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Stevie Ray Vaughan – Live at Montreux – 1985 Live Full Show


Stephen Ray Vaughan (October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990), known as Stevie Ray Vaughan, was an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer. In spite of a short-lived mainstream career spanning seven years, he is widely considered one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of blues music, and one of the most important figures in the revival of blues in the 1980s. Allmusic describes him as “a rocking powerhouse of a guitarist who gave blues a burst of momentum in the ’80s, with influence still felt long after his tragic death.”[2]

Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Vaughan began playing guitar at the age of seven, inspired by his older brother Jimmie. In 1971 he dropped out of high school, and moved to Austin the following year. He played gigs with numerous bands, earning a spot in Marc Benno’s band, the Nightcrawlers, and later with Denny Freeman in the Cobras, with whom he continued to work through late 1977. He then formed his own group, Triple Threat Revue, before renaming the band Double Trouble after hiring drummer Chris Layton and bassist Tommy Shannon. He gained fame after his performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1982, and in 1983 his debut studio album, Texas Flood, charted at number 38. The ten-song album was a commercially successful release that sold over half-a-million copies. After achieving sobriety in late 1986, he headlined concert tours with Jeff Beck in 1989 and Joe Cocker in 1990 before his death in a helicopter crash on August 27, 1990, at the age of 35.

Vaughan was inspired musically by American and British blues rock. He favored clean amplifiers with high volume and contributed to the popularity of vintage musical equipment. He often combined several different amplifiers together and used minimal effects pedals. Chris Gill of Guitar World commented: “Stevie Ray Vaughan’s guitar tone was as dry as a San Antonio summer and as sparkling clean as a Dallas debutante, the product of the natural sound of amps with ample clean headroom. However, Vaughan occasionally used pedals to augment his sound, mainly to boost the signal, although he occasionally employed a rotating speaker cabinet and wah pedals for added textural flair.”[3]

Vaughan received several music awards during his lifetime and posthumously. In 1983, readers of Guitar Player voted him as Best New Talent and Best Electric Blues Guitar Player. In 1984, the Blues Foundation named him Entertainer of the Year and Blues Instrumentalist of the Year, and in 1987 Performance Magazine honored him with Rhythm and Blues Act of the Year. Earning six Grammy Awards and ten Austin Music Awards, he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2014. Rolling Stone ranked Vaughan as the twelfth greatest guitarist of all time.[4]
Family and early life
A black and white image (c.1900s) of an elderly man with white hair and a long beard dressed in a long-sleeved and suspenders standing in front of a tree.
Vaughan’s paternal great-grandfather, Robert Hodgen LaRue, circa 1900s

Vaughan’s ancestry has been traced as far back as the nineteenth century, to his great-grandfather Robert Hodgen LaRue. Robert had a daughter named Laura Belle LaRue, Vaughan’s paternal grandmother.[nb 1] She married a man from Arkansas named Thomas Lee Vaughan. They moved onto a region of land in Rockwall County and made their living off of sharecropping.[6] On September 6, 1921, Thomas and Laura had a son they named Jimmie Lee Vaughan; people called him Jim.[7]

Jim, who dropped out of school at the age of sixteen, enlisted to serve with the United States Navy on the outbreak of World War II. After returning from service, Jim met Martha Cook (1928–2009) while working as an attendant at a 7-Eleven convenience store in Dallas; they married on January 13, 1950.[8] Stephen Ray Vaughan was born on October 3, 1954, in Dallas, Texas; he was three-and-a-half years younger than his brother Jimmie (born 1951). Jim secured a job as an asbestos worker, an occupation that involved rigorous, manual effort. The family frequently moved, living in other states such as Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma before ultimately moving to the Oak Cliff suburb of Dallas. A shy and insecure boy, Vaughan was deeply affected by his childhood experiences. Jim struggled with alcohol abuse, and often terrorized his family and friends with his bad temper. In later years, Vaughan recalled that he had been a victim of Jim’s violence.[9]
First instruments

In the early 1960s, Vaughan’s admiration for Jimmie resulted in him trying different instruments such as the drums and saxophone.[10][nb 2] In 1961, for his seventh birthday, Vaughan received his first guitar, a toy with only three strings.[nb 3] Learning by ear, he diligently committed himself, following along to songs by the Nightcaps, particularly “Wine, Wine, Wine” and “Thunderbird”.[13][nb 4] He listened to blues artists such as Albert King, Otis Rush, and Muddy Waters, and rock guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix and Lonnie Mack, as well as jazz guitarists including Kenny Burrell.[15] In 1963, he acquired his first electric guitar, a Gibson ES-125T, as a hand-me-down from Jimmie.[16]

