Born in Dallas, Texas in 1954, Stevie and his older brother, Jimmie taught each other guitar at a young age - and they must have done a pretty good job as they are widely recognised as two of the most talented guitarists of the past century, among such greats as BB King, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Eddie Van Halen and obviously Jimi Hendrix. As a teenager, Stevie played in various garage bands, with the occasional nightclub gig. When he fell into a tub of grease working part-time at a restaurant, he decided to leave his job and drop out of school at 17 to move to Austin and concentrate all of his time on music. After building up his reputation playing at various Austin clubs, the speedy blues/rock guitarist joined drummer Chris Layton and bassist Tommy Shannon to form Double Trouble in 1980. At an appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1982, where most of the blues purists in the crowed booed him, he impressed Jackson Browne, who gave him free studio time to record his first album. He also caught the attention of David Bowie, who asked this previously unknown guitarist to play on several songs on his Let's Dance album tour. When Bowie told him what his pay would be, Stevie's response was one you probably wouldn't want your mother to hear.
When executives at the recording label Epic heard about the incident they published Stevie's debut album, Texas Flood, which became a blockbuster hit in the worlds of blues and rock. The album included great songs like 'Pride and Joy' and 'Texas Flood', which included some of the greatest solos in rock history. Over the course of his career, Stevie Ray Vaughan did numerous Hendrix covers, including the amazing 'Voodoo Chile.' In 1985, Double Trouble's second album, Couldn't Stand the Weather, went gold. In the next year, Stevie quietly checked into an alcohol rehabilitation clinic. In 1989, he went sober, and Double Trouble went on tour, recording their fourth and most successful album, In Step, which peaked at 33 and went gold in just six months.
After a Wisconsin show with fellow guitar greats Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray and Stevie's brother, Jimmie on 26 August, 1990, Stevie hopped on a helicopter with Eric Clapton's band on the way to Chicago. Clapton declined the ride at the last moment. Tragically, the helicopter crashed not long after midnight on the 27th and Stevie Ray Vaughan was killed at the age of 35. He was buried in a private ceremony at Laurel Land Cemetery in Dallas, Texas on 31 August. After his death, Stevie's older brother Jimmie compiled the album The Sky is Crying, which included original songs and studio outtakes. It went to number ten on the charts and went platinum in just three months.
On 11 May, 1995, when a sufficient amount of time had passed since Stevie's death, Jimmie Vaughan organised a tribute concert for his late brother with Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray, Art Neville and Dr John, all of whom had been on stage with Stevie the night he died, with the addition of the patriarch of this blues family, BB King. They held the concert in Austin, Texas. Each person played one of Stevie's songs, ending in an unrehearsed three-hour jam entitled 'SRV Shuffle'.
Stevie Ray Vaughan played the Fender Stratocaster almost exclusively, his favourite being a battered, almost finishless Strat he called Number One. Some of his other guitars included a Strat named after his wife, and a blonde Strat he used to make a lighter, bell-like tone. He used left-handed vibrato bars which 'hovered' a little more above the guitar. Stevie Ray, like Hendrix, detuned his guitar a half-step, or semitone. He often plugged his guitars into a Fender Bassman bass guitar amp and turned up the gain to achieve his low, growly tone, generally playing so loudly that some towns passed noise ordinances after he came to town. SRV had big hands, so he had his necks(which he frequently broke) custom made bigger, and used between 13 and 15 gauge strings, almost twice the normal width. Some of Stevie's guitars were left-handers which he flipped upside down and did the strings in reverse order, in order to get the same look and feel as his left-handed idols.
Some of Stevie Ray Vaughan's Greatest Songs
- Texas Flood
- Pride and Joy
- Little Wing
- Cold Shot
- Scuttle Buttin'
- Couldn't Stand the Weather
- Voodoo Chile
- The House is Rockin'
- Life by the Drop
- The Sky is Crying
(Greatest hits albums excluded)
- Texas Flood (1983)
- Couldn't Stand the Weather (1984)
- Soul to Soul (1985)
- Live Alive (1986)
- In Step (1989)
- The Sky is Crying(1991)1