Early life Vaughan was born at 10:13 am on October 3, 1954 in Dallas, Texas and was raised in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, Texas. Neither of his parents had any strong musical talent but were avid music fans. They would take Vaughan and his older brother Jimmie to concerts to see Fats Domino, Jimmy Reed, and Bob Wills. Even though Vaughan initially wanted to play the drums as his primary instrument, Michael Quinn gave him a guitar when he was eight years old. Vaughan's brother, Jimmie Vaughan, gave him his first guitar lessons. Vaughan later quoted in Guitar Player Magazine as saying, "My brother Jimmie actually was one of the biggest influences on my playing. He really was the reason why I started to play, watching him and seeing what could be done". After his brother showed him a few basic chords, Vaughan taught himself to play. He played entirely by ear and never learned how to read sheet music. By the time he was 13 years old he was playing in clubs where he met many of his blues idols. A few years later he dropped out of Justin F. Kimball High School and moved to Austin to pursue music. Vaughan's talent caught the attention of guitarist Johnny Winter, and blues-club owner Clifford Antone.
Adult Life and Career Vaughan's first recording band was called Paul Ray and the Cobras. They played at clubs and bars in Austin during the mid-1970s, and released one single. Vaughan later recorded two other singles under the band name The Cobras. Following the break-up of The Cobras, he formed Triple Threat in late 1975, which included bassist Jackie Newhouse, drummer Chris Layton, vocalist Lou Ann Barton, and sax player Johnny Reno. Barton left the band in 1978 to pursue a solo career, followed by Reno in 1979. The three remaining members started performing under the name Double Trouble, inspired by an Otis Rush song of the same name. Vaughan became the band's lead singer. Tommy Shannon, the bass player on Johnny Winter's early albums, replaced Newhouse in 1981. A popular Austin act, Vaughan soon attracted the attention of musicians David Bowie and Jackson Browne. Both Browne and Bowie first caught Vaughan at the 1982 Montreux Jazz Festival, where some members of the audience booed the band, because they disliked Double Trouble's hard blues sound. Nonetheless, the crowd response was quite different when they were invited to headline "Blues Night" at the festival again in 1985. In November, 1982, Vaughan recorded in Jackson Browne's studio in downtown Los Angeles. The recordings were brought to the attention of A&R man, John Hammond and became Texas Flood. Later, Bowie then featured Vaughan on his 1983 album Let's Dance. Vaughan was even asked to go on tour with Bowie, but declined so he could continue to play with Double Trouble. The band's critically acclaimed first album, Texas Flood (1983), produced by John Hammond, featured the top-20 hit "Pride and Joy" and sold 500,000 copies, earning the band a Gold Record. As well as this the album was nominated for a Grammy and Rude Mood was nominated for best rock instrumental. Vaughan won three categories in the Guitar Player's Readers Poll: "Best New Talent", "Best Blues Album", and "Best Electric Blues Guitarist" (beating out none other than Eric Clapton). He became only the second guitarist in history to win three Guitar Player awards in one year (the first is Jeff Beck). Stevie won the "Best Electric Blues Guitarist" award every year until 1991. The band's next album, Couldn't Stand the Weather, was recorded in January 1984. During the summer of 1984, Vaughan and Double Trouble appeared on numerous TV shows, including Rockpalast, Much Music, and Solid Gold. During the Grammy awards of 1984 Stevie, along with George Thorogood presented Chuck Berry with a lifetime achievement award. "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" from Couldn't Stand The Weather was nominated for "Best Rock Instrumental Performance". These bookings were preparing the band for a night at Carnegie Hall in New York City on October 4, 1984. The show featured 1 Double Trouble "set", and the other with guests Dr. John on keyboards, George Rains on drums, Jimmie Vaughan on guitar, Roomful of Blues Horns, and singer Angela Strehli. The group rehearsed in September 1984 at the Caravan of Dreams in Fort Worth, Texas. In November, Stevie won two W.C. Handy National Blues Awards: "Entertainer of the Year" and "Blues Instrumentalist of the Year." It was the first time a white person won either award. During this time, he also began recording with Lonnie Mack to produce the album Strike Like Lightning. In late January 1985, the band went on a 6-night Japanese tour with various interviews and performances. Stevie and his wife, Lenny, also took a vacation to the Virgin Islands the next month. In March, the band started to produce their third album Soul to Soul. Reese Wynans, a former keyboardist of Delbert McClinton's band, was added to the band not long after. With the addition of Reese the title of the band was changed to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Serious Trouble, however no album was released under this modified title. The album's production lasted for two months. On April 10, Stevie plays "The Star Spangled Banner" for opening day of the National League baseball season at the Houston Astrodome, but supposedly, he didn't get a good audience response. After the show, Stevie asked for an endorsement from Mickey Mantle, a former baseball player of the New York Yankees. Soul to Soul was released on September 30, 1985. Stevie receives his fifth Grammy nomination: "Best Rock Instrumental