Soon after he acquired the electric guitar, Vaughan joined his first band, the Chantones, in 1965.[1] Their first gig was at a talent contest held in Dallas’ Hill Theatre, but after realizing that they could not perform a Jimmy Reed song in its entirety, Vaughan left the band and joined the Brooklyn Underground, playing professionally at local bars and clubs.[1] He received Jimmie’s Fender Broadcaster, which he later traded for an Epiphone Riviera.[17] When Jimmie left home at age sixteen, Vaughan’s apparent obsession with the instrument caused a lack of support from his parents.[18] Miserable at home, he took a job at a local hamburger stand, where he washed dishes and dumped trash for seventy cents an hour. After falling into a barrel of grease, he had enough so he quit and devoted his life to a music career.[19]
Music career
Early years

In May 1969, after leaving the Brooklyn Underground, Vaughan joined a band called the Southern Distributor.[20] He had learned The Yardbirds’ “Jeff’s Boogie” and played the song at the audition. Mike Steinbach, the group’s drummer, commented: “The kid was fourteen. We auditioned him on ‘Jeff’s Boogie,’ really fast instrumental guitar, and he played it note for note.”[21] Although they played pop rock covers, Vaughan conveyed his interest in the addition of blues songs to the group’s repertoire; he was told that he wouldn’t earn a living playing blues music and the band parted ways.[22] Later that year, bassist Tommy Shannon walked into a Dallas club and heard Vaughan playing guitar. Fascinated by the skillful playing, which he described as “incredible even then”, Shannon borrowed a bass guitar and the two jammed.[23][nb 5] Within a few years, they began performing together in a band called Krackerjack.[24]

In February 1970, Vaughan joined a band called Liberation, which was a nine-piece group with a horn section. Having spent the past month briefly playing bass with Jimmie in Texas Storm, he had originally auditioned as bassist. Impressed by Vaughan’s guitar playing, Scott Phares, the group’s original guitarist, modestly became the bassist.[25] In mid-1970, they performed at the Adolphus Hotel in downtown Dallas, where ZZ Top asked to perform. During Liberation’s break, Vaughan jammed with ZZ Top on the Nightcaps song “Thunderbird”. Phares later described the performance: “They tore the house down. It was awesome. It was one of those magical evenings. Stevie fit in like a glove on a hand.”[26]

Attending Justin F. Kimball High School during the early 1970s, Vaughan’s late-night gigs contributed to his neglect in his studies, including music theory; he would often sleep during class.[27] Although his musical career pursuit was disapproved by many of the school’s administrators, he was encouraged by many to strive for a career in art, including his art teacher.[28][nb 6] In his sophomore year, he attended an evening class for experimental art at Southern Methodist University, but bailed when it conflicted with rehearsal.[28] Vaughan later spoke of his dislike of the school and stated that he had to receive a daily note from the principal about his grooming.[29]
First recordings

In September 1970, Vaughan made his first studio recordings with the band Cast of Thousands, which included future actor Stephen Tobolowsky. They recorded two songs, “Red, White and Blue” and “I Heard a Voice Last Night”, for a compilation album, A New Hi, that featured various teenage bands from Dallas.[30] In late January 1971, feeling confined by playing pop hits with Liberation, Vaughan formed his own band, Blackbird. After growing tired of the Dallas music scene, he dropped out of school and moved with the band to Austin, Texas, which had more liberal and tolerant audiences. There, Vaughan initially took residence at the Rolling Hills Country Club, a venue that would later become the Soap Creek Saloon. Blackbird played at several clubs in Austin and opened shows for bands such as Sugarloaf, Wishbone Ash, and Zephyr, but could not maintain a consistent lineup.[31] By the end of the year, he joined a rock band, Krackerjack; he performed with them for less than three months.[32]

