, Research Paper
The Life of Stevie Ray Vaughan
This paper is about how a small time boy from Oak Cliff, Texas with a dream, revolutionized the way blues guitar was played. By 17 he new what he wanted to do with his life, thus dropping out of school to become a blues guitarist. All throughout Stevie’s career he was loved and adored for his gentle touch and majestic rhythmic guitar playing. Throughout his life he led three bands to hitting it big, released five albums with “Double Trouble”. Most importantly, Stevie became sober. He turned away from the substances, even though he believed they gave him the drive to play the way he did.
By age eleven Stevie Ray Vaughan was an impressionable boy, whose brother’s rhythmic guitar playing inspired him to pick up his first guitar. In 1963, he would begin an era of guitar playing that would revolutionize the way blues was done. As early as 1961, Stevie was already sneaking into his brother’s room just to sneak a strum on Jimmie’s guitar before he came home. “I just felt like I was destined to play blues guitar. Whenever I picked it up I just felt this surge of adrenaline over take my nine-year-old body”, implied Stevie (Patoski 4). In 1963, Stevie had taken up guitar playing and had apprenticed himself to Jimmie (Patoski 1-20).
By 1972, he was an ambitious blues guitarist with only one thing on his mind, his guitar. Stevie felt it was pointless to stay in school, when what he really wanted to do with his life had nothing to do with school. So by his junior year Stevie had dropped out of high school to play his guitar full-time in his band, “The Cobras”. “The Cobras” consisted of five members; the drummer, John Turner, singer, Bruce Bowland, bassist, Tommy Shannon, keyboardist, Mike Kindred, and Stevie Ray Vaughan as guitarist. Stevie’s decision to drop out of school ended up
being the best decision that he would ever make. “The Cobras” was Stevie’s ticket to the big time (Patoski 83).
By 1976, Stevie was well on the path to stardom, with his new band, “The Triple Threat Revue”. “The Triple Threat Revue” landed its debut at the Soap Creek Saloon, on August 8th, 1976. This was Stevie’s golden opportunity to expand his horizons and strut his stuff in front of thousands of people. Stevie’s band debuted with the “Fabulous Thunderbirds”, whose front man was Jimmie Vaughan, in Stubb’s Night Club in Lubbock, Texas. Stevie was later quoted saying, “There’s one good thing about playing at Stubb’s, you get a great meal and money in your pocket”(Patoski 107). In 1977, one year after Triple Threat’s debut, Mike Kindred and W.C. Clark quit the band. A few days before their second Soap Creek gig, Jack Newhouse made the announcement that this would be his last gig with “The Triple Threat Revue” (Patoski 110).
In the of spring of 1978, “The Triple Threat Revue” changed it’s name to “Double Trouble”. “Double Trouble” headlined with Stevie as their front man up until his death. With Lou Ann Barton and Chris Layton left, all they needed was a bassist. Stevie knew of a man named Tommy Shannon, who played with Stevie when they were with “The Cobras”. “Double Trouble” debuted at the Miller Outdoor Amphitheater in Houston, Texas. Lou Ann owned about 30 minutes per show, singing solo some of her favorite tunes, but when she was gone Stevie stepped forward and sang his favorites. Those times when Lou Ann was gone, Stevie liked to sing his old favorite, “Thunderbird”, as well as Otis Rush’s “All Your Lovin’”, and Albert King’s “Crosscut Saw” (Patoski 112).
In 1978, Stevie met a woman by the name of Lenora Bailey. Lenora was the daughter of a military man. Lenora never had a stable home when she was a child. She was a wild, impulsive,
and outgoing spoiled military child. She managed to carry all of those qualities over into her adulthood. Some thought that Lenora would have a hard time keeping up with Stevie, but it really ended up being the other way around. Lenora and Stevie wed at the Rome Inn Chapel, where they were scheduled for a gig later that evening (Patoski 127-130).
“Double Trouble” made a quick rise to success upon releasing their first album starting in 1983 with Texas Flood, Couldn’t Stand The Weather in 1984, Soul To Soul in 1985, and Live Alive in 1986 As the money rolled in, Stevie’s drug problem escalated. While on a European tour in 1986. After Live Alive was released, upon finishing a gig in Germany, Stevie suddenly collapsed. Layton and Shannon rushed Stevie to a hospital. When the diagnoses came back, the doctor said that Stevie had the stomach of a sixty-year-old man, due to alcohol eating holes into his stomach. Stevie’s problems didn’t stop there, he had been sniffing cocaine and downing LSD tabs like they were peanuts, but he wasn’t the only one. Tommy Shannon who had tried many times before to stop, was also in bad shape. As soon as they got back to the United States, they checked themselves into an Atlanta detox center (Patoski 130-222).
In less then a month, they were out and Stevie was ready to get back to his life and more importantly, his music. While in Europe, in 1986 Stevie met a seventeen-year-old model from London named Janna Lapidus. Shortly after they meet, Stevie they fell in love with Janna. In 1988 Stevie and Lenora got a divorce after a long separation (Patoski 212-231).
In 1989, In Step was released, which would come to be known as Stevie’s and “Double Trouble’s” last recorded album together. In 1990, at Alpine Valley Music Theater near East Troy, Wisconsin, guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan was onstage with fellow bluesmen Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray and Vaughan’s older brother, Jimmie (Patoski 257).
Shortly afterward, at 12:15 A.M. on Aug. 27, Vaughan, 35, had planned to make the two-hour drive back to his Chicago hotel with his brother and sister-in-law, Connie, but at the last minute he chose to board a Bell 206B Jet Ranger, one of four helicopters waiting nearby. According to his New York City publicist, Charles Comer, Vaughan had learned from Clapton’s manager that there were seats enough to accommodate all three in his party. When he found only one place was actually available, Vaughan said to Connie and Jimmie, “Do you mind if I take the seat? I really need to get back.” (Patoski 258).
The helicopter took off in fog around 12:40 A.M. with Vaughan and four others aboard. Chicago would never be reached. Moments later the chopper’s remains lay spread across more than 200 feet of a man-made ski slope in a field. All on board were killed instantly in what National Transportation Safety Board investigator William Bruce later described as “a high-energy, high-velocity impact at a shallow angle.” (Patoski 259).
The crash occurred on the far side of the nearby hill. A search for the lost copter wasn’t begun until 5 A.M. — more than four hours later — after an orbiting search-and-rescue satellite picked up the craft’s emergency-locator transmitter signal. At 7 A.M. searchers found the bodies of Vaughan; Bobby Brooks, Clapton’s Hollywood agent; pilot Jeff Brown. Clapton’s assistant tour manager, Colin Smythe; and Clapton’s bodyguard, Nigel Browne. Later that morning Clapton and Jimmie Vaughan were summoned by the Walworth County coroner to identify the bodies. After arriving, upon gazing at the wreckage, Jimmie noticed Stevie’s Coptic cross laying in the rubble. Jimmie picked it up, put it around his neck, and went back to the limousine with Eric, followed by a long quiet trip back to Chicago (Patoski 259, 260).
Stevie Ray Vaughan wasn’t just another blues musician, he was a blues legend that revolutionized and set higher standards for blues artists across America. In 1990, when this great legend was tragically killed in a fatal helicopter accident, those who have come to know and love Stevie for his music and his genuine kindness, mourned his passing. This is a legend that for sure will never be forgotten and will always live on in the hearts of blues artists everywhere.
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