Stevie Ray Vaughan was born on 3 October 1954 to Jim and Martha Vaughan and grew up dirt poor in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, Texas.
Jim Vaughan, an asbestos worker, drank to kill the pain. When Stevie Ray was in the third grade, his father smashed the first record Stevie Ray ever bought (Lonnie Mack‘s Wham!) in a fit of rage.
Stevie Ray looked up to his older brother, Jimmie, and was fascinated by the blues records Jimmie brought into the house.
Jimmie left home at fifteen, leaving his guitar behind for Stevie Ray, four years his younger. When Jimmie saw his younger brother again two years later, he was already an astonishing guitarist.
Stevie Ray followed his brother to the blues mecca of Austin, Texas in 1972, and it took him a decade to prove himself the fastest guitar-slinger around.
Stevie Ray’s reputation persuaded Mick Jagger to book Vaughan for a private party in New York in 1982. Vaughan brought along his three-year-old trio, Double Trouble, with bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton, and he blew the star-studded crowd away.
After that performance, Jerry Wexler heard Vaughan perform and was so impressed that he arranged for the guitarist to play the Montreux Festival in 1982. David Bowie saw him perform there and asked Vaughan to play on the album Let’s Dance, which was released in 1983.
Jackson Browne meanwhile, offered Vaughan free studio time, which he used to record Vaughan’s 1983 debut album, Texas Flood.
When Vaughan brought Double Trouble into the studio, the group still didn’t have a recording contract and it took the considerable influence of the venerable John Hammond – who had signed the likes of Count Basie, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen over the years – to arm-wrestle Epic into signing Vaughan.
Texas Flood established Vaughan as a guitarist, and Couldn’t Stand The Weather (1984) offered a blueprint for the band’s live show, from the T-Bone shuffle of Scuttle Buttin’ to the finale Voodoo Cile (Slight Return).
By the time of Soul to Soul (1985), Vaughan was growing quickly, developing as a bandleader and a musical conceptualist. With keyboardist Reese Wynans added to the band’s line-up, Vaughan was able to free his guitar playing and concentrate on evoking the thick tone of his live sound.
During the 1980s, a decade that was dominated by image-conscious video stars, Vaughan built his reputation solely on the strength of his playing, winning over audiences through his live performances and word of mouth.
Though he never had a hit single, his playing brought him vast critical acclaim and enough awards to fill a trophy case.
Guitar Player magazine voted him Best New Talent in 1983 and 1984 and Best Electric Blues Player in 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1988.
But as his popularity surged, Vaughan became side-tracked by a fast-lane lifestyle which brought him close to death in London during a European tour.
Vaughan went through drug and alcohol rehabilitation, however, and emerged to make the breakthrough recording In Step. It was to be the last studio music he would make with Double Trouble.
Vaughan was killed in a helicopter crash on 27 August 1990 after a concert in East Troy, Wisconsin. He was 35.