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Back in my college days (so very long ago?) I was cultivating a healthy interest in blues, guitars and just about everything rock 'n' roll. Rediscovering artists I had first listened to years prior along with the influences of newer ones led me farther and farther back into the blues through the ages until I reached the very earliest days.
Along the way were several highlights that inspired and really had an impact on me. One of those highlights was Stevie Ray Vaughan.
I remember the first day I heard him play (well, the first time it actually impacted me). I had asked a friend of mine about blues, citing people like B.B. King and Buddy Guy as the people I was listening to and immediate he asked "what about Stevie Ray Vaughan?"
Well, I respected my friends musical tastes, so got online (this was the heyday of music downloading) and immediately sought out the first SRV song I could find. I remember the first song I heard was an acoustic version of "Scuttle Buttin'" and immediate I was blown away by his guitar playing. I had heard some of his music prior to this while I was growing up, but this time was different. His playing was fiery and full of passion unlike anything I had ever heard before. It inspired me to want to play guitar myself. I had kicked around the idea of learning guitar for a while, but from that day forth, I knew I wanted to be a guitarist (even though I didn't have a guitar). Now, a few years later I think it is safe to say I have listened to nearly every track SRV ever recorded and his playing still amazes me to this day.
Passion for the Music
Lots of guitarists, blues enthusiasts, rock 'n' rollers, rock stars, music lovers and who knows who else, can probably tell similar tales about first hearing Stevie Ray Vaughan play. His appeal has only grown since his tragic death inspiring a new group of would be guitarists to pick up a strat (or a les paul in my case) and try to hammer out the intricate guitar work "Scuttle Buttin'", "Pride and Joy" and "Love Struck."
There just seems to be something magical about his music that continues to speak to people from all works of life and from all generations.
When you first hear a Stevie Ray Vaughan song, it is almost like a small blues explosion. His passion for the music, the genre and the guitar are so evident in his playing that these songs are fiery, emotional and engrossing. It is a unique mix of Texas style, blues shuffle, jazz, country, early rock 'n' roll that is immediately identifiable, but what really makes it great is the passion. Stevie Ray in interviews cited people like Albert Collins, Lonnie Mack and Freddie King as some of his influences and his passion for both their playing and his own takes on their styles is evident on every single song.
There are a lot of great blues artists and a lot of great rock 'n' rollers out there, but there are only a choice few who are so passionate about their music, their genre and the music they love that they take the songs and style and make them their own with the intensity that SRV did. I think that is part of what makes his music so appealing to generation after generation and why it speaks to so many people.
True passion cannot be just pushed aside and when translated into music it is like a magnet that draws people to it. I write in my articles all the time how music is such a personal and emotional media format and I think this is key to understanding the appeal of someone like SRV. His music is so passionate and he was so passionate when he played, that it is almost infectious. When it is obvious that a musician absolutely loves what they're doing, and is putting everything they got into it not only for the audience, but for themselves and because it is an expression of their soul... great music is being made... and it will speak to people and inspire them.
Stevie's passion for blues, his influences and his music is part of why he continues to inspire to this day.
Born to be a Blues Guitar Slinger
Blues is a hard genre to just step into because it is so emotionally driven. Yes, it has certain riffs, styles and licks that can be copied, learned and memorized but it is really requires emotion and soul to play (or to play it well at least).
Every so often though, there are those individuals who are just born to be blues players and I think Stevie Ray Vaughan was one of those individuals. Listening to his music and especially watching video or hearing clips of him play live, it is just obvious that this man was meant to be a blues player. The music just flows out of him so perfectly with such a fluid yet explosive technique that it is like a perfect storm, where everything just locks into place. His ability to speak volumes with a few guitar licks is amazing.
As I said in my introductory story, I was immediately struck by SRV's guitar playing and it inspired me to finally pick up a guitar and start playing like I wanted to for so long. His guitar playing is such a part of his music that it can never be copied, only imitated. Thousands of guitarists have probably been inspired by Stevie Ray's playing just as I was and thousands more probably will be in the future, but few will ever have the same kind of mastery over the instrument as SRV.
Great guitarists can be hard to understand as there are some incredibly technically talented players around who just don't get the same type of response as people like Stevie Ray Vaughan. I think it comes down to more than just practice and technique, and is more about a connection with the instrument. When you watch or listen to SRV play a solo it is almost like he is speaking directly through his guitar like a second language.
There are a number os players I think have reached the perfect connection with their guitar. Stevie Ray Vaughan is one of them, along with people like Roy Buchanan, and Jimi Hendrix (and others as well). These players continue to inspire people because of the ease at which they were able to communicate through their guitars and convey such complex emotions, passion and intensity.
It is like the guitar becomes a direct window to the soul. When they play, they are baring their soul for all to see and I think Stevie Ray was one of the best at this.
In my mind, he was born to be a blues guitarist.
There is no doubt that Stevie Ray Vaughan has had an impact on modern music. His influence on guitarists and the blues are immense. Stevie Ray Vaughan's unique understanding of the blues, and his expert guitar playing make for an incredible combination. In my mind these two things, combined with his passion for the music is what makes him one the most influential and memorable guitarists in history.
I hope this article helps everyone understand a little about this great guitarist and blues player and why I consider him to be one of the best blues musicians of all time. I consider this article both a bit of a tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan that is long over due from me, as well as a way to help expose new people to his music. I hope that maybe if you've only heard briefly of SRV or not at all, you might be inspired by this article to seek out more of his music.
I believe that Stevie Ray Vaughan will continue to inspire thousands of music enthusiasts and guitarists for years to come including myself. Quite simply, he was born to be a blues guitar slinger and his music will remain as a testament to that fact for generations to come.
You can find more information about Stevie Ray Vaughan here at the Stevie Ray Fan Club: http://www.stevieray.com/
And also at the Stevie Ray Vaughan Archive: http://www.awpi.com/SRV/
If you're already a fan of SRV, check out the box set as it has a lot of unreleased material. I especially like the collaborations with other great guitarists like Jeff Beck, Lonnie Mack and Albert King.
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
There are also some DVDs available from Amazon as well. I haven't gotten to see them yet, but the clips I have seen of SRV playing are amazing and I can't wait to see these three. To really understand what Stevie Ray Vaughan I think you have to watch him play live and seeing he is no longer with us, DVDs are the best we have.
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble - Live at Montreux 1982 & 1985
Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble - Live From Austin, Texas
Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble - Live at the El Mocambo 1983