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Music, as they say, is the thing that connects all of us; a spiritual fabric that binds us all together. It channels its power through a few chosen people and Stevie Ray Vaughan was one of the chosen.
Until his very last breath, Ray gave himself completely to music. He was a man who could do it all – sing, write and produce. His life work bore the resurgence of the blues genre in the 80s.
Stevie Ray Vaughan Bio
Stevie was born on October 3, 1954, in Dallas, Texas to Jim Vaughan who was a former United States Navy Officer who served in World War II. His mother was Martha Cook, she and Jim got married on January 13, 1950, to give birth to Stevie.
Like most people who end up spending their lives bringing joy to the heart of many, Stevie did not have a rosy childhood. As a blue-collar worker, Stevie’s father and his family never lived too long in one place, they moved around while trying to be closer to wherever the next paycheck is coming from. His father’s economic struggles compounded his alcohol problems and resulted in a rather difficult childhood for Stevie, who ended up growing insecure due to the emotional abuse inflicted on him by his father.
Stevie Ray Vaughan had a big admiration for his older brother, Jimmie. It was his admiration for his brother that resulted in him trying different instruments like drums and the saxophone. In 1961, Vaughan for his seventh birthday, received his first guitar, a toy that only nurtured his interest in making music.
When you have been chosen as a musical priest, a lack of formal learning does not stop your development process. Stevie, who had found his passion in the strings of a guitar took it upon himself to learn more about the art with nothing but his ears and the constant replays of music by the Nightcaps like ‘Thunderbird’ and ‘Wine, wine, wine’. When he was given his first personal real guitar by his brother, Stevie was already almost a proficient guitar player.
Stevie’s first band was the Chantones, which he joined shortly after getting his first guitar. Vaughan did not stay long with the band as he soon joined his second band, the Brooklyn Underground. When his older brother Jimmie left home at age sixteen, Vaughan’s obsession with the guitar did not attract support from his parents. He went and took a job as a busboy for a local hamburger stand to survive. Sometimes, it takes one bad moment for a man to seize the time and follow his passion. For Stevie, that moment was when he fell into a barrel of grease. He quit the job and decided to devote his life to a music career.
Once he set himself on the path completely devoted to music, he started to realize his potential. Stevie’s dexterity on the strings was a delight to anyone who saw him play, including band leaders who needed a man of his talents. Stevie Ray Vaughan played with the Nightcrawlers and the Cobras, but when you are on a legendary path, being your own man is the only way to go. After serving on different bands, Vaughan formed his own band. He first named his band the Triple Threat Revue but after making some personnel changes, the final product became Double Trouble and they would go on to leave an indelible mark on rock and roll.
His fame came after his performance in 1982 at the Montreux Jazz Festival and his debut studio album, Texas Flood sold over half a million copies. His musical style took root in blues, rock, and jazz. He was influenced by several artists such as B.B King, Freddie King, Albert Collins, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy, and a host of others but it was Jimi Hendrix that he credited as his greatest inspiration.
Awards are interesting, they are symbols of recognition for your works, an exaltation of your impact on your industry. Stevie did not lack them. While having his life cut short, he still enjoyed the satisfaction of being revered by his peers during his lifetime. He won ten Austin Music Awards and topped it with six Grammys. His posthumous recognition has seen him inducted into the music hall of fame.
His Wife, Brother, and Sister
Stevie Ray Vaughan met his wife, Lenora Bailey shortly after forming his band, Double Trouble. Lenora, who was known as Lenny became his girlfriend and then his wife. Their marriage lasted for six and a half years.
Stevie’s brother, Jimmie Vaughan inspired him to become a guitar player and so it was only natural that the two eventually worked together on a project that was titled Family Style. Unfortunately, Stevie did not live long enough to see the success of the project. Jimmie Vaughan is a blues-rock guitarist and a legend by his own right. He has a few Grammys to his name and continues to perform till this day.
Jimmie Vaughan is his only known sibling, but people have always wondered who his sister is, this is of course because of his song titled “Look at Little Sister”.
The blues legend was 1.65 m tall. Not one to physically stand out in a crowd, the American music legend made up for his lack of physical presence with the dexterity of his fingers.
How Did He Die?
The unfortunate early death of Stevie Ray Vaughan occurred on August 27, 1990, after an all-star jam session at Alpine Valley Music Theatre. Vaughan and members of Eric Clapton’s entourage boarded a Bell 206B helicopter for a return trip to Chicago.
The helicopter tragically crashed into a ski hill shortly after takeoff. Vaughan and every other person on board died.
Investigation of the accident ruled that Vaughan suffered massive internal and skull injuries in addition to severe trauma and rib fractures. He was buried on August 31, 1990, at Laurel Land Cemetery in Dallas, Texas.