Stephen ("Stevie") Ray Vaughan
(October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990), born
in Dallas, Texas, was an American blues guitarist.
His broad appeal made him one of America's most
influential electric blues guitarists. In 2003,
Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Stevie Ray Vaughan
#7 in their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists
of All Time. He was the younger brother of Jimmie
Vaughan was born and raised in the Oak Cliff
neighborhood of Dallas, Texas. Neither of his
parents had any strong musical talent but were
avid music fans. They would take Vaughan and
his older brother Jimmie to concerts to see
Fats Domino, Jimmy Reed, and Bob Wills.
Even though Vaughan initially wanted to play
the drums as his primary instrument, he was
given a guitar when he was eight years old.
Vaughan's brother, Jimmie Vaughan, gave him
his first guitar lessons. Vaughan later quoted
in Guitar Player Magazine that " My brother
Jimmie actually was one of the biggest influences
on my playing. He really was the reason why
I started to play, watching him and seeing what
could be done." After his brother showed
him a few basic chords, Vaughan taught himself
to play. He played entirely by ear and never
learned how to read sheet music. By the time
he was 13 years old he was playing in clubs
where he met many of his blues idols. A few
years later he dropped out of Kimball High School
and moved to Austin to pursue music. Vaughan's
talent caught the attention of guitarist Johnny
Winter, and blues-club owner Clifford Antone.
Adult Life and Career
Vaughan's first recording band was called Paul
Ray and the Cobras. They played at clubs and
bars in Austin during the mid-1970s, and released
one single. Vaughan later recorded two other
singles under the band name The Cobras. Following
the break-up of The Cobras, he formed Triple
Threat in late 1975, which included bassist
Jackie Newhouse, drummer Chris Layton, vocalist
Lou Ann Barton, and sax player Johnny Reno.
Barton left the band in 1978 to pursue a solo
career, followed by Reno in 1979. The three
remaining members started performing under the
name Double Trouble, inspired by an Otis Rush
song of the same name. Vaughan became the band's
Tommy Shannon, the bass player on Johnny Winter's
early albums, replaced Newhouse in 1981. A popular
Austin act, Vaughan soon attracted the attention
of musicians David Bowie and Jackson Browne.
Both Browne and Bowie first caught Vaughan at
the 1982 Montreux Jazz Festival, where some
members of the audience booed the band, because
they disliked Double Trouble's hard blues sound.
Nonetheless, the crowd response was quite different
when they were invited to headline "Blues
Night" at the festival again in 1985.
In November, 1982, Vaughan recorded in Jackson
Browne's studio in downtown Los Angeles. The
recordings were brought to the attention of
A&R man, John Hammond and became Texas Flood.
Later, Bowie then featured Vaughan on his 1983
album Let's Dance. Vaughan was also asked to
go on tour with Bowie, but declined in order
to focus his efforts on Double Trouble.
The band's critically acclaimed first album,
Texas Flood (1983), produced by John Hammond,
featured the top-20 hit "Pride and Joy"
and sold 500,000 copies, earning the band a
Gold Record. As well as this the album was nominated
for a Grammy and Rude Mood was nominated for
best rock instrumental. Stevie wins three categories
in the Guitar Player's Readers Poll: "Best
New Talent", "Best Blues Album",
and "Best Electric Blues Guitarist"
(beating out none other than Eric Clapton).
He becomes only the second guitarist in history
to win three Guitar Player awards in one year
(the first is Jeff Beck). Stevie will win the
"Best Electric Blues Guitarist" award
every year until 1991.
The band's next album, Couldn't Stand the Weather,
was recorded in January of 1984. During the
summer of 1984, Vaughan and Double Trouble appeared
on numerous TV shows, including Rockpalast,
Much Music, and Solid Gold. During the Grammy
awards of 1984 Stevie, along with George Thorogood
presented Chuck Berry with a lifetime achievement
award. "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)"
from Couldn't Stand The Weather is nominated
for "Best Rock Instrumental Performance".
In November, Stevie wins two W.C. Handy National
Blues Awards: "Entertainer of the Year"
and "Blues Instrumentalist of the Year."
It is the first time a white person has won
In late September, the band rehearsed at the
Caravan of Dreams in Fort Worth, Texas for their
Carnegie Hall show on October 4, 1984. They
had velvet mariachi-style suits made specially
for the show. The appearance featured guests
Jimmie Vaughan, Roomful of Blues horns, Dr.
John, Angela Strehli, and George Rains.
