Stevie Ray Vaughan

Members: Stevie Ray Vaughan

Active: 1983-1990


Stephen ("Stevie") Ray Vaughan (October 3, 1954-August 27, 1990), born in Dallas, Texas, was an American blues guitarist, credited with reviving interest in blues in the 1980's. His broad appeal made him one of America's most influential electric blues guitarists. He is often referred to by his initials, SRV.

Vaughan was born and raised in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, but dropped out of Kimball High School and moved to Austin to pursue music. Vaughan's talent caught the attentions of Johnny Winter, and blues-club owner Clifford Antone.

Vaughan's first recording band was Paul Ray and the Cobras. They played at clubs and bars in Austin during the mid-1970's, and released one 45 RPM single:

Other Days b/w Texas Clover (1975), Viper 30372.

Vaughan later recorded two other 45 RPM singles under the band name The Cobras, but he was the only original band member involved:

My Song b/w Rough Edges, The Cobras w/W.C. Clark (1979), Hole Records HR-1520

Blow Joe Blow (crazy 'bout a saxophone) b/w Sugaree The Cobras (1980), Armadillo Records ARS-79-1.

Following The Cobras breakup, he formed Triple Threat in late 1975. That band included bassist Jackie Newhouse, drummer Chris Layton, and vocalist Lou Ann Barton. Barton left the band in 1978 to pursue a solo career. The remaining members started performing under the name Double Trouble. The band name was inspired by an Otis Rush song of the same name, which was initially part of their live repetoire. Vaughan became the band's lead singer.

Tommy Shannon (bass player on Johnny Winter's early albums) replaced Newhouse in 1981. A popular Austin, Texas draw, Vaughan soon attracted attention from David Bowie and Jackson Browne, and played on albums with both. Bowie first caught Vaughan at the Montreux Jazz Festival where initially a few members of the audience, who disliked Double Trouble's hard blues sound, booed Vaughan during his first visit in 1982. At their next appearance in 1985, most of the crowd cheered the performance, as the "Live at Montreux" DVD reveals. David Bowie featured Vaughan on his Let's Dance album in the songs "Let's Dance", "Modern Love" and "China Girl".

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble's debut album was released in 1983. The critically acclaimed Texas Flood (produced by John Hammond) featured a top-20 hit "Pride and Joy" and sold an astonishing 500,000 copies (earning the band a Gold Record). The follow-up albums Couldn't Stand the Weather (1984) and Soul to Soul (1985) also 'went gold', but they did not receive as much critical acclaim as the debut album.

Drug addiction and alcoholism took a toll on Vaughan in the mid-1980s, and after suddenly vomiting blood while in Germany on tour, he managed to struggle through three more shows before entering a drug rehabilitation program in Atlanta, Georgia later that year. He recovered fully from his addictions and became a teetotaler, though he continued to smoke cigarettes.

Upon his return from rehab, Vaughan recorded In Step (1989), which is praised as his best work since Texas Flood. It won a Grammy award for Best Contemporary Blues Record. Stevie Ray Vaughan did a co-headline tour with Jeff Beck in 1989, Carlos Santana joined them on at least one occasion 12/3/89.


Vaughan's blues playing style was strongly influenced by Albert King, who dubbed himself Stevie's "godfather", and by other blues musicians such as Otis Rush and Buddy Guy. Stevie is recognized for his distinctive guitar sound, which was partly based on using heavy thirteen-gauge guitar strings. Vaughan's sound and playing style, which often features simultaneous lead and rhythm parts, also draws frequent comparisons to that of Jimi Hendrix; Vaughan covered several Hendrix tunes on his studio albums and in performance, such as "Little Wing", "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)", and "Third Stone from the Sun". He was also heavily influenced by Freddie King, another Texas great, mainly through the use of tone and attack. King's heavy vibrato can clearly be heard in Vaughan's playing. Another stylistic influence was Albert Collins. His right hand attack, by using his index finger was utilized extensively by SRV, snapping the string against the fretboard. Stevie's brother Jimmie Vaughan has stated that Johnny "Guitar" Watson was the guitarist he and Stevie studied the most. SRV preferred to make use of the tonal capabilities of his amps with very minimal effects, such as: Ibanez Tube Screamer, wah wah, octavias and occasionally a flanger/chorus. His use of volume was also a tool he applied, coaxing effects through the natural internal capabilities of his amps when overdriven.