Performance" for "Say What!". In the following months of 1986, Stevie and Double Trouble went on tour in New Zealand. It was around this time that Stevie met Janna Lapidus, a touring model in New Zealand. On August 27, 1986, the Vaughan brothers' father, Big Jim, passed away of heart failure. The boys rushed home to comfort their mother, but yet little time to mourn. A funeral was arranged two days later. After the funeral was finished, a jet rushed Stevie to Montreal, Quebec, where Stevie played the Miller Beer Festival in Jerry Park. Drug addiction and alcoholism took a toll on Vaughan in mid-1986. Cocaine and Crown Royal whiskey were among his addictions. After becoming acutely ill in Germany while on tour, Vaughan managed to struggle through three more shows (one of those shows was recorded and released by the name Live alive)and was finally admitted into a hospital in London. Dr. Victor Bloom, who has helped Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend with their addictions, told Stevie he was a month away from dying. After a struggle to get sober in London, he then flew to Atlanta, Georgia to a rehabilitation center. He eventually recovered fully from his addictions and became a teetotaler. Upon his return from rehab, Vaughan did a number of works with other artists including Dick Dale (making a cameo appearance as himself performing a duet of "Pipeline" in the movie Back To The Beach which was then released as a single), Jennifer Warnes, and Stevie Wonder (playing "Superstition" on the MTV special "Stevie Wonder's Characters"). In 1988, Vaughan continued to tour with Double Trouble throughout Scandinavia. Vaughan and Double Trouble recorded In Step in February 1989, which was their fourth studio album and is praised by some as the band's best work since Texas Flood. The album won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album. Vaughan shared a headline tour with guitarist Jeff Beck in the fall of 1989. In his beloved Austin, the city he made the "Live Music Capital of the World", Stevie Ray was presented with a proclamation from the mayor declaring November 26, 1989 Stevie Ray Vaughan Day. On January 3, 1990, Vaughan gave an AA speech and addressed the Aquarius Chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous. On January 30, 1990, Vaughan made his first appearance on MTV Unplugged, sharing the stage with Joe Satriani. Stevie spoke two years earlier about wanting to help produce an album with his brother, Jimmie Vaughan. That time came in March 1990 when the Vaughan Brothers went to work at the Dallas Sound Labs in Dallas, Texas, the same studio used to record Soul to Soul. Around this time, Stevie spoke of singing beginning to hurt him with a condition he liked to call "hamburger throat". He had acupuncture done to his neck, but had to take cortisone shots to relieve the pain, which made his face puff up.
Death On August 25, 1990, Vaughan and Double Trouble finished up the summer leg of the tour with shows at Alpine Valley Music Theatre, just outside of East Troy, Wisconsin. The show also featured Robert Cray and his Memphis Horns along with Eric Clapton's set. Alex Hodges, Double Trouble's tour manager, arranged flight by helicopter with Omni Flights. The next morning on August 26, 1990, Vaughan had what he described as a "horrible" nightmare. He dreamt that he was at his own funeral and saw thousands of mourners. He felt "terrified, yet almost peaceful". He shared this story with his bandmates and some trusted crew members. The band played that night, as bass player Tommy Shannon hopped a helicopter already back to Chicago.Citation needed Eric Clapton played his set next. At the end of the show, as fog settled over the audience in the arena, Clapton introduced Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray, Robert Cray, and Jimmie Vaughan. The musicians chose the appropriate titled "Sweet Home Chicago", a blues classic written by Robert Johnson. After the 15-minute jam, the lights went up and the musicians went backstage to trade compliments. Clapton and Vaughan talked about future dates in London to pay a tribute to Jimi Hendrix. Double Trouble drummer, Chris Layton, recalls his last conversation with Vaughan backstage. He then remembers Vaughan saying he had to call his girlfriend, Janna Lapidus, back in Chicago. He headed out the door to the helicopters. The musicians expected a long bus ride back to Chicago. Vaughan was informed by a member of Clapton's crew that three seats were open on one of the helicopters returning to Chicago with Clapton's crew, enough for Vaughan, Jimmie Vaughan, and Jimmie Vaughan's wife Connie. It turned out there was only one seat left, which Stevie Ray Vaughan requested from his brother, who obliged. Stevie strapped himself next to Clapton's crew. It was 12:44 am. Pilot Jeffrey Browne guided the copter off the ground as the lights flashed below. Seconds later, the pilot banked the copter into a 300-foot high hill with the twisted metal scattered over an area of 200 square feet. All on board were killed instantly. 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 be pilot error. Chris Layton, Jimmie and his wife were waiting for their copter so they could leave. However they hadn't found out about the news until they returned to the motel in Chicago. The next morning Stevie Ray Vaughan's brother Jimmie and good friend Eric Clapton were called to identify the bodies. The media initially reported that Vaughan and his band had been killed in the crash. Chris Layton saw this on the news and had security let him into Vaughan'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.
