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Stevie Ray Vaughan Biography

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Stephen ("Stevie") Ray Vaughan (October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990), born in Dallas, Texas, was an American blues guitarist, credited with reviving interest in blues in the 1980s. His broad appeal made him one of America's most influential electric blues guitarists. He was the younger brother of Jimmie Vaughan.

Vaughan was born and raised in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, Texas, but dropped out of Kimball High School and moved to Austin to pursue music. Vaughan's talent caught the attention of guitarist Johnny Winter, and blues-club owner Clifford Antone.

Vaughan's first recording band was called Paul Ray and the Cobras. They played at clubs and bars in Austin during the mid-1970s, and released one single. Vaughan later recorded two other singles under the band name The Cobras. Following the break-up of The Cobras, he formed Triple Threat in late 1975, which included bassist Jackie Newhouse, drummer Chris Layton, and vocalist Lou Ann Barton. Barton left the band in 1978 to pursue a solo career, and the three remaining members started performing under the name Double Trouble, inspired by an Otis Rush song of the same name. Vaughan became the band's lead singer.

Tommy Shannon, the bass player on Johnny Winter's early albums, replaced Newhouse in 1981. A popular Austin act, Vaughan soon attracted the attention of musicians David Bowie and Jackson Browne, and played on albums with both. Bowie first caught Vaughan at the 1982 Montreux Jazz Festival, where some members of the audience booed the band, probably because they disliked Double Trouble's hard blues sound. (The crowd response was quite different when they appeared at the festival again in 1985.) Bowie then featured Vaughan on his 1983 album Let's Dance.

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble's debut album was released in 1983. The critically acclaimed Texas Flood, produced by John Hammond, featured the top-20 hit "Pride and Joy" and sold 500,000 copies, earning the band a Gold Record. The band's next albums, Couldn't Stand the Weather (1984) and Soul to Soul (1985), also "went gold", but did not receive as much critical acclaim as their debut.

Drug addiction and alcoholism took a toll on Vaughan in the mid-1980s, and after becoming acutely ill in Germany while on tour, Vaughan managed to struggle through three more shows before entering a drug rehabilitation program in Atlanta, Georgia. He eventually recovered fully from his addictions and became a teetotaler.

Upon his return from rehab, Stevie Ray Vaughan, still with bandmates Double Trouble, recorded In Step (1989), which is praised by some as the band's best work since Texas Flood. The album won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album. Vaughan shared a headline tour with guitarist Jeff Beck in 1989.

For guitars, Stevie used some acoustics and a Hamiltone Custom, but he mainly used Fender Stratocasters. His most famous was a Strat with a Brazilian rosewood "veneer" fingerboard; it had "1962" stamped on the neck and body, but "1959" written on the pickups. Unlike what was widely believed, he never used bass frets, but did use "jumbo" Dunlop 6105s. On this particular guitar, he also had a left-handed tremolo installed and was known as "Number One". It had a D-shaped thick neck that was perfect for his large hands and thick fingers. It possessed a deep, dark growl of a tone that was immediately identifiable. Even though it used all "stock" Fender Strat parts, about the only "original equipment" parts it possessed by 1990 were the body and the pickups. Over the years, Stevie and Rene Martinez, his guitar tech, replaced the pickguard, tremolo, and neck. The guitar was meticulously examined by Fender Custom Shop workers to gather specifications for a run of 100 exact copies in early 2004. The pickups were never overwound purposely, but were from a batch of pickups made at Fender in 1959 that had been mistakenly overwound, producing Number One's distinctive sound. The neck was damaged during a stage accident, and a spare was used from another of Stevie's Stratocasters. After he died, the original neck was put back on and the guitar was given to his brother.

"Lenny" was a 1963 maple-neck that was named after his wife, Lenora. It had a very bright, thin sound. Supposedly, Stevie found this guitar in a pawnshop, but couldn't afford to buy it. One of Stevie's roadies, Byron Barr, bought it and he and Lenora presented it to Stevie for his birthday in 1976. According to the story, Lenora was supposed to pay Byron for the guitar; she started a pool with her friends to collect the money, but it was Stevie who eventually settled the debt, with cash and a leather jacket. Its neck was originally a thin rosewood, but Stevie replaced it with a thicker non-Fender maple neck. "Lenny" can be seen and heard on "Live at the El Mocambo". He plays it at the end of the set during the encore, playing the song of the same name. Stevie also used the guitar during the song "Riviera Paridise", this can also be seen and heard on the DVD "Live From Austin Texas".

"Charley" was a Stratocaster built for him by the late Charley Wirz, a friend and owner of Charley's Guitars in Dallas, Texas. Three Danelectro "lipstick tubes" are the pickups, and it had a hardtail bridge.

"Red" was a 1964 with a lefty neck that let him emulate the sounds of Otis Rush and Jimi Hendrix. This setup was able to give Stevie not only the sound he wanted, but the feel that lacked from a right hand neck.

Vaughan also played a guitar made by deceased Minneapolis, Minn., luthier, Roger Benedict. A semi-hollow, Alder-built guitar called the "Groove Master" was a model of choice for Vaughan. It is a seafoam-green Stratocaster-shaped guitar with three lipstick pickups.

Jimmie Vaughan has possession of all of Stevie's guitars, save for the only one released to the public, "Lenny". It was sold in the Eric Clapton guitar auction for more than $600,000.

He used a Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face, many different Ibanez Tube Screamers (most notably the TS-808, but he also used a TS-9 for solos sometimes), Vox or Dunlop Cry Baby wahs (one of which was owned and used by Jimi Hendrix), and at one point a Univibe, though he usually used his rotating Leslie speaker cabinet. Sometimes he used two wahs duct-taped together, so they moved in unison.

His amps were a blonde '62 Fender Twin, a 100-watt Marshall JCM 800 half stack, a 150-watt Dumble Steel String Singer, two '64 Fender Vibroverbs (they are consecutively numbered: 5 and 6; Stevie was very proud of having obtained such low serial numbers). He also had a pair of 4x10 Fender Super Reverbs. At some venues he also had several Marshall full stacks for volume.
Artist information courtesy of their Wikipedia entry, which is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
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