Artist Profile: Stevie Ray Vaughan


A musician, record producer, singer, and songwriter, Stevie Ray Vaughan was one of the most influential musician that revived blues music in the 1980s. That’s why he is hailed as one of the greatest guitar players of all time. Throughout his career, he was able to win ten American Music Awards, six Grammy Awards, and he has been inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame together with his former band, Double Trouble. In this article, we are going to find out Stevie Ray Vaughan’s contributions to the music industry. 

Early Days

Stevie Ray Vaughan was born and raised in Dallas, Texas and he started playing the guitar when he was just a child. When he entered junior high school, Vaughan began joining several garage bands who occasionally had gigs in the local nightclubs. Vaughan decided to drop out of high school when he was just seventeen years old so that he could focus on playing and making music. His first real band was called Cobras and they played in bars and clubs around Austin, Texas during the mid-70s. After the band broke up, Vaughan formed a band called Triple Threat in 1975, the band consisted of Chris Layton on drums, Jackie Newhouse on bass, and Lou Ann Barton on vocals. After spending a few years playing gigs at bars and clubs in Texas, Lou Ann Barton decided to leave the group. Triple Threat decided to carry on and change their name to Double Trouble which Vaughan became the band’s lead vocalist. The name was inspired by an Otis Rush song of the same name. 

As years passed by, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double trouble continued to play in around Austin, Texas where they eventually became one of the most popular bands in Texas. The band was performing at a Festival in 1982 when they caught the attention of Jackson Browne and David Bowie. After the band’s performance, they were approached by Bowie and he asked them if they could play on his upcoming album. Browne on the other hand, offered the band free recording time at his studio in Los Angeles. Double Trouble quickly accepted both offers and Stevie Ray Vaughan played the lead guitar tracks on David Bowie’s Let’s Dance album that was released in 1982. Stevie Ray and Double Trouble eventually landed a record deal with Epic Records where they recorded their debut album in less than a week. 

Mainstream Success

Stevie Ray and Double Trouble released their debut album called Texas Flood in 1983, just a few months after David Bowie’s Let’s Dance album. However, Bowie’s album earned Vaughan a bit of attention but his band’s album Texas Blues became a blockbuster blues hit album as well and it achieved positive reviews in both rock and blues magazines. Stevie Ray and Double Trouble’s debut album managed to reach the 38th spot of the charts and crossed over to rock radio stations. After the band’s success, David Bowie once again offered Vaughan to be his lead guitarist but this time, it will be for his 1983 stadium tour. However, Vaughan refused Bowie’s offer because he wanted to play with Double Trouble instead.

The band embarked on a successful tour before they recorded their follow up album called Couldn’t Stand the Weather which they released in 1984. The album received a lot of positive reviews and went gold. After this success, Double Trouble decided to add Reese Wyans as a keyboardist before they recorded their third album called Soul to Soul which was released in 1985. Their third album peaked at the 34th spot on the charts and became quite successful. Through these triumphs, Stevie Ray Vaughan would be considered as one of The 10 Best Guitarists of the 1980s.

Stevie Ray and Double Trouble released their Live Alive album in November 1986. It is the only official live Double Trouble album which was commercially released. However, the album failed to appear on the Billboard 200 chart and several critics said that the album was overdubbed and most of the songs were recorded poorly. 

However, despite the success of his professional career, Stevie Ray Vaughan was battling with alcoholism and drug addiction. In fact, while the band recorded their Live Alive album, Vaughan was struggling with his addiction and his declining health. But still, he pushed to be a better person and put himself in rehab for four weeks. After his exit in rehab, the rehearsals for the Live Alive tour began and Vaughan’s bandmates recalled that he was anxious about performing after he gotten sober but once they hit the road, Vaughan was back to his inspired and motivated self. 

After the tour, the band stayed quiet for a year but Vaughan was seen performing in several concerts in 1988 such as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. But it was also during this time when he and the band began to work on their album In Step which was released in June 1989. In Step became Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble’s most successful album because it went gold in over six weeks since its release and it earned the band a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Recording. 

In 1990, Stevie Ray and his brother Jimmie did a collaboration and recorded an album. Later that year, Vaughan and Double Trouble embarked on an American headlining tour together with Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, and Eric Clapton. After the concert, Stevie Ray Vaughan rode a helicopter which was bound for Chicago but after it took off at 12:30 am, the helicopter crashed and killed Stevie Ray Vaughan and the other passengers. Stevie Ray Vaughan was just 35 years old. 

After his death, Stevie Ray’s brother, Jimmie released their collaboration album that they recorded and called it Family Style. The album peaked at the seventh spot of the charts and it was released subsequently with the albums that Vaughan created during his lifetime. In 1991, Jimmie Vaughan released a compilation album called The Sky is Crying which went platinum just three months after its release. 

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