In late January 1985, the band took their first
and last Japanese tour. In March, the band started
to produce their third album Soul to Soul. Reese
Wynans, a former keyboardist of Delbert McClinton's
band, was added to the band not long after.
With the addition of Reese the title of the
band was changed to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Serious
Trouble, however no album was released under
this modified title. The album's production
lasted for two months. Soul to Soul was released
on September 30, 1985. Stevie receives his fifth
Grammy nomination: "Best Rock Instrumental
Performance" for "Say What!".
He also produces Lonnie Mack's comeback album
Strike Like Lightning and plays in several of
its songs. On April 10, Stevie plays "The
Star Spangled Banner" for opening day of
the National League baseball season at the Houston
Drug addiction and alcoholism took a toll on
Vaughan in mid-1986. Cocaine and Crown Royal
whiskey were among his addictions. After becoming
acutely ill in Germany while on tour, Vaughan
managed to struggle through three more shows
and was finally admitted into a hospital in
London. He then flew to Atlanta, Georgia to
a rehabilitation center. He eventually recovered
fully from his addictions and became a teetotaler.
Upon his return from rehab, Vaughan did a number
of works with other artists including Dick Dale
(making a cameo appearance as himself performing
a duet of "Pipeline" in the movie
Back To The Beach which was then released as
a single), Jennifer Warnes, and Stevie Wonder
(playing "Superstition" on the MTV
special "Stevie Wonder's Characters").
In 1988, Vaughan continued to tour with Double
Trouble throughout Scandinavia. Vaughan and
Double Trouble recorded In Step in February
of 1989, which was their fourth studio album
since 1985 and is praised by some as the band's
best work since Texas Flood. The album won a
Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album.
Vaughan shared a headline tour with guitarist
Jeff Beck in the fall of 1989.
Stevie is well-known for playing many Jimi Hendrix
songs in his own way, (rearranging them) e.g.
Little Wing and Voodoo Child (Slight Return).
On August 25 and 26, 1990, Vaughan and Double
Trouble played shows at Alpine Valley Music
Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin. At the end
of the show, Eric Clapton introduced Buddy Guy,
Robert Cray, and Jimmie Vaughan, along with
Stevie Ray Vaughan. All of the musicians played
a 15-minute rendition of "Sweet Home Chicago".
After the song ended, all the guitarists hugged
and went backstage.
Double Trouble drummer, Chris Layton, recalls
his last conversation with Vaughan backstage.
He then remembers when Vaughan said he had to
call his girlfriend, Janna Lapidus, back in
Chicago. He headed out the door to the helicopters.
The musicians expected a long bus ride back
to Chicago. Vaughan was informed that three
seats were open on one of the helicopters returning
to Chicago with Clapton's crew, enough for Vaughan,
Jimmie Vaughan, and Jimmie Vaughan's wife Connie.
It turned out there was only one seat left,
which Stevie Ray Vaughan requested from his
brother, who obliged. Taking off into deep fog,
the helicopter crashed moments later into a
ski slope on the side of a hill within the Alpine
Valley Resort. Vaughan, the pilot, and two members
of Clapton's crew died on impact. No one realized
that the crash had occurred until the helicopter
failed to arrive in Chicago, and the wreckage
was only found with the help of its locator
beacon. The main cause of the crash was believed
to be pilot error. The next morning Stevie Ray
Vaughan's brother Jimmie and good friend Eric
Clapton were called to identify the bodies.
The media initially reported that Vaughan and
his band had been killed in the crash. Chris
Layton saw this on the news and had security
let him into Vaughan's motel room. Layton saw
that the bed was made and the clock radio was
playing the Eagles' song, "Peaceful, Easy
Feeling", which includes the lyrics "I
may never see you again". Layton and Shannon
then called their families to let them know
they were okay.
Stevie Ray Vaughan is interred in the Laurel
Land Memorial Park, Dallas, Texas.
Posthumous events and
September 1990 saw the release of Family Style.
The 1991 compilation album The Sky Is Crying
was the first of several posthumous Vaughan
releases to achieve chart success. Jimmie Vaughan
later co-wrote and recorded a song in tribute
to his brother and other deceased blues guitarists,
entitled "Six Strings Down". Many
other artists recorded songs in remembrance
of Vaughan, including Eric Johnson, Buddy
Guy and Steve Vai (The track 'Jibboom'of the
album 'The Ultra Zone' recorded in 1999).
