Stevie Ray Vaughan Biography

3 October 1954, Dallas, Texas, USA, d. 27 August 1990, East Troy, Wisconsin, USA. This remarkable blues guitarist was influenced by his older brother Jimmie Vaughan (of the Fabulous Thunderbirds), whose record collection included key Vaughan motivators such as Albert King, Otis Rush and Lonnie Mack. He honed his style on his brother’s hand-me-down guitars in various high school bands, before moving to Austin in 1972. He formed the Nightcrawlers with Doyle Bramhall, then Paul Ray And The Cobras, with whom he recorded ‘Texas Clover’ in 1974. In 1977 he formed Triple Threat Revue with vocalist Lou Ann Barton. She later fronted Vaughan’s most successful project, named Double Trouble after an Otis Rush standard, for a short period after its inception in 1979. The new band also featured drummer Chris Layton and ex-Johnny Winter bass player Tommy Shannon.

Producer Jerry Wexler, an early fan, added them to the bill of the 1982 Montreux International Jazz Festival, where Vaughan was spotted and hired by David Bowie for his forthcoming Let’s Dance (1983). Vaughan turned down Bowie’s subsequent world tour, however, to rejoin his own band and record Texas Flood with producer John Hammond. Couldn’t Stand The Weather showed the influence of Jimi Hendrix, and earned the band its first platinum disc; in February 1985, they picked up a Grammy for their contribution to the Blues Explosion anthology. Soul To Soul saw the addition of keyboard player Reese Wynans; Vaughan, by this point a much sought-after guitarist, could also be heard on records by James Brown, Johnny Copeland, and his mentor, Lonnie Mack. The period of extensive substance abuse that produced the lacklustre Live Alive led to Vaughan’s admittance to a Georgia detoxification centre. His recovery was apparent on In Step, which won a second Grammy. In 1990, the Vaughan brothers worked together with Bob Dylan on their own Family Style, and as guests on Eric Clapton’s American tour. Vaughan died in 1990, at East Troy, Wisconsin, USA, when, anxious to return to Chicago after Clapton’s Milwaukee show, he switched helicopter seats and boarded a vehicle that crashed, in dense fog, into a ski hill. The Sky Is Crying, compiled by Jimmie Vaughan from album sessions, was posthumously released the following year.

Vaughan was a magnificent ambassador for the blues, whose posthumous reputation continues to increase. Plans to erect a nine-foot bronze statue to the guitarist in his hometown of Austin went ahead in October 1992. In 2001, Vaughan’s former band Double Trouble (Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon) had considerable success in their own right with the chart-topping Been A Long Time.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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