15 years ago today, Stevie Ray Vaughan died when the helicopter he was in crashed into a fog-enshrouded embankment outside Alpine Valley, Wisconsin. With this unceremonious collision, an undeniable giant in the field of American music was forever silenced. When I heard the news that terrible day I cried like a baby, even though I was already twenty-three years old.
You see, back in the 1980's, when Boy George, Thompson Twins and Duran Duran were filling the airwaves with the frilly sounds of a slick new British invasion, Stevie Ray was busy re-writing the electric Blues guitar. He did so because he knew how to do nothing else, he lacked good looks, sound judgment or a musical pedigree. But what Stevie had in spades was TONE, that indefinable aural quality that most guitarists would sell their souls to possess.
Aside from his incredible virtuosity, Stevie Ray was known for his love of the Masters. Once he obtained worldwide fame, he took every opportunity to cite his influences. As a result he helped revive the career of many a forgotten Blues cat. Just ask Lonnie Mack, Albert King, Buddy Guy or the scores of other musicians whose work I wouldn’t own had it not been for the scrawny little force of nature known as ‘Guitar Hurricane’.
So do me a favor, if you like SRV, listen to his music today. I do, EVERYDAY - for something about this American original, this gee-tar impresario, this ugly little cat from Texas with the blistering chops speaks to me like no other musical artist on the planet. Stevie Ray Vaughan died on August 27th, 1990, but his signature sound will live on forever in the hearts and souls of millions of fiercely loyal fans. Books have been written, tribute albums recorded, and movie rights secured, but nothing has ever come close to replicating the magical abilities or the troubled genius of the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan.