Austin’s 7th Gift to the World: Stevie Ray Vaughan
It may be an easy answer, it may be cliché, and some may even argue that SRV was actually from Dallas, but I think there’s a good reason that he moved to Austin to pursue music. Austin is where he made his home, found his soul and honed his talents which would change the world of guitar playing forever. His contribution and influence is as large as any single milestone can be.
I still remember when Scott Eddy, a friend of my uncle’s, brought over a cassette of “Couldn’t Stand the Weather”. I was blown away. Luckily he left that cassette in our possession for a while so we could wear that thing out. To this day, Stevie’s version of “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” is one of the most powerful and purely passion filled recordings I’ve ever heard. It’s as if Stevie, Tommy and Chris melded together into one mythic beast made of fire, strings, drum sticks and vacuum tubes filled with souls, all bound together with a silver and turquoise belt and topped off with a black hat, and seared pure, raw soul and passion directly onto tape.
Their appearances on Austin City Limits* are among the best in the show’s history which is really saying something considering the amazing artists who have performed there. Stevie Ray and Double Trouble were integral in sparking a blues revival in the ’80s. He brought blues to a much wider audience and spread an appreciation to many people who might not have been big blues aficionados before.
I also remember sitting on the foot of my grandmother’s in shock as her television relayed the news that he had died in a helicopter crash. He was a huge influence on my own guitar playing and in fact you’d probably be hard pressed to find a guitar player who isn’t influenced by him at least a little. Not only did he have some of the most inspired and soulful playing of any guitarist in history, but he had the technical chops and technique to match.
To any non-guitar players out there who might want to try and get a better appreciation and understanding of Stevie Ray’s prowess, just try playing “Texas Flood” on “Guitar Hero” for the Playstation 2. It’s currently acting as a roadblock since I have not yet been able to get 5 stars on “Hard” difficulty. For a game called “Guitar Hero”, it couldn’t be more appropriate that Stevie Ray Vaughan would be the one to honorably stump me.
*Austin City Limits could easily be considered on its own as one of Austin’s gifts to the world. Just take a look at this list of performers who have appeared on the show to appreciate the scope of it’s prestige. The show eventually led to The Austin City Limits Music Festival which has now become another premium music smörgåsbord in town alongside SXSW. The popularity of the Festival has in turn led to renewed interest in the show.