Home' Rhythms Magazine : 2018 Jan-Feb Contents 16 Rhythms
the 1983 release of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance album
was significant for the unexpected participation of the
studio band’s lead guitarist, 29-year-old stevie ray
vaughan, an unknown musician from austin, texas who
would, in the following 12 months, inspire a blues-rock
revival that has endured to this day.
The passion, power and drive that Bowie obviously saw
in his playing had already earned the young musician
legendary status among audiences who’d followed him from
one bar to another in Austin over the preceding decade.
His deep devotion to the blues and his incredible talent
would elevate Stevie’s name to the highest rung of the
blues ladder to sit comfortably among his mentors and
inspirations: BB King, Buddy Guy, Albert King, Hubert
Sumlin, Freddie King, Muddy Waters, Albert Collins,
Elmore James, Lonnie Mack, Jimi Hendrix.
What made Stevie so special was an ability to immerse
himself in the work of these guitar greats and countless
other gifted musicians from whom he would borrow and
incorporate the best of what he heard then add his own
Stevie also tapped into the spirituality of the blues. He
possessed a deep understanding of its emotional power, the
indeterminable ‘feel’ that would reveal itself in his guitar
playing and the lyrics he sang.
His earliest influence was his older brother Jimmie (later to
found The Fabulous Thunderbirds), who played in various
blues and R&B bands around Dallas, Texas where the
Vaughan family lived. Stevie left school to follow Jimmie to
Austin, where he joined Paul Ray & The Cobras and learned
to play guitar behind his back, with his teeth, even laying it
on the floor and tapping it with his feet.
In 1977, Stevie formed The Triple Threat Review, renaming
them Double Trouble in 1980. With drummer Chris Layton
and bass guitarist Jackie Newhouse (later replaced by
Tommy Shannon), the group debuted at a club in Austin.
This performance would be released on the 1992 album In
The Beginning by Stevie Vaughan & Double Trouble.
The series of events that followed proved to be life
changing for Stevie.
A tape of a performance at an Austin music festival
somehow wound up in the hands of Mick Jagger, who
offered to fly Stevie and Double Trouble to New York to
play a private party for The Rolling Stones. Word on the
street was that a guitar player from Austin Texas, unknown
outside his home state, had taken his first steps toward
Famed record producer Jerry Wexler heard the jungle
drums and after seeing the band perform contacted Claude
Nobs, long time director of the prestigious Montreux Jazz
Festival, urging him to include Stevie Ray Vaughan &
Double Trouble in the lineup for the 1982 festival.
The band became the first unsigned and unrecorded act to
perform at Montreux.
Despite a powerful performance, they did not go over all
that well with some of the crowd booing.
Two members of the audience not booing were Bowie,
who asked Stevie to play on his Let’s Dance album, and
Jackson Browne, who offered the band free studio time at
his Downtown Studios in Los Angeles. In that studio in less
than 48 hours, the tracks for the band’s first official release,
Texas Flood, were recorded.
The tapes were presented to legendary talent scout and
recording executive John Hammond who signed them to
Texas Flood consisted of road-tested songs like the title
track (a slow blues originally recorded in the early ‘80s by
Houston bluesman Larry Davis), Stevie’s rocking ‘Rude
Mood’ (a salute to Lightnin’ Hopkins), ‘Testify’ (written by
George Clinton and recorded by The Isley Brothers), and
Buddy Guy’s ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’.
As great as these performances are Stevie had left the best
The album’s closing track ‘Lenny’, a five-minute
instrumental written for his wife Lenora (Lenny) Bailey, is
one of the most beautiful pieces of rock guitar ever recorded
a soulful, melodic love song that doesn’t need words to
convey its message.
Stevie would release only three subsequent studio albums
prior to his death in a helicopter crash on August 27, 1990 at
the age of 35.
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