Musical influences and style Vaughan's blues style was strongly influenced by many blues guitarists. Foremost among them were Albert King, who dubbed himself Stevie's "godfather", Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, and Jimi Hendrix. The song "Rude Mood" is a direct influence (according to SRV himself) on a Lightnin' Hopkins tune called "Lightning Sky Hop". He was also strongly influenced by Lonnie Mack. Stevie Ray Vaughan, who had idolized Mack since childhood, produced Mack's widely-acclaimed and commercially successful come-back album "Strike Like Lightning" in 1984. Vaughan is recognized for his distinctive guitar sound, which was partly based on using heavy guitar strings (anything from thirteen-gauge to 16-gauge) that he tuned down half-step. Vaughan's sound and playing style, which often incorporated simultaneous lead and rhythm parts, drew frequent comparisons to 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 bluesman, mainly in the use of tone and attack; King's heavy vibrato can clearly be heard in Vaughan's playing. Another stylistic influence was Albert Collins. By utilizing his index finger as a pick a la Albert Collins, he was able to coax various tonal nuances from his amps Vaughan preferred to make use of the immediate tonal capabilities of his guitar amplifiers, adding few effects. His effects in the mid-80's included the Ibanez Tube Screamer, a Vox wah-wah pedal, and a MXR Loop Selector. Vaughan was also well known for using the Fender Vibratone speaker cabinet. He acquired one in January 1984 and used about 3 of these throughout his career until his death. Despite rumors, Vaughan never used a real Leslie speaker in his career. Stevie also had a Boss DC-2 Dimension C chorus stompbox for a warbly, bright chorus effect. He also used loud volumes for dynamic, coaxing effects from the natural overdriven performance of his amplifiers.
Vaughan's guitars and musical equipment Stevie Ray's main guitars were Fender Stratocasters. His most famous was a sunburst 1962 Strat with a Brazilian rosewood veneer fingerboard fretted with Dunlop 6100 Jumbo fretwire; it had 1962 stamped on the neck, 1962 stamped on the body, but 1959 written on the pickups leading Vaughan to mistakenly believe it was assembled in 1962 from 1959 parts. On this particular guitar, he also had a left-handed tremolo installed. In 1980, Stevie needed a new tremolo due to repairs to the guitar, but could only find a lefty. He had it installed, most likely due to Jimi Hendrix's influence on his playing style. This guitar was known as Number One. It had a D-shaped thick neck that was perfect for his large hands and thick fingers. It possessed a deep, dark growl of a tone that was immediately identifiable. The guitar also had a prismatic sticker just below the bridge with the word "Custom" in script letters. This sticker was given to Vaughan soon after he bought it in 1973. It should be noted, Vaughan was given this guitar, known as Number One, as a gift by notable guitarist, Austinite and music shop owner Ray Henning, of Ray Henning's Heart of Texas Music. Vaughan also had some custom-made stick-on plastic letters reading "SRV" on one of the body cavities. Even though Number One used all stock Fender Strat parts, about the only original parts it possessed by 1990 were the body and the pickups. Over the years, Vaughan and Rene Martinez, his guitar tech, replaced the pickguard, tremolo, and neck. The guitar was meticulously examined by Fender Custom Shop workers to gather specifications for a run of 100 exact copies in early 2004. The pickups were never overwound purposely, but were from a batch of pickups made at Fender in 1959 that had been overwound by mistake, producing Number One's distinctive sound. The neck was damaged during a stage accident, and a spare was used from another of Vaughan's Stratocasters. After he died, the original neck was put back on and the guitar was given to his brother. The actual Stevie Ray Vaughan signature model (first introduced in 1992) is modeled after SRV's original guitar. This American-made Artist Signature Strat features an early ’60s “oval” neck shape, pao ferro fingerboard with 21 jumbo frets, three Fender Texas Special single-coil pickups, gold-plated hardware, inverted left-hand vintage tremolo unit and distinctive “SRV” pickguard. Few rare examples made during the first year of production were available with a Brazilian rosewood neck. Lenny was a 1964 maple-neck that was named after his wife, Lenora. It had a very bright, thin sound. Supposedly, Vaughan found this guitar in a