My remembering Stevie Ray Vaughan

If I had had a blog on August 27, 1990, I probably would have written something at that time. There wasn’t even a real internet back then, so you’ll have to forgive the lateness of this post.

These days I mostly listen to rock music. I’m more likely to listen to indie acts like The Pixies or Spoon, but growing up listening mostly to 70′s and 80′s R&B – the road to listening to what I do now was a little circuitous. In the 80′s I had a few “gateway” artists that ambled me down this road: The Police, Peter Gabriel, Tears for Fears, and Crowded House to name a few; artists that would be acceptable to my more R&B focused ear, but that were definitely different. In the late 80′s while in college I discovered Stevie Ray Vaughan – and bought everything he had released in a two-month stretch. Probably started with “In Step” and then quickly got everything else, which wasn’t a lot. While I had heard Eric Clapton and Robert Cray, SRV was my first true blues artist. He hadn’t “crossed over”. Often cited as one of the all-time great guitarists, I had never heard anything like him.

To this day I remember hearing he had died by first hearing WMMR playing 2 or 3 of his songs in a row, and then Pierre Robert coming on the air with the horrible news. To this day if I hear an artist on the radio played for more than a couple songs in a row, I get chills. I had only been listening to SRV for 9 months at the time, and he had been a constant companion on the train to work and school, so it was insanely personal – the first celebrity I followed to pass away too soon; I’ve gotten too used to this now with both Elliott Smith and Jeff Buckley also passing away too soon. An alcoholic that had turned his life around (which he wrote about from both ends of the struggle), it seemed so unfair; I was crushed.

Over the years there have been far more SRV albums released after his death than during (only four studio CDs). I’ve purchased only three of these, and they’re all musts – In the Beginning (an early live recording), The Sky is Crying (must have collection of b-sides and rarities that has some of my favorite SRV songs on it), and Family Style (an album that he recorded with his brother Jimmie Vaughan that was released a month or so after his death). A man that toured all the time and that did a lot of guest work, there is a lot of stuff out there, most of it superfluous.

Stevie Ray has pretty much disappeared from my listening. iPods will do that to you – limiting you to what’s on your computer, I hadn’t ripped any of his CDs, and so they sat in my attic unloved until this week. Nissan recently did a commercial using one of his great songs “Pride & Joy” and I finally decided to rip those CDs. He’s as good as I remembered. Doesn’t really fit in with what I listen to now – but there is something so unassuming and straightforward about his work; it was satisfying to listen to everything while cleaning this past Friday (of course playing air guitar and singing along). If you’re interested, I put together an iMix of what I’ve listed as the best Stevie Ray Vaughan songs.

(The image below will open in iTunes. )icon

  • http://www.merujo.com Merujo

    I remember very clearly when he died – I was in London, on a long weekend trip with two friends from the Embassy in Moscow – one was my best friend from second grade on up (yeah, believe it or not, we both became Soviet historians) and the other, a new friend from Texas, just met in Moscow. I was scanning a newspaper over breakfast our first morning in England and said, “Wow. Stevie Ray Vaughn died.” And our Texas friend burst into tears – we had no idea he was a close family friend of hers. She started making phone calls to see if she could fly home for the funeral, but because of our restrictive contracts back in Moscow, it wasn’t possible.

    Remarkably, since two of my sisters were big fans, I was completely unfamiliar with SRV’s music. I tried to pick up a couple of his CDs while we were in London, but – unsurprisingly – people had swept up his CDs in the aftermath of his death. Thanks for the iMix list. I will have to see what our library has and reserve some CDs this week.

  • Spencer

    Wow – I swear Merujo – you should write a memoir – and this story probably wouldn’t make it. Of course, these days memoirs don’t need to be true – so you have no excuse ;)

  • http://soul-to-soul.com Susie

    Just traveled to Austin, I am a huge fan, and remember where I was and that was a sad day. Don’t let him disappear from your ipod.. each and every lick that man plays will bring power to your own soul!

  • justus howley

    you make some interesting points above, i generally wont listen to SRV if its something ive heard a thousand times before (anyting on his austin city limits videos, anything off of his 5 studio albums, etc.,), now i just wait to hear a new, live, semi-decent copy of any of his stuff….doesnt matter what it is.

    i, unlike others, dont think he wasnt totaly awful during that ‘Live Alive’ period of 85 and 86, when apparently he was going thro his worst bouts of alcohilism, drug add, and depression. no one would ever accuse him of being awful, i take that back, but it wasnt the stevie we saw early at krackerjacks in austin in 73 or the stevie we saw bringing down mardi gras with bb king in 88, too many variables with influence.. point is, alot of the music of the albums that came out around then (look at little sister, say what, mary had) were pretty incredible, and i dont think should be written off, just beacuse he was not the guy we saw before he died.

    theres no doubt in my mind that he was at his best when he got clean, you can hear it his playing, not only when hes doing solo, but when hes on rhythym and using less distortion to mask hiccups. i know he sawed at the guitar, but he was the cleanest iver ever seen. and so inspirational at the end. this ner jersey boy will forever be a believer in not only what he did, but the path that he carved for others.

    will never forget the first time i heard the montreaux disc, epic. if ur lookin foer something good to listen to to start from finish, through in the first montreaux disc, itll light a fire, i promise.

  • http://www.stevierayvaughan.org Stevie Ray Vaughan

    Great post about SRV. :)

  • Justus howley

    For all the SRV faithful out there, go to panicstream.com and listen to the latest stream on the site for SRV …..from the Gorge in Washington, 7/21/1990. Pure magic only 19 days before we lost him….we know your resting in peace Stevie.