Vaughan's comeback was cut short when, in the early morning of August 27, 1990, he died in a helicopter crash near East Troy, Wisconsin. After a concert at the Alpine Valley Music Theater, where earlier in the evening he appeared with Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton and his older brother Jimmie Vaughan, the musicians expected a long bus ride back to Chicago. Stevie was informed that three seats were open on one of the helicopters returning to Chicago with Clapton and his crew, enough for Stevie, Jimmie, and Jimmie's wife Connie. It turned out there was only one seat left, which Stevie requested from his brother; Jimmie obliged. Taking off into deep fog, the helicopter crashed moments later into a ski slope on the side of a hill within the Alpine Valley Resort. Vaughan, the pilot, and members of Clapton's crew (his agent, assistant tour manager, and a bodyguard) died on impact. No one realized that the crash had occurred until the helicopter failed to arrive in Chicago, and the wreckage was only found with the help of its locator beacon. The main cause of the crash was believed to have been pilot error.

After the news media got word of the helicopter crash, they stated that Stevie Ray Vaughan and his band had been killed in the crash. Chris Layton (Double Trouble's drummer) saw this on the news and had security let him into Stevie's motel room. Layton saw that the bed was made and the clock radio was playing the Eagles' song, 'Peaceful, Easy Feeling', which includes the lyrics "I may never see you again". Layton and Shannon then called their families to let them know they were okay.

Stevie Ray Vaughan is interred in the Laurel Land Memorial Park, Dallas, Texas.


duet album, Family Style, with his brother, Jimmie Vaughan (also a noted blues-rock guitarist and former member of The Fabulous Thunderbirds) was released in September 1990 after Stevie's death and was a popular hit. 1991's The Sky Is Crying was the first of several posthumous Vaughan releases with chart success. Jimmie Vaughan later co-wrote and recorded a song in tribute to his brother and other late blues guitarists, entitled "Six Strings Down". Mark Cole, former guitarist from Charge also wrote and recorded a tribute song to Jimi Hendrix and Vaughan titled Vaughandrix. Eric Johnson, another noted guitar hero from Austin, Texas, wrote a song entitled SRV in his Venus Isle album for Stevie Ray.

In 1991, Texas governor Ann Richards proclaimed October 3, Vaughan's birthday, to be "Stevie Ray Vaughan Day." An annual motorcycle ride and concert in Central Texas benefits the Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial Scholarship Fund.

In 1992, Fender released the Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature Stratocaster, a reproduction of his battered 1962 Fender Stratocaster which he had affectionately named "Number One" (and sometimes referred to as his "First Wife"), designed along with Stevie before his death. As of 2006, the model is still in production. It depicts "Number One" as it would have been brand-new in 1962, though when Stevie bought it in 1974 it was already badly weathered, as can be seen in several photographs of a young Vaughan. It also utilizes the black letter-script pick-guard, a polyurethane finish, Pau Ferro fretboard, and Stevie's initials on the pickguard. The Brazilian rosewood of Stevie's guitar was too expensive, and only about 50 SRV Signature models exist with the Brazilian rosewood instead of the pau ferro. While pau ferro does not look like Brazilian rosewood when new, it darkens with age. Some guitarists feel that a polyurethane finish lessens sustain, but it protects the guitar better and lasts longer than the nitrocellulose lacquer that Stevie's guitar had.

In 1994, Austin, Texas erected a Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial Statue at Auditorium Shores on Town Lake, the site of a number of Vaughan's concerts. It has become one of the city's most popular tourist attractions.

In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine named him number seven on their list of the "100 greatest guitarists of all time".

In 2004, Fender released the Stevie Ray Vaughan Tribute Model "Number One" Stratocaster Guitar, a direct replica of Stevie Ray Vaughan's primary guitar, also called "First Wife". A 1962 Stratocaster that oddly contained 1959-stamped pickups, it possessed a deep, dark growl of a tone that was immediately identifiable. Even though it used all "stock" Fender Strat parts, about the only "original equipment" parts it possessed by 1990 were the body and the pickups. Over the years, Stevie and Rene Martinez, his guitar tech, replaced the pickguard, tremolo, and neck.

The neck was damaged during a stage accident, and a spare was used from another of Stevie's Stratocasters. After he died, the original neck was put back on and the guitar was given to his brother. This is confirmed both by an interview with Jimmie Vaughan as well as pictures of Fender personnel dissecting the guitar to create 100 Custom Shop "Relic" reproductions in a Guitar World Magazine, as well as several other online sources.

