Stevie Ray Vaughan is one of the most amazing and revered blues rock artists in recent memory, and has influenced an entire generation of blues fans and guitarists. This article covers the blues artists and songs that influenced him.
Stevie Ray Vaughan was inspired to play guitar by his older brother, Jimmie Vaughan. Texas was a longtime hotbed of blues artists such as T-Bone Walker, so exposure to blues and an affinity for it came about naturally.
By age 21, Vaughan was playing at Antone’s Blues Club in Austin, Texas, where he had an opportunity to sit in and become friends with great blues artists such as Albert King. Vaughan wrