It was 20 years ago today that Oak Cliff native Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a helicpoter crash after playing a show with Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, brother Jimmie and Robert Cray in front of 30,000 fans at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin. He was 35.
I first saw SRV in Nacogdoches at the Crossroads on North Street. He couldn't have been more than 16. He was skinny and short. But, there was nothing small about the way the kid played a guitar.
I was involved in a game of pool, about to make a shot, when Stevie Ray hit his first lick.
I nearly tore the felt off the table.
The last time I had heard a sound like that was at a Jimi Hendrix show. I dropped my cue and walked up close to the stage. I didn't move the rest of the night.
It wasn't just that the kid could play ... it was the soul that dripped off him during the music. The passion he had for the music and the blues, especially, was palpable. Everyone at the bar that night knew they had just experienced something very special.
Today's Dallas Morning News ran a great item on the anniversary, along with the fabulous photo posted here. The column talks about SRV's death and then uses some quotes from musicians and David Card, owner of Poor David's Pub.
"He played at Poor David's Pub on Lower Greenville circa 1989, once with Anson Funderburgh and another time with Smokin' Joe Kubek. He was in his sobriety back then. In fact, I had the honor of serving him a Coke. He was almost a legend when I started booking blues back in the late '70s. In '88, at a Benson & Hedges Blues Festival, I saw SRV sit in with B.B. King onstage at the outdoor venue now known as Superpages.com Center. Stevie and B.B. treated each other with great respect, and their licks were on par with one another. SRV gave no ground, because he was one of the best ever. He played with intensity, passion, precision and power. There are many SRV wannabes, but there was only one Stevie Ray Vaughan."
Luis (the News-Telegram's photographer) and I had a late lunch at Lou Viney's today.
We were the only ones in the place.
All of a sudden, Stevie Ray came blaring through the sound system.
Knowing it was the 20th anniversary of his death, I couldn't help myself – I gave him a shout out.
STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN, I yelled.
Imagine my embarrassment when I realized one of Lou Viney's owners, Nancy, was on the phone, trying to have a conversation.
Then, imagine how we laughed after Nancy hung up and came over to our table and said:
"I was just talking to a lady who wanted to use the back room for her book club," Nancy explained. "I told her it wasn't a private room and that we had music piped in there and couldn't shut it off. And then, just as I told her I couldn't guarantee that it would be quiet, you yelled 'STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN.' That was perfect timing."
I think SRV would have enjoyed that story.
Sail on, Sweet Stevie.
Here's a clip of SRV doing one of his signature tunes, "Texas Flood." Enjoy.
And here's a great clip of him doing "Lenny," 8:32 of pure blues.
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