Stevie Ray Vaughan 23 Years Gone This Day: Still a Tragic Loss

This is a repost from 2012. The tragic loss of one of the greatest guitarist to ever grace us with his musical presence struck the rock world really hard. Especially under the circumstances of his death.

Read below Stevie’s life, music and legacy. And maybe go check out some really great music Stevie has released over the years. A great place to go is YouTube. And check out a music purchasing source (maybe iTunes) and look into buying some SRV music – if you haven’t already.

Stephen “Stevie” Ray Vaughan (October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990) was an American guitarist, singer-songwriter, and record producer. Often referred to by his initials SRV, Vaughan is best known as a founding member and leader of Double Trouble. Together with drummer Chris Layton and bassist Tommy Shannon, they ignited the blues revival of the 1980s. With a career spanning seven years, Vaughan and Double Trouble consistently sold out concerts while their albums frequently went gold.

Born and raised in DallasTexas as the younger brother of Jimmie Vaughan, Vaughan started playing the guitar at age seven and formed several bands that occasionally performed in local nightclubs. At age 17, he dropped out of high school and moved to Austin to further pursue his musical career, joining groups such as Krackerjack, the Nightcrawlers, and the Cobras. In 1977, he formed Triple Threat Revue, a band that eventually evolved into Double Trouble and regularly performed around Austin. In 1982, Vaughan and Double Trouble performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, catching the attention of musicians David Bowie and Jackson Browne. Bowie asked Vaughan to play on his upcoming studio album Let’s Dance, while Browne offered the band free use of his personal studio in Los Angeles to record an album.

In March 1983, Vaughan and Double Trouble were signed to Epic Records by veteran record producer John H. Hammond and released their debut album, Texas Flood in June of that year. After successful touring, the group released the albums, Couldn’t Stand the Weather (1984) and Soul to Soul (1985), the latter of which featured new keyboardist Reese Wynans. Although his career had progressed successfully, Vaughan checked into a rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta, Georgia to give up a cocaine and alcohol habit and returned to touring with the band. In June 1989, In Step was released and earned them a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Performance. On August 27, 1990, Vaughan was killed in a helicopter crash following a performance in East Troy, Wisconsin.

Vaughan’s unique eclectic yet intense style was derived from a variety of musical genres. He was influenced by blues musicians including Albert KingOtis Rush, and Muddy Waters, and rock guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix and Lonnie Mack, along with jazz instrumentalists like Kenny Burrell. He has received wide critical recognition for his guitar playing, ranking at #12 on Rolling Stones list of “100 Greatest Guitarists” in 2011. He was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2000 and a memorial statue was erected in Austin’s Auditorium Shores park.

DEATH:

img_1_prOn August 27, 1990, all of the musicians boarded four helicopters bound for Chicago, which were waiting on a nearby golf course. According to a witness, there was reportedly haze and fog of varying intensity with patches of low clouds. Despite the conditions, the pilots were instructed to fly over a 1000-foot ski hill. Vaughan, along with three members of Clapton’s entourage, boarded the third of the four helicopters–a Bell 206B Jet Ranger–flying to Meigs Field. At about 12:50 am (CDT), the helicopter departed from an elevation of about 850 feet, veered to the left and crashed into the hill. All of the passengers, including the pilot, Jeff Brown, were killed instantly.

At 4:30 am, Civil Air Patrol was notified of the accident, ultimately locating the crash site almost three hours later. Both Clapton and Jimmie were told to identify the bodies; a Coptic cross necklace, worn by Vaughan, was given to Jimmie. The Walworth County coroner conducted an autopsy and found that Vaughan suffered from multiple internal and skull injuries. The cause of death was officially stated as “exsanguination due to transverse laceration of the aorta“. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a veteran pilot for Alpine Valley suspected that Brown attempted to fly around the ski hill, but misjudged the location. Clapton issued a statement the next day, saying that the victims “were my companions, my associates and my friends. This is a tragic loss of some very special people. I will miss all of them very much.”

Vaughan’s memorial was held on August 30, 1990, at Laurel Land Cemetery in Dallas, where he was buried next to his father, and was preceded by a private chapel service for close friends and family. Reverend Barry Bailey of the United Methodist Church in Fort Worth, who was Vaughan’s AA sponsor, opened the service with personal thoughts: “We’re here to thank God for this man’s life. He was a genius, a superstar, a musician’s musician. He captured the hearts of thousands and thousands of people. I am thankful for the impact of this man’s influence on thousands of people in getting his own life together in the name of God.” Kim WilsonJeff HealeyCharlie SextonZZ TopColin James, and Buddy Guy attended the event. Stevie WonderJackson Browne, and Bonnie Raitt sang “Amazing Grace” at the event. Nile Rodgers gave a eulogy, while a member of the Nightcrawlers read chapters five and eleven from The Big Book, a self-help book by Alcoholics Anonymous. In 1995, the Vaughan family received an undisclosed settlement for wrongful death.

STEVIE’S LEGACY:

Stevie Ray Vaughan

Stevie Ray Vaughan (Photo credit: Travis S.)

In the months that followed his death, Vaughan sold over 5.5 million albums in the United States. On September 25, 1990, Epic releasedFamily Style, with several promotional singles and videos. In November 1990, CMV Enterprises released Pride and Joy, a collection of eight Double Trouble music videos. Sony signed a deal with the Vaughan estate to obtain control of his back catalog, as well as permission to release albums with previously unreleased material and new collections of released work. On October 29, 1991, The Sky Is Crying was released as Vaughan’s first posthumous album with Double Trouble, and featured studio recordings from 1984–1985. Other compilations, live albums, and films have also been released since his death.

On October 3, 1991, former Texas governor Ann Richards proclaimed “Stevie Ray Vaughan Commemoration Day”, during which a memorial concert was held at the Texas Theatre. In 1993, a memorial statue of Vaughan was unveiled on Auditorium Shores and is the first public monument of a musician in Austin. In September 1994, a Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial Run for Recovery was held in Dallas; the event was a benefit for the Ethel Daniels Foundation, established to help those in recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction who cannot afford treatment. In 2005, Martha Vaughan established the Stevie Ray Vaughan Scholarship, awarded by W.E. Greiner Middle School to students who intend to attend college and pursue the arts as a profession.