Stevie Ray Vaughan - 20 Years (Don Ward)

By: Don Ward
By: Don Ward

It's been a long time since we lost this legend.


Stevie took what Jimi did and made it his.

In the mid 1980's few guitarists had the acclaim of Texas Bluesmaster Stevie Ray Vaughan.  In the early 1990's we lost him.  It was a helicopter crash in Wisconsin, on August 27th, 1990.  He was just 35 years old when he died. It was 20 years ago last week.

Stevie Ray could make his worn old Fender Stratocaster scream, or sing, or sometimes even whisper.  Whatever that guitar did it was just right.  He would send his fingers flying in flurry..running one note into the next, hammering little riffs and runs into a long complicated stream of oh-so-perfect sound.  Then he'd lock one finger onto one fret and just bend and bend that string until it finally settled into the pitch he wanted to play...the note that finally resolved the discord created by all that bending.  Stevie Ray didn't just play his music, he felt it.  We all felt it too.  That's what blues does to us.  That's what he did to us.

I had a chance to see him three times.  I found a couple of the ticket stubs.  I saw him once at Red Rocks near Denver some time in the mid 1980's.  I remember being outside the amphitheater before the gates opened.  We could all hear the sound check. Even that was amazing. By the time we got inside for the real thing, and Stevie Rays' soaring, screaming guitar bounced off the rocks and into all of us, and through all of was beyond amazing.  You had to hear it to understand it.

Below is the stub from a Blues Festival at Red Rocks.  This was June 19th, 1985.  I still can't believe this was Stevie Ray Vaughan with Albert King and BB King!  Wow...was anyone else there that day?  Sorry the picture is a little blurry ..looks like it cost me all of  $15.00 to see that show. What would we pay now?

I saw him a third time in October of 1985 on campus at CU when I was a student there. How convenient was that?  I remember the sound didn't quite live up to Red Rocks, but the man who made the sound sure did!

If you want to hear a bluesman play something fun...listen to "Scuttle Buttin'"

If you want to hear a bluesman at his slow and low-down dirty best listen to "Texas Flood"

If you want to hear a bluesman pay ( and play) tribute to the man who inspired him listen to "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)"

Stevie Ray Vaughan followed in the fingerprints of Jimi Hendrix all up and down the neck of that worn out old Stratocaster.  It's a shame he followed in Jimi's footsteps too, by leaving too soon. 

Stevie took what Jimi did and made it his.

I was living and working on Oklahoma and a buddy and I talked about how we hadn't seen Stevie Ray Vaughan live in a long time.  We talked about going to Dallas to see his show there.  Things came up though, we were both busy, we never got around to getting tickets.  That was in the 1990.

We'll talk again soon.

Don Ward





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