pawnshop, but couldn't afford to buy it. One of Vaughan's roadies, Byron Barr, bought it and he and Lenora presented it to Vaughan for his birthday in 1976. According to the story, Lenora was supposed to pay Byron for the guitar; she started a pool party with her friends to collect the money, but it was Vaughan who eventually settled the debt, with cash and a leather jacket. Its neck was originally a thin rosewood, but Vaughan replaced it with a thicker non-Fender maple neck. Lenny can be seen and heard on "Live at the El Mocambo". He played it sometimes at the end of the set during the encore, playing the song of the same name, Lenny. Vaughan also used the guitar during the song "Riviera Paradise", this can also be seen and heard on the DVD "Live From Austin Texas". After Stevie's divorce from his wife and the meeting of the new love in his life, Janna Lapidus, he started calling this guitar "Scotch". Despite other information from various sources, this shouldn't be confused with the butter-colored guitar, as described below. The 1961 butter-colored Strat was bought by Stevie in the fall of 1985. He gave away another guitar and bought this piece. It was all stock except for the tiger-striped pickguard, made by Rene Martinez. He usually used this guitar on the song "Leave My Girl Alone". Charley was a custom-made Stratocaster built for him by the late Charley Wirz, a friend and owner of Charley's Guitar Shop in Dallas, Texas. It was made for Stevie in late 1983, but had a neck plate with the engravement "More In '84". It had three Danelectro lipstick tubes and it had a hardtail bridge. The guitar was also rewired with 1 tone knob and 1 volume. This guitar was said by Stevie to have a lot of "bite" in the guitar's tone. Red was a 1962 Strat bought in late 1983 at Charley's Guitar Shop. The finish was originally sunburst, but was repainted fiesta red. In 1986, a left-handed neck was installed on this guitar to emulate the sound and feel of Jimi Hendrix. Main was a custom-made Hamiltone Strat given to Vaughan as a gift from Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top on April 29, 1984. The guitar was originally supposed to be made in 1979 with "Stevie Vaughan" inlayed with mother-of-pearl in the fingerboard. The plan was crushed when Vaughan started using his middle name. It had cream-colored plastic binding around the body and neck. It was also constructed of 2-piece maple wood and originally had white EMG pickups, an onboard preamp, and Gibson-style "bell" knobs. For the making of the Couldn't Stand The Weather music video, Vaughan used Main instead of Number One. He said that he didn't want to ruin the circuitry in his "first wife" and didn't like the tone in "Main". Byron Barr, Vaughan's guitar tech at the time, rewired it with a standard Strat system. The guitar also had a jazzy and jangly-type tone. Butter was the original yellow Strat originally owned by Vince Martell of Vanilla Fudge. It was Vince who donated it to Charley's Guitar Shop. They painted it yellow and Stevie bought it in 1981. It had a 'swimmingpool' route for four humbuckers. Despite this, it only had a neck single-coil pickup, controlled by one volume knob and one tone knob. The guitar was stolen from him in 1985 and never recovered. Vaughan also played a guitar made by deceased Minneapolis, MN, 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. Stevie and Jimmie owned and played a custom Stratocaster-shaped double-neck guitar named "Family Guitar", built by Robin Guitars of Houston, Texas. This guitar had two maple necks, each with a different scale length and a pointy "drooped"-style reversed headstock with locking machine heads and was equipped with Rio Grande single-coil pickups. The latter is tuned an octave higher than a standard guitar, producing a sharper sound similar to that of a mandolin. Both have also occasionally used a Danelectro guitar/bass double-neck with lipstick pickups during various live performances worldwide. In total, Vaughan owned 34 guitars throughout his career. Jimmie Vaughan has possession of all of his brother'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. Around early 1985, his pedal board consisted of a Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer, MXR Loop Selector, Vox Wah-Wah, and the Fender Vibratone's footswitch. His amps around this time were 2 black-face Fender Vibroverbs, Fender Vibratone, a black-face Super Reverb, a blackface and silverface Twin Reverb. In a recent publication of Guitar World, they revealed a Soldano SLO-100 amp head that Vaughan commissioned before he died.