When Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a 1990 helicopter crash, he was at the height of his powers. Newly sober and focused like never before, the Blues guitarist with the unbelievable tone was excited about the new music he’d never live to make. He was still in his stage-clothes when he passed, the echoes of a sold-out Alpine Valley crowd still ringing in his ears as the chopper crashed into a fog-enshrouded embankment. ‘Guitar Hurricane’ was suddenly no more. Across the planet, his fans clutched their CD’s, tapes and vinyl over the hole in their soul and marveled at the little Texan who could throw himself into a trance while the Gods played his Stratocaster. For a guy who yearned to be a grizzled old Blues Cat since he first learned to work the frets as a young teenager, dying in his early prime seemed crushingly unfair.
It didn’t take long for that brief but brilliant career to transcend into legend. Unreleased tracks were parsed out in album form, books were written, a comprehensive box set was assembled and a handful of live performances offered on DVD. To the serious fan like myself though, it was never enough. Unsatisfied by the trickle of posthumous merchandise made of available, many of us did something that would bring a smile to Stevie’s ugly mug: we studied his Masters. Albert King, Lonnie Mack, Buddy Guy and quite a few others moved many a new unit thanks to Stevie, who never missed an opportunity to cite his influences. Yet we fans still yearned for more of the man himself.
Which is why the advent of YouTube is so damn cool. Not just a repository for backyard fight scenes and other viral videos, the rapidly extrapolating site has become an archivist’s fantasy. Now with the click of a mouse, I can access more performances, interviews and homemade documentaries about the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan than I ever knew existed. Unimpressed? Fine, pick your favorite artist and do a YouTube search. But pack a lunch first - if you’re like me you’ll be there awhile, bolt-upright and agog at the breadth of your obsession. As for the legality of these on-line releases, much has yet to be worked out. Many will say their very availability robs my musical hero’s estate of profits earned. Perhaps, but something tells me the old rules of media distribution are as outdated as all those mid-80’s 'Guitar Gods' Stevie rendered so irrelevant when he still toured the Earth.
Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s an acoustic version of ‘Testify’ that deserves my undivided attention.