In 1991, Texas governor Ann Richards proclaimed
October 3, Vaughan's birthday, to be "Stevie
Ray Vaughan Day." An annual motorcycle
ride and concert in Central Texas benefits the
Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial Scholarship Fund.
In 1992, the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation
released the Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature Stratocaster,
which Vaughan had helped design. It was a reproduction
of his battered 1959 Fender Stratocaster, which
he had affectionately named "Number One"
(and sometimes referred to as his "first
wife"). As of 2007, the model is still
in production. It depicts "Number One"
as it would have been brand-new in 1963, though
when Vaughan bought it in 1974 it was already
badly weathered. In 2004, Fender also released
a limited edition exact replica of "Number
In 1994, the city of Austin erected the Stevie
Ray Vaughan Memorial Statue at Auditorium Shores
on Town Lake, the site of a number of Vaughan's
concerts. It has become one of the city's most
popular tourist attractions.
Musicians such as John Mayer, Robert Randolph,
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Colin James, Jonny Lang,
Los Lonely Boys, Mike McCready and Eric Johnson
have cited Vaughan as an influence.
Vaughan's name is mentioned as one of the upcoming
acts in Stephen King's short story You Know
They Got a Hell of a Band, about a town inhabited
by late music legends.
In 2008, Stevie Ray Vaughan will become eligible
for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.Musical influences
Vaughan's blues style was strongly influenced
by many blues guitarists. Foremost among them
were Albert King, who dubbed himself Stevie's
"godfather", Otis Rush, Buddy Guy,
and Jimi Hendrix. He was also strongly influenced
by Lonnie Mack. Stevie Ray Vaughan, who had
idolized Mack since childhood, produced Mack's
widely-acclaimed and commercially successful
come-back album "Strike Like Lightning"
in 1984. Vaughan is recognized for his distinctive
guitar sound, which was partly based on using
heavy guitar strings (anything from thirteen-gauge
to 16-gauge) that he tuned down half-step. Vaughan's
sound and playing style, which often incorporated
simultaneous lead and rhythm parts, drew frequent
comparisons to Hendrix; Vaughan covered several
Hendrix tunes on his studio albums and in performance,
such as "Little Wing", "Voodoo
Child (Slight Return)", and "Third
Stone from the Sun". He was also heavily
influenced by Freddie King, another Texas bluesman,
mainly in the use of tone and attack; King's
heavy vibrato can clearly be heard in Vaughan's
playing. Another stylistic influence was Albert
Collins. By utilizing his index finger as a
pick a la Albert Collins, he was able to coax
various tonal nuances from his amps
Vaughan preferred to make use of the immediate
tonal capabilities of his guitar amplifiers,
adding few effects. His effects in the mid-80's
included the Ibanez Tube Screamer, a Vox wah-wah
pedal, and a MXR Loop Selector. Vaughan was
also well known for using the Fender Vibratone
speaker cabinet. He acquired one in January
1984 and used about 2 of these throughout his
career until his death. Despite rumors, Vaughan
has never used a real Leslie speaker in his
career. Stevie also had a Boss DC-2 Dimension
C chorus stompbox for a warbly, bright chorus
effect. He also used loud volumes for dynamic,
coaxing effects from the natural overdriven
performance of his amplifiers.
Vaughan's guitars and
Stevie Ray's main guitars were Fender Stratocasters.
His most famous was a sunburst 1962 Strat with
a Brazilian rosewood veneer fingerboard fretted
with Dunlop 6100 Jumbo fretwire (an equilvalent
to this fretwire is Stewart-MacDonald 0150 fretwire);
it had 1962 stamped on the neck and body, but
1959 written on the pickups leading Vaughan
to mistakenly believe it was assembled in 1962
from 1959 parts. On this particular guitar,
he also had a left-handed tremolo installed.
This guitar was known as Number One. It had
a D-shaped thick neck that was perfect for his
large hands and thick fingers. It possessed
a deep, dark growl of a tone that was immediately
identifiable. The guitar also had a prismatic
sticker just below the bridge with the word
"Custom" in script letters. This sticker
was given to Vaughan soon after he bought it
in 1973. Vaughan also had some custom-made stick-on
plastic letters reading "SRV" on one
of the body cavities. Even though Number One
used all stock Fender Strat parts, about the
only original parts it possessed by 1990 were
the body and the pickups. Over the years, Vaughan
and Rene Martinez, his guitar tech, replaced
the pickguard, tremolo, and neck. The guitar
was meticulously examined by Fender Custom Shop
workers to gather specifications for a run of
100 exact copies in early 2004. The pickups
were never overwound purposely, but were from
a batch of pickups made at Fender in 1959 that
had been overwound by mistake, producing Number
One's distinctive sound. The neck was damaged
during a stage accident, and a spare was used
from another of Vaughan's Stratocasters. After
he died, the original neck was put back on and
the guitar was given to his brother.
Lenny was a 1964 maple-neck that was named after
his wife, Lenora. It had a very bright, thin
sound. Supposedly, Vaughan found this guitar
in a pawnshop, but couldn't afford to buy it.
One of Vaughan's roadies, Byron Barr, bought
it and he and Lenora presented it to Vaughan
for his birthday in 1976. According to the story,
Lenora was supposed to pay Byron for the guitar;
she started a pool party with her friends to
collect the money, but it was Vaughan who eventually
settled the debt, with cash and a leather jacket.
Its neck was originally a thin rosewood, but
Vaughan replaced it with a thicker non-Fender
maple neck. Lenny can be seen and heard on "Live
at the El Mocambo". He played it sometimes
at the end of the set during the encore, playing
the song of the same name, Lenny. Vaughan also
used the guitar during the song "Riviera
Paradise", this can also be seen and heard
on the DVD "Live From Austin Texas".
After Stevie's divorce from his wife and the
meeting of the new love in his life, Janna Lapidus,
Vaughan started calling this guitar "Scotch".
Despite other information from various sources,
this shouldn't be confused with the butter-colored
guitar, as described below.
The 1961 butter-colored Strat was bought by
Stevie in the fall of 1985. He gave away another
guitar and bought this piece. It was all stock
except for the tiger-striped pickguard, made
by Rene Martinez. He usually used this guitar
on the song "Leave My Girl Alone".
Charley was a custom-made Stratocaster built
for him by the late Charley Wirz, a friend and
owner of Charley's Guitar Shop in Dallas, Texas.
It was made for Stevie in late 1983, but had
a neck plate with the engravement "More
In '84". It had three Danelectro lipstick
tubes and it had a hardtail bridge. The guitar
was also rewired with 1 tone knob and 1 volume.
This guitar was said by Stevie to have a lot
of "bite" in the guitar's tone.
Red was a 1962 Strat bought in late 1983 at
Charley's Guitar Shop. The finish was originally
sunburst, but was repainted fiesta red. In 1986,
a left-handed neck was installed on this guitar
to emulate the sound and feel of Jimi Hendrix.
Main was a custom-made Hamiltone Strat given
to Vaughan as a gift from Billy Gibbons of ZZ
Top on April 29, 1984. The guitar was originally
supposed to be made in 1979 with "Stevie
Vaughan" inlayed with mother-of-pearl in
the fingerboard. The plan was crushed when Vaughan
started using his middle name. It had cream-colored
plastic binding around the body and neck. It
was also constructed of 2-piece maple wood and
originally had white EMG pickups, an onboard
preamp, and Gibson-style "bell" knobs.
After the making of the "Couldn't Stand
The Weather" music video, Rene Martinez,
Vaughan's guitar tech, rewired it with a standard
Strat system. The guitar also had a jazz type
tone as described by Stevie Ray.
Butter was the original yellow Strat originally
owned by Vince Martell of Vanilla Fudge. The
guitar was repainted yellow and donated it to
Charley's Guitar Shop. They painted it yellow
and Stevie bought it in 1981. It had a 'swimmingpool'
rout; for four humbuckers. Despite this, it
only had a neck singlecoil pickup, controlled
by one volume knob and one tone knob. The guitar
was stolen from him in 1987 and never recovered.
Vaughan also played a guitar made by deceased
Minneapolis, Minn., luthier, Roger Benedict.
A semi-hollow, Alder-built guitar called the
Groove Master was a model of choice for Vaughan.
It is a seafoam-green Stratocaster-shaped guitar
with three lipstick pickups.
In total, Vaughan owned 34 guitars throughout
Jimmie Vaughan has possession of all of his
brothers guitars, save for the only one released
to the public, Lenny. It was sold in the Eric
Clapton guitar auction for more than $600,000.
Around early 1985, his pedal board consisted
of a Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer, MXR Loop Selector,
Vox Wah-Wah, and the Fender Vibratone's footswitch.
His amps around this time were 2 black-face
Fender Vibroverbs, Fender Vibratone, a black-face
Super Reverb, and 2 silver-face Twin Reverbs.
In a recent publication of Guitar World, they
revealed a Soldano SLO-100 amp head that Vaughan
commissioned before he died.