Saturday, August 28, 2010

Stevie Ray Vaughan

I first became aware of Stevie Ray Vaughan around 1984 or ’85. I was a freshly minted disciple of Jimi Hendrix and my guitar teacher mentioned someone else who had recorded a version of Voodoo Chile. I tracked down a copy of Couldn’t Stand The Weather and immediately fell in love. Stevie’s tone, his choice of notes, his singing style and the songs just all came together in a perfect way for me. I, like a lot of people, was an instant fan. I bought his first record Texas Flood the next day and anxiously waited for the next record to come out. I first saw Stevie live in Tampa FL. My dad arranged to get me backstage and I had 6 row/center seats for the show. What a show! Meeting Stevie that night after the gig, I was star-struck and literally speechless. The photo I have from that night shows me in full on ‘deer in the headlights’ mode! I saw Stevie play two more times, both in Nashville. Once at the Opry House with BB King and The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and once at Starwood Amphitheater two months before he died. Buffy and I went backstage at that show and I found my words enough to tell him that I was playing guitar for Buddy Guy and that I hoped we’d get a chance to play together sometime.
August 24 and 25, 1990, we played Buddy’s club in Chicago. The place was always packed when Buddy was there but it was especially packed when people knew Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Robert Cray were nearby and would probably come by to jam. I remember playing both nights with one eye on Buddy and one eye on the VIP section (If you never got to visit the original Legends, the VIP, which was probably the worst seats in the house, was just to my left off stage). Eric and Stevie didn’t come in but Chris Layton did make it out for the Saturday gig. Buddy mentioned that he was going up to the Clapton show on Sunday and I was scheduled to return home to Nashville that day. I wasn’t invited, but I thought about sticking around and trying to ‘hobo’ my way to the show with Buddy. In the end I decided that I really wanted to get home to my then girlfriend (now wife, thank God) Buffy and that there’d be plenty of chances to hang with those guys later, since we were always crossing paths. I went home and Buffy woke me the next morning, calling to tell me that a helicopter had crashed and someone was dead, but they weren’t saying who. I called Buddy and the phone was busy for a while which really made me nervous for him. When he finally answered he told me Stevie had died. It was like the floor fell out from under my feet. Stevie was just coming into the best part of his career. He was a strong presence on MTV, he was recording with people like Stevie Wonder, doing shows with Jeff Beck, Clapton, Joe Cocker. It really seemed like he was going to shift into the mainstream in a real profound, positive way. The latest record In Step had come out and the songwriting and performances from all the guys in Double Trouble was stellar. His passing was like a punch in the gut. How could something like that happen to someone who had just beaten some real demons and come out stronger and sharper than ever? My mother always taught me that we’re not in this world forever and when it’s your time, it’s your time. As a Christian, I believe God’s got a plan and a design for everything. Whatever his plan was for Stevie, it happened and thank God we got the music and the person here for as long as we did but man I sure wish he was still around!