In March 1973, Vaughan joined Marc Benno’s band, the Nightcrawlers, after meeting Benno at a jam session years before.[33] The band featured vocalist Doyle Bramhall, who met Vaughan when he was twelve years old.[34] The next month, Vaughan and the Nightcrawlers recorded an album at Sunset Sound Recorders in Hollywood for A&M Records. While the album was rejected by A&M, it included Vaughan’s first songwriting efforts, “Dirty Pool” and “Crawlin'”.[35] Soon afterward, he and the Nightcrawlers traveled back to Austin without Benno.[36] In mid-1973, they signed a contract with Bill Ham, manager for ZZ Top, and played various gigs across the South, though many of them were disastrous.[37] Ham left the band stranded in Mississippi without any way to make it back home and demanded reimbursement from Vaughan for equipment expenses; Ham was never reimbursed.[38][nb 7]

In 1975, Vaughan joined a six-piece band called Paul Ray and the Cobras that included guitarist Denny Freeman and saxophonist Joe Sublett.[39] For the next two-and-a-half years, he earned a living performing weekly at a popular venue in town, the Soap Creek Saloon, and ultimately the newly opened Antone’s, widely known as Austin’s “home of the blues”.[40][nb 8] In late 1976, Vaughan recorded a single with them, “Other Days” as the A-side and “Texas Clover” as the B-side. Playing guitar on both tracks, the single was released on February 7, 1977.[42] In March, readers of the Austin Sun voted them as Band of the Year.[43] In addition to playing with the Cobras, Vaughan jammed with many of his influences at Antone’s, including Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin, Jimmy Rogers, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Albert King.[44]

Vaughan toured with the Cobras during much of 1977, but near the end of September, after they decided to strive for a mainstream musical direction, he left the band and formed Triple Threat Revue, which included singer Lou Ann Barton, bassist W. C. Clark, and drummer Fredde Pharaoh.[45] In January 1978, they recorded four songs in Austin, including Vaughan’s composition “I’m Cryin'”. The thirty minute audio recording marks the only known studio recording of the band.[46]
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
A black and white photograph of three men, one is wearing a wide-brimmed black hat.
Double Trouble in 1983

In mid-May 1978, Clark left to form his own group and Vaughan renamed the band Double Trouble, taken from the title of an Otis Rush song.[47] Following the recruit of bassist Jackie Newhouse, Pharaoh quit in July, and was briefly replaced by Jack Moore, who had moved to Texas from Boston; he performed with the band for about two months.[48] Vaughan then began looking for a drummer and soon after, he met Chris Layton through Sublett, who was his roommate. Layton, who had recently parted ways with Greezy Wheels, was taught by Vaughan to play a shuffle rhythm. When Vaughan offered Layton the position, he agreed.[49] In early July, Vaughan befriended Lenora Bailey, known as “Lenny”, who became his girlfriend, and ultimately his wife, a marriage that lasted for six and a half years.[50][nb 9]

In early October 1978, Vaughan and Double Trouble earned a frequent residency performing at one of Austin’s most popular nightspots, the Rome Inn.[52] During a performance, Edi Johnson, an accountant at Manor Downs, noticed Vaughan.[52] She remembered: “I’m not an authority on music—it’s whatever turned me on—but this did.”[53] She recommended him to Manor Downs owner Frances Carr and general manager Chesley Millikin, who was interested in managing artists, and saw Vaughan’s musical potential. After Barton quit Double Trouble in mid-November 1979, Millikin signed Vaughan to a management contract.[54] Vaughan also hired Robert “Cutter” Brandenburg as road manager, whom he had met in 1969.[55] Addressing him as Stevie Ray, Brandenburg convinced Vaughan to use his middle name on stage.[56]

In October 1980, bassist Tommy Shannon attended a Double Trouble performance at Rockefeller’s in Houston. Shannon, who was playing with Alan Haynes at the time, participated in a jam session with Vaughan and Layton halfway through their set. Shannon later commented: “I went down there that night, and I’ll never forget this: it was like, when I walked in the door and I heard them playing, it was like a revelation—’That’s where I want to be; that’s where I belong, right there.’ During the break, I went up to Stevie and told him that. I didn’t try to sneak around and hide it from the bass player [Jackie Newhouse]—I didn’t know if he was listening or not. I just really wanted to be in that band. I sat in that night and it sounded great.”[57] Almost three months later, when Vaughan offered Shannon the position, he readily accepted.[58]
Montreux Jazz Festival

Although popular in Texas at the time, Double Trouble failed to gain national attention. The group’s luck progressed when record producer Jerry Wexler recommended them to Claude Nobs, organizer of the Montreux Jazz Festival. He insisted that the festival’s blues night would be great with Vaughan, whom he called “a jewel, one of those rarities who comes along once in a lifetime”, and Nobs agreed to book Double Trouble on July 17.[59]

