went back to a lot of the music we missed during our (comparative) youths. This really made me nostalgic. The Internet’s pretty cool when you consider it, we both live so far from TX now, and yet on some level, we can still connect to the culture of our erstwhile home state. Thanks for this!
I saw the statue in Austin, had a moment of slience then hit the Continental club and drank whiskey. fat strings and strong hands means everything.
Stevie Ray Vaughn may have popularized texas style blues, but in terms of real musical talent, his brother outclassed him in every way. SRV had flair and image: Jimmie Vaughn had the real chops and talent. Hes still alive to hear and appreciate, too.
No doubt his brother Jimmie is also a great player. Have seen him many times.
Thanks Eli & TSY. SVR is with no doubt one of the greatest players to ever bend a string…
Thanks for the great post. I would say that SRV is the greatest guitarist to have ever played; or equal to Jimi Hendrix. Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page are also exceptional (and still alive!). A lot of guitarists inspire me to play, SRV makes me want put to axe down and listen.
And JD, what are you smoking, sir? Jimmy Vaughn better than SRV? Where is Jimmy Vaughn’s statue?
You don’t need a statue and popularity to be great. Understatement is JV’s game, and subtlety and nuance is how a real master plays.
Incorrecto! He is not ‘arguably’ one of the greatest blues guitarists ever…, he, without question is one of the greatest blues guitarists ever. Arguably, he is THE best blues guitarist ever. And THAT is an argument worth having. Thanks for the great post. Too soon gone.
My mate Pat introduced me to Stevie Ray Vaughan back in about 1984 by handing me a C90 cassette with a copy of the then quite new Texas Flood on it (got the cassette here in front of me as I type). A revelation. Soon after, we were at a house party and, sick of the terrible music being played, and appalled that no one was dancing, we commandeered the stereo, put on Texas Flood and danced our way through the whole album, a couple of sweating lunatics fuelled by Banks’s Mild and a huge amount of adrenalin from that great music. Nobody else was dancing, but no one dared change the tape, they could see we were committed.
Thanks for the post. Thanks for that tape, Pat. Thanks for the music Mr Vaughan, Sir.
Gibby Haynes is Austin’s favorite son. And Leslie is . . . just favorite.
Gibby definitely lives up to the whole “Keep it weird” deal better than SRV ever could. However, probably 99% of the people reading this go blank when you say, “Gibby Haynes.” It’s a pretty specific crowd.
I, Mah Own Damned Self, am a Native Son of Oak Cliff, Texas and grew up in the same neighborhoods but a number of years apart from SRV and Jimmie. The stories are legion….petty crime and heavy chords. Ah saw SRV about a dozen times. The best was about a week before Christmas 1985 at the the old colloseum where the DALLAS Blackhawks used to play hockey. Had a Marlboro cigarette pack full of roach joints. No opening act had been announced and the nervous tension waiting for exuberant release was palpable before the show…which started with the greatest surprise we could ever expect….The Fabulous Thunderbirds. “I’m in the mood/to tear it up”….yesh. I’ve never seen a more manic crowd in my life. The bands jammed together at the end with Jimmie on 6 string bass. Pride is not the word….Yall excuse me whilst I weep….
Another thing…..JD is somewhat correct. Jimmie was/is a real master of total playing ….meaning utilizing the silences.
speaking of utilizing silence… you all should shut the hell up. Jimmy isn’t qualified to hold Steven’s jock strap, much less his Fender strat… SRV put Texas on the map for alot of innocent humans who were lucky enough to hear and see his music. Ya’all can sure get this off course in a hurry.
Stevie was Oak Cliff’s favorite son as well, and he’s buried at Laurel Land Cemetery. I used to work years ago with a woman whose son grew up with Jimmie and Stevie Ray, in Oak Cliff. She remembered that Jimmie would come over to her house to jam with her son, and Stevie Ray was the little brother who tagged along. They didn’t know then that the Vaughans would become famous, and that Stevie Ray would be the most famous.
As a kid growing up in Dallas listening to the classic rock stations there I was always around SRV’s music. However, it wasn’t until I moved down to Austin for college that I actually began to appreciate Stevie as a true musician. His statue on Lady Bird Lake was on my run everyday and one day I finally decided to check into his stuff that doesn’t get play on the radio. My perception of blue/rock music definitely changed and after that every time I run by his statue I always have to reach out and touch the frets of the statue.
I saw SRV in Detroit back in 1982 he kicked some motha fuckin ass as he tripped the light fantastic.
Thanks so much for the great post on SRV!!! Love the “headdress” picture!
SRV’s songs never really penetrated deep into my soul–say like the Allman Bros–but his skill with a guitar made him one of the best that ever lived.
I’d also say that his victory in his battle over his demons testified to the man’s tremendous resolve, spirit, and desire to embrace life–even if it wasn’t in the cards 😦
Finally, I have been attempting to play guitar for as long as I can remember and still can’t play worth a shit. For me, the guitar–nothing more than a piece of wood with metal strings–has always been one of the greatest mysteries in the universe. Each person who attempts to master it–SRV, Duane Allman, Clapton, Hendrix–ends up inventing a new language, one that speaks directly to a person’s soul.
I will never be a master, but thankfully there are others, like SRV, who can fill that void in me and add to the things that make life worth living.
Good read. Enjoyed this blog for a while now. Since you’re in Austin, try the 512 Ale. Thanks for the read neighbor.
Love SRV! God called another blues singer back home, way too soon. I saw SRV at the Gorge in Washington state-the sun was going down and he played a beautiful song—I don’t remember the name of it, it was an instrumental. Thankyou for the great pics. Lots of memories wrapped up in his music. Not like the crap that passes for music nowdays–can’t stand that shit.