Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Stephen Ray Vaughan was born to Martha and Jimmie Lee Vaughan at Methodist Hospital in Dallas, Texas on October 3, 1954, three years after his brother, Jimmie Vaughan. Stevie's father, whose nickname became "Big Jim", was an asbestos worker whose job carried the family to cities across Texas. Wherever there was an opening, the family would pack up and move to another city.

The Vaughan family finally moved into a small house in Dallas. The tension in the home was high, however, as Big Jim had a temper when he drank alcohol.

Big Jim and Martha loved to dance to Western Swing, and it was the boys' first exposure to music. The Texas Playboys, a country band, would hang out at the Vaughans' house often, playing dominoes with Big Jim. The Playboys would bring alcoholic beverages to the house and Stevie would sneak sips when nobody was looking. This started him on his addiction to alcohol.

When Jimmie broke his shoulder playing football when he was 12, family friend Michael Quinn gave him his first guitar. Soon after, Stevie got one of his own: a plastic Roy Rogers toy guitar from Sears, with only three strings. Stevie recalls that it also came with a set of blankets.

The boys, uninterested in taking formal guitar lessons, taught themselves to play by listening to records by Jimi Hendrix, The Yardbirds, and The Beatles, that Jimmie brought home. The brothers were also drawn to blues music and taught themselves the guitar techniques of blues guitarists like Albert and B.B. King, Otis Rush, and Buddy Guy.

At the age of 15, Jimmie was the lead guitarist in a local cover band called The Chessmen, and played gigs all over Texas. One day when bandmate Doyle Bramhall came to pick up Jimmie for a gig, he saw young Stevie playing along to the song Jeff's Boogie by The Yardbirds. Bramhall became the first to tell Stevie Ray Vaughan that he was actually good.

Success and Fame

Texas Flood
The band sent the tapes to legendary talent scout, John Hammond, Sr., a veteran of the record business who discovered Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, and Bob Dylan. He got the band a major contract with Epic Records. The mixed and mastered tapes were morphed into an album called Texas Flood. On June 3, 1983, the album made it to #38 on the Billboard 200 charts, received positive reviews, and sold over 500,000 units. Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble were an overnight success. The band then embarked on a successful tour for the album.

Note: On March 3, 2009, Harmonix released Texas Flood in its entirety as downloadable content for the game Rock Band via Xbox Live. The Playstation Network was set to receive it on March 5, 2009.

Couldn't Stand the Weather
In mid-December 1983, the band took two weeks off to write material for a new album. They went to The Power Station in New York City to record in January 1984. The new album took two weeks to record, but finally finished and released the album as Couldn't Stand the Weather. They went on another successful tour and played many TV shows including Solid Gold and Rockpalast.

On October 4, 1984, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble played a show at Carnegie Hall in New York City to celebrate his 30th birthday. The whole eleven-piece band wore custom-tailored mariachi suits. The band rehearsed for two weeks to prepare for the show. After the show, MTV invited all the guests to a local club where the new TV network would throw an after-party.

With several more shows after Carnegie Hall, the band flew to Australia and played two sold-out shows at the Sydney Opera House. Then it was off to New Zealand, with a several concert halls and stadiums on the itinerary. While in New Zealand, Stevie received word that he won two W.C. Handy Blues Awards: one for Entertainer of the Year and one Instrumentalist of the Year. He was the first white person to win both awards. He was presented the awards on November 18, 1984, and played with B.B. King, Rufus Thomas, Robert Cray, and Albert King. The ceremony was held at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis on Beale Street.

Soul to Soul
By early 1985, Stevie's performance contract required a fifth of Scotch in his dressing room each night and his cocaine habit rose to 4 grams/day. He would dissolve the cocaine in a glass of Scotch or Crown Royal every morning as a morning pick-me-up. This ritual lasted for 9 years.

Stevie and Double Trouble went to the Dallas Sound Labs in March 1985. After a couple of weeks of trying to come up with new material, it became evident that Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble needed a stronger rhythm section. Desperate, he got in touch with, Reese Wynans, an ace keyboard player who was playing with Delbert McClinton at the time.

On April 10, 1985, Stevie Ray was asked to play The Star Spangled Banner on opening day at the Houston Astrodome. Unfortunately, he didn't get a good audience response, as he played his rendition with slide guitar work.

The new quartet finished the album in May 1985 and was named Soul to Soul. The album was released on September 30, 1985, but lacked the fire and bite of previous albums.

By 1986, the band was touring the world non-stop, sometimes sharing the bill with The Fabulous Thunderbirds--and Stevie's cocaine habit had risen to 7 grams a day. Both bands were on tour in New Zealand when Stevie saw a group of schoolgirls walking back to a nearby hotel. He homed in on one girl in particular: stunningly beautiful 17-year-old model Janna Lapidus. The olive-skinned brunette had fled from Russia with her parents when she was a child. Stevie took Janna with him on tour in Australia.

