Personalities | Stevie Ray Vaughan | Eighties | Jazz & Blues

The premiere torch-bearer for the blues-rock boom of the 1980s, Texan guitar wizard Stevie Ray Vaughan galvanized a generation of players and fans alike with his pyrotechnic licks and flamboyant stage presence.

Connecting deeply with both the psychedelic, ‘voodoo chile’ mystique of Jimi Hendrix and the down-home roadhouse grittiness of his biggest guitar influence, Albert King, Vaughan fashioned a sound that reached out and grabbed listeners with its combination of raucous rock-fuelled abandon, string-bending intensity, gut-level directness and real-deal, bluesy authority.

His meteoric rise to fame during the mid-1980s, over the course of four recordings and countless gigs, was fuelled by self-destructive cocaine-and-alcohol binges that led to a physical collapse and subsequent rehabilitation in 1987. Stevie Ray ultimately mustered the courage to overcome his addictions, returning to the scene in 1988 with a clean bill of health and a renewed sense of conviction. He continued touring and recording and was at his peak when he died in a tragic helicopter crash after a concert in the summer of 1990.

The Vaughan Brothers

Born in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas, Texas on 3 October 1954, Stevie Ray Vaughan grew up under the influence of his older brother Jimmie, an accomplished blues and R&B guitar player and vintage record collector. Stevie Ray got his first guitar at the age of seven and began copying licks from brother Jimmie’s records by the likes of Lonnie Mack, Albert King, Freddie King, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, T-Bone Walker, Otis Rush and Jimmy Reed. Although the Vaughan brothers had a competitive relationship, Stevie Ray idolized Jimmie and closely followed his progress through a succession of early bands, including the Swinging Pendulums, the Chessmen and Texas Storm. Stevie Ray formed his own band, Blackbird, in 1970.

In 1971, aged 17, he dropped out of high school to concentrate on music. On New Year’s Eve of 1971, Stevie Ray and his Blackbird bandmates all moved to Austin and began working on the thriving blues scene there. In 1973 Steve Ray joined the Nightcrawlers and by the end of 1974 was playing his first gig with Paul Ray’s popular Cobras. After leaving the Cobras in July 1977 he formed his own Triple Threat Revue, featuring singer Lou Ann Barton, guitarist W.C. Clark, drummer Freddy ‘Pharoah’ Walden and keyboardist Mike ‘Cold Shot’ Kindred. After Triple Threat imploded due to inner bickering between Vaughan and Barton, Stevie Ray formed Double Trouble (named after one of Vaughan’s favourite Otis Rush tunes) in May of 1978. The band built a strong regional following for the next few years, culminating in a triumphant appearance at the Montreux International Jazz Festival on 17 July 1982. Pop stars Jackson Browne and David Bowie were in the audience at that galvanizing performance; Browne later offered his studio to record Double Trouble, while Bowie hired Stevie Ray to play on his recording Let’s Dance (1983), considerably elevating the guitarist’s profile.

A Brilliant Career

Vaughan and Double Trouble were...

To read the full article please either login or register .

Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz & Blues, founding editor Howard Mandel


An extensive music information resource, bringing together the talents and expertise of a wide range of editors and musicologists, including Stanley Sadie, Charles Wilson, Paul Du Noyer, Tony Byworth, Bob Allen, Howard Mandel, Cliff Douse, William Schafer, John Wilson...


Classical, Rock, Blues, Jazz, Country and more. Flame Tree has been making encyclopaedias and guides about music for over 20 years. Now Flame Tree Pro brings together a huge canon of carefully curated information on genres, styles, artists and instruments. It's a perfect tool for study, and entertaining too, a great companion to our music books.

Rock, A Life Story

Rock, A Life Story

The ultimate story of a life of rock music, from the 1950s to the present day.

David Bowie

David Bowie

Fantastic new, unofficial biography covers his life, music, art and movies, with a sweep of incredible photographs.