Vaughan is one of the acts mentioned in the television version of You Know They Got a Hell of a Band, a Stephen King short story from his novel Nightmares and Dreamscapes. Vaughan's mentioning in the story is part of a more sinister plot where late rock and roll legends are set to play a concert that will go on forever.


There are many myths about Stevie's stage equipment but here are the facts as reported by his guitar technician Ren? Martinez, who worked with Stevie's equipment for many years and also went on to become guitar technician for Carlos Santana.

For guitars, Stevie used some acoustics and a Hamiltone Custom, but he mainly used Fender Stratocasters. His most famous was a Strat with a Brazilian rosewood "veneer" fingerboard; it had "1962" stamped on the neck and body, but "1959" written on the pickups. Unlike what was widely believed, he never used bass frets, but did use "jumbo" Dunlop 6105s. On this particular guitar, he also had a left-handed tremolo installed and was known as "Number One" or "First Wife", at least once being called "First Wife" in an interview with Stevie. It had a D-shaped thick neck that was perfect for his large hands and thick fingers. It was taken apart by Fender employees to make 100 exact copies, and these facts were verified as can be read in an issue of Guitar World magazine[citation needed]. The pickups were never overwound purposely, but were from a batch of pickups made at Fender in 1959 that had been mistakenly overwound, producing "Number One's" distinctive sound. This also puts to bed the rumor that it was buried with Stevie. Jimmie Vaughan, Stevie's older brother, has possession of all of Stevie's guitars, save for the only one released to the public, "Lenny". It was sold in the Eric Clapton guitar auction for more than $600,000.

"Lenny" was a 1963 maple-neck that was named after his wife, Lenora. It had a very bright, thin sound. Supposedly, Stevie found this guitar in a pawnshop, but couldn't afford to buy it. One of Stevie's roadies, Byron Barr, bought it and he and Lenora presented it to Stevie for his birthday in 1976. According to the story, Lenora was supposed to pay Byron for the guitar; she started a pool with her friends to collect the money, but it was Stevie who eventually settled the debt, with cash and a leather jacket. Its neck was originally a thin rosewood, but Stevie replaced it with a thicker non-Fender maple neck. "Lenny" can be seen and heard on "Live at the El Mocambo". He plays it at the end of the set, playing the song of the same name.

"Charley" was a Stratocaster built for him by the late Charley Wirz, a friend and owner of Charley's Guitars in Dallas, Texas. Three Danelectro "lipstick tubes" are the pickups, and it had a hardtail bridge.

"Red" was a 1964 with a lefty neck that let him emulate the sounds of Otis Rush and Jimi Hendrix. This setup was able to give Stevie not only the sound he wanted, but the feel that lacked from a right hand neck.

Vaughan also played a guitar made by deceased Minneapolis, Minn., luthier, Roger Benedict. A semi-hollow, Alder-built guitar called the "Groove Master" was a model of choice for Vaughan. It is a seafoam-green Stratocaster-shaped guitar with three lipstick pickups.

He used a Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face, many different Ibanez Tube Screamers (most notably the TS-808, but he also used a TS-9 for solos sometimes), Vox or Dunlop Cry Baby wahs (one of which was owned and used by Jimi Hendrix), and at one point a Univibe, though he usually used his rotating Leslie speaker cabinet.

His amps were a blonde '62 Fender Twin, a 100-watt Marshall JCM 800 half stack, a 150-watt Dumble Steel String Singer, two '64 Fender Vibroverbs (they are consecutively numbered: 5 and 6; Stevie was very proud of having obtained such low serial numbers). He also had a pair of 4x10 Fender Super Reverbs. At some venues he also had several Marshall full stacks for volume.


1983 - Texas Flood

1984 - Couldn't Stand the Weather

1985 - Soul to Soul

1989 - In Step

1990 - Family Style (with brother Jimmie Vaughan as "The Vaughan Brothers"

1991 - The Sky Is Crying (posthumous release)


1980 - In the Beginning

1983 - In Session (with Albert King

1984 - Live at Carnegie Hall

1985 & 1986 - Live Alive

1982 & 1985 - Live At Montreux


1995 - Greatest Hits

1995 - The Essential Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble

1999 - The Real Deal: Greatest Hits Volume 2

2000 - Blues at Sunrise

2000 - SRV (box set, with early recordings, rarities, hits, and live material)

2003 - Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues - Stevie Ray Vaughan

Share your thoughts

This form is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

0 Comments found