Live Alive
In mid-1986, Stevie and Double Trouble were ordered to record another album. As they didn't wish to do this, they decided to record a live album. They would simply record shows at the Austin Opera House and the Starfest in Dallas. This proved to be more difficult than they thought: many of the recordings were flooded with technical difficulties that needed touch-ups or errors that needed correction. The band started booking studio time to overdub drums or vocals.

Stevie's marriage to Lenny was also on the verge of collapse. His fame, fortune, success, and attention pushed her to the sidelines, and she reacted bitterly. One night after a long stretch on the road, he came home to find their house in Austin padlocked: the electricity was shut off and Lenny and their dog were gone. She had left with the money Stevie had been sending her frequently. This shocking discovery guaranteed that Stevie's alcohol and drug abuse would escalate.

Stevie moved to Los Angeles where he moved in with an old Austin acquaintance, Timothy Duckworth, who later became Stevie's personal assistant.

"Live Alive" was released on November 30, 1986.

On August 27, 1986, after years of suffering from Parkinson's disease, Stevie Ray's and Jimmie Lee's father, "Big Jim" Vaughan, died from heart failure. The boys rushed home to comfort their mother, but there was little time to mourn over the death of their father. Immediately after the funeral three days later, a jet rushed Stevie back on the road with Double Trouble.

A month later, on tour in Europe, Stevie's addictive lifestyle finally caught up with him. Drummer Chris Layton recalls being out in the street with Stevie when he suddenly dropped to his knees and acted confused, then began retching blood and bile. He said he needed a drink, but no drug stores were open. When Stevie had composed himself, the two walked back to their hotel in Ludwigshafen. Then Stevie began shaking, sweating and his eyes "were like the eyes of a dead animal." When the animation came back into his eyes, he sat up and quietly said, "I need help." Chris called an ambulance; the paramedics later described the trip to the hospital as a near death dehydration. Stevie was admitted under the care of Dr. Victor Bloom in London, the same doctor who helped Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend kick their addiction to heroin. Bloom monitored Stevie overnight to see his stomach reactions; it turned out that the whiskey was eating away his stomach lining, and the cocaine was crystallizing again and eating into his intestines.

After a failed attempt to get sober in London, Stevie asked his mother to fly the band to Atlanta, Georgia, where Stevie checked into Peachford Hospital, and Tommy checked into a hospital in Austin; both men spent a month in the Charter treatment program.

Stevie made a phone call to his wife Lenny, asking her to visit him in rehab, but she refused. In turn, he filed for a divorce which wasn't finalized until June 1988 due to a delay in an agreement between Stevie and Lenny.

By late 1986, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble went back on the road with confidence and energy as Stevie and Tommy now played clean and sober. On February 28, 1987, the band played MTV Mardi Gras in New Orleans with The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Stevie also made an appearance with B.B. King for an HBO special that was broadcast at the Ebony Showcase Theater in Los Angeles, California on April 15, 1987. It was a lineup that included B.B. King, Albert King, Eric Clapton, Paul Butterfield (who died only a few weeks later), Phil Collins, Gladys Knight, and Etta James.

Stevie Wonder hosted a TV special called "Characters", in which a number of musical guests came to perform his hits. Stevie Ray played with Wonder on "Superstition" and "Come Let Me Make Your Love Come Down" and was broadcast in April 1988.

Stevie wanted to help others recover and overcome their problems with alcohol or drugs, as during the song "Life Without You", he would often speak to the audience about recovering and being there for others when they need love. On the road, he would attend Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) meetings regularly, sharing the lessons of his ordeal.

In Step
By 1988, the band was ready to return to the recording studio. For the new record, they traveled to Memphis to record in Ardent Studios, a pro recording studio that has such clientele as ZZ Top, Tina Turner, and Led Zeppelin. Together, old friend Doyle Bramhall and Stevie began writing songs about walking the tightrope to recovery, including "Tightrope", "Wall of Denial", and "Crossfire". The album was named appropriately, "In Step", released on June 6, 1989. "Crossfire" reached the #1 position on the Mainstream Rock Charts. It was the only hit single that they ever had.

In the spring of 1990, Stevie and his brother recorded an album together, one that would feature the music they had grown up with. They recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis and was produced by Nile Rodgers. The brothers agreed to name it "Family Style". That summer, Stevie and Double Trouble went on tour with British soul singer Joe Cocker, touring places like Alaska and the Benson & Hedges Blues Festival.

To complete the summer portion of the "In Step" tour, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble played two shows on August 25 & 26 at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, WI. The shows also featured Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, and Robert Cray with The Memphis Horns.

