Today marks the 24th anniversary of Blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan’s death. SRV opened the door for me to Bluesville and I entered with my guitar hoping I could play half as good as him. He was truly an inspiration, he had the fire!
I remember this day well, it was a Monday and I was riding my Honda Goldwing back home to go to work at a lint-mine, I mean, garment factory. I was on Interstate 40 heading west and was just outside of Nashville, listening to the bike’s radio when the announcement came that Eric Clapton had died in a helicopter crash after a performance in Alpine Valley, Wisconsin. The WKDF radio announcer was going crazy with drama of losing one of the world’s best guitar players. He was correct and wrong at the same time.
A spokesman soon contacted the radio station to tell him he was wrong, Eric Clapton was alive and well, but there had been a helicopter crash involving some musicians that had performed the previous night. The radio announcer starting going through the list of performing bands and musicians. When he said Stevie Ray Vaughan it felt like a bolt of lightening hit me and I nearly fell off the motorcycle with a sinking heart. I knew without confirmation that my guitar inspiration had been on that helicopter.
I still had over an hour to get home and during that time the Music City radio announcer used his connections to confirm it was so, Stevie Ray had been on that fatal flight. I started crying.
At work we were allowed to listen to music as long as we used headphones, so most people had a “Walkman” and shared their cassettes with each other. People were known for their personal music libraries. I was known to have all of Stevie Ray’s music and had told animated stories of me seeing three of his live performances. The first time being so close to the stage I could see the sweat pouring down his face.
I remember the first time I seen a picture of Stevie Ray Vaughan in 1984, he was featured on a guitar magazine cover. I remember when I first heard SRV’s music in 1985 when a girl at work loaned me a cassette titled Couldn’t Stand the Weather. I was an immediate fan and couldn’t wait to see him live, which I did in 1986 for the first time.
In 1990 I had just moved to Tennessee and Stevie Ray was playing the Memphis in May Music Festival but I didn’t know anything about Memphis and didnt’ know any local people where I lived that were going to the show. I shrugged it off and vowed to learn about Memphis and see him perform there the next time he played. I had heard he was a regular there. A Memphis favorite. My chance ended on August 27, 1990.
I did make a Memphis in May Music Festival in 1992 and was very excited, standing in a sea of people surrounded by 5 stages and in my zeal made a comment to a friend that “This would be the most awesome festival I’ve ever been to if Stevie Ray would just walk out on stage!” A guy in front of me turned around and said, “Stevie Ray Vaughan is dead.” Another lightening bold of sadness hit me again. I started crying again. I had just turned 29 and always considered myself lucky that I had never lost a friend, relative or parent to the Grim Reaper. I had never grieved before. So this is what it was like. You never forget someone who touched your life in a profound manner.
This is the most I have written in over 7 years after experiencing writer’s block, But that’s another story that I will tell later.
The following is a blog post I wrote on the 22nd anniversary of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s death on another blog site who’s pass word I’ve long forgotten:
“Angels have waited, for so long, now they have their way, take your place.”
I first seen SRV at the Arizona State Fair for the fair gate fee of about $3.50, somewhere around 1985-86. Then another time at the Celebrity Theater in Phoenix, he had just released his live album with “Superstition”, but can’t remember the exact year.
I seen Stevie Ray 3 times in all and the most memorable one was when I stopped by a friend’s house and asked her if she felt like going to see Stevie Ray Vaughan at the Arizona State Fair, I would pay her way in, (under $5 is what I remember) and she said “Sure, it’s my birthday!”.
She had never seen Stevie before and it was so funny when about half-way through his show, she’s all on the edge of her chair and said, “He’s white!”
Great memories. I don’t remember the years like I used to, but have never been good at stuff like that, not for long periods of time. But I remember the shows, the affect the music had on me.
The first time I seen him he played behind his back, over his head, threw the guitar on the stage, jumped on it, kicked it, then picked it up and stretched strings till he was hitting the right notes and finished his encore with Voodoo Chile! …okay, he did that during Voodoo Chile.
The point I’m making is this, 22 years after his passing, memories of Stevie have become mythical, legendary, as there have been no new memories to update and those memories available take on a life of themselves as I watch videos or listen and remember being stunned, speechless the first time I seen him, till the lights went out and I joined the screaming crowd for one more encore. Memories want to tell me he did.