Vaughan opened with a medley arrangement of Freddie King’s song “Hide Away” and his own fast instrumental composition, “Rude Mood”. Double Trouble went on to perform renditions of Larry Davis’ “Texas Flood”, Hound Dog Taylor’s “Give Me Back My Wig”, and Albert Collins’ “Collins Shuffle”, as well as three original compositions: “Pride and Joy”, “Love Struck Baby”, and “Dirty Pool”. The set ended with boos from the audience.[60] People’s James McBride wrote:

“He seemed to come out of nowhere, a Zorro-type figure in a riverboat gambler’s hat, roaring into the ’82 Montreux festival with a ’59 Stratocaster at his hip and two flame-throwing sidekicks he called Double Trouble. He had no album, no record contract, no name, but he reduced the stage to a pile of smoking cinders and, afterward, everyone wanted to know who he was.”[61][nb 10]

According to road manager Don Opperman: “The way I remember it, the ‘ooos’ and the ‘boos’ were mixed together, but Stevie was pretty disappointed. Stevie [had] just handed me his guitar and walked off stage, and I’m like, ‘Are you coming back?’ There was a doorway back there; the audience couldn’t see the guys, but I could. He went back to the dressing room with his head in his hands. I went back there finally, and that was the end of the show.”[60] According to Vaughan: “It wasn’t the whole crowd [that booed]. It was just a few people sitting right up front. The room there was built for acoustic jazz. When five or six people boo, wow. It sounds like the whole world hates you. They thought we were too loud, but shoot, I had four army blankets folded over my amp, and the volume level was on 2. I’m used to playin’ on 10!”[64] The performance was filmed and later released on DVD in September 2004.

On the following night, Double Trouble was booked in the lounge of the Montreux Casino, with Jackson Browne in attendance. Browne jammed with Double Trouble until the early morning hours and offered them free use of his personal recording studio in downtown Los Angeles. In late November, the band accepted his offer and recorded ten songs in two days.[65] While they were in the studio, Vaughan received a telephone call from musician David Bowie, who met him after the Montreux performance, and he invited him to participate in a recording session for his next studio album, Let’s Dance.[66] In January 1983, Vaughan recorded guitar on six of the album’s eight songs, including the title track and “China Girl”.[67] The album was released on April 14, 1983 and sold over three times as many copies as Bowie’s previous album.[68]
National success

In mid-March 1983, Gregg Geller, vice president of A&R at Epic Records, signed Double Trouble to the label at the recommendation of record producer John Hammond.[69] Soon afterward, Epic financed a music video for “Love Struck Baby”, which was filmed at the Cherry Tavern in New York City. Vaughan recalled: “We changed the name of the place in the video. Four years ago I got married in a club where we used to play all the time called the Rome Inn. When they closed it down, the owner gave me the sign, so in the video we put that up behind me on the stage.”[70]

With the success of Let’s Dance, Bowie requested Vaughan as the featured instrumentalist for the upcoming Serious Moonlight Tour, realizing that he was an essential aspect of the album’s groundbreaking success.[71] In late April, Vaughan began rehearsals for the tour in Las Colinas, Texas.[72] When contract renegotiations for his performance fee failed, Vaughan abandoned the tour days before its opening date, and he was replaced by Earl Slick.[73] Vaughan commented: “I couldn’t gear everything on something I didn’t really care a whole lot about. It was kind of risky, but I really didn’t need all the headaches.”[74] Although contributing factors were widely disputed, Vaughan soon gained major publicity for quitting the tour.[75]

On May 9, the band performed at The Bottom Line in New York City, where they opened for Bryan Adams, with Hammond, Mick Jagger, John McEnroe, Rick Nielsen, Billy Gibbons, and Johnny Winter in attendance.[76] Brandenburg described the performance as “ungodly”: “I think Stevie played every lick as loud and as hard and with as much intensity as I’ve ever heard him.”[77] The successful performance earned Vaughan a positive review published in the New York Post, asserting that Double Trouble outperformed Adams.[78] “Fortunately, Bryan Adams, the Canadian rocker who is opening arena dates for Journey, doesn’t headline too often”, wrote Martin Porter, who claimed that after the band’s performance, the stage had been “rendered to cinders by the most explosively original showmanship to grace the New York stage in some time.”[77]

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