After Double Trouble's set at the final show, Vaughan originally planned to return to Chicago by car. Bass player Tommy Shannon and keyboardist Reese Wynans had already departed. The venue was difficult to reach via highway and Vaughan wanted to get back to Chicago to talk to his girlfriend, model Janna Lapidus, who was staying with him at the time.

Tour manager Skip Rickert had hired helicopters from Omni Flights to circumvent congested highway traffic. Most of the seats had already been reserved, but one was available. Vaughan took it.

The helicopters departed at 12:44 a.m. in thick fog. Just past the landing zone was a 200-foot hill. Vaughan's helicopter was piloted by Jeffrey Browne, who was unfamiliar with the flight pattern for exiting the area. He guided the helicopter to about half of the altitude needed to clear the hill before crashing into it. The force of the impact scattered the aircraft over a 200-foot area. The coroner's report stated that Vaughan died of severe loss of blood due to a force-of-impact rupture of the aorta.

On August 31, 1990, funeral services were held for Vaughan in his hometown of Oak Cliff. Thousands of family members, friends, and musicians gathered to say goodbye. With brother Jimmie, mother Martha, and girlfriend Janna among the mourners were all three members of ZZ Top, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Wonder, and Jackson Browne. Vaughan was interred at Laurel Land Cemetery in Dallas, Texas.


Vaughan memorial at Lady Bird Lake, in Austin, Texas.September 1990 saw the release of Family Style.

The 1991 album The Sky Is Crying was the first of several posthumous Vaughan releases to achieve chart success. Jimmie Vaughan later co-wrote and recorded a song in tribute to his brother and other deceased blues guitarists, titled "Six Strings Down".

The 1991 album of Bonnie Raitt, Luck of the Draw, was dedicated to him.

Many other artists recorded songs in remembrance of Vaughan, including Eric Johnson, Tommy Emmanuel (the song Stevie's Blues), Buddy Guy and Steve Vai ("Jibboom" on the album The Ultra Zone, 1999) and guitarist Wayne Perkins ("Big Stratocaster", from the album Rambling Heart).

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, the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation released the Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature Stratocaster, which Vaughan had helped design. As of 2007, the model is still in production. In 2004, Fender also released a limited edition exact replica of "Number One".

Stevie Wonder included a song on his 1995 live album Natural Wonder titled "Stevie Ray Blues". On the album, Wonder refers to the song as "Stevie Ray Vaughan Blues".

Stephen King's short story "You Know They Got a Hell of a Band" concerns a small town called Rock and Roll Heaven that's populated by late rock musicians, one of whom is Vaughan.

In 1994, the city of Austin erected the Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial Statue at Auditorium Shores on Lady Bird Lake,(30°15′47.1774″N 97°45′2.4228″W / 30.263104833°N 97.750673°W / 30.263104833; -97.750673) the site of a number of Vaughan's concerts. It has become one of the city's most popular tourist attractions.

In 2000, Stevie Ray Vaughan was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

The last guitar that Vaughan played before his death is on display in the Hard Rock Cafe in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

In November 2007, Fender Musical Instruments Corporation released a second tribute to Vaughan, an exact replica of his second beloved guitar: Lenny. This guitar was given to him by his wife Lennora ("Lenny") on his 26th birthday and Vaughan was very fond of it. According to Fender, the original Lenny was a 1965 Strat that he saw in the window of a pawn shop that he was unable to afford. The guitar is sold with a strap, a case with Vaughan's name embroidered in the fabric lining, a number of brochures and memorabilia and a leather bound certificate of authenticity.

"A little over four years ago on June 24, 2004 Lenny was put up for auction and was sold to Guitar Center for $629,500. "

Also in November 2007, Sony BMG, Epic Records, and Legacy Records released the CD Stevie Ray Vaughan & Friends: Solos, Sessions & Encores.

Stevie Ray Vaughan became eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.

In 2008, residents voted to rename Dallas' Industrial Boulevard, with Vaughan's name being one of the finalists alongside Stanley Marcus, Eddie Bernice Johnson, and Cesar Chavez.

His music has been used in the popular rhythm-based video game series Guitar Hero, featuring Texas Flood and Pride And Joy. The entire Texas Flood album has also been released for download for Rock Band 2.

Personal life
Not much is known about Stevie's personal life. However, he did have several girlfriends in his early career, one of them being Lindi Bethel, the inspiration for "Pride and Joy."

Stevie married Lenora "Lenny" Bailey on December 23, 1979 between sets at the Rome Inn in Austin, TX. They divorced in 1988.

Stevie met model Janna Lapidus in New Zealand in March 1986. They remained a couple until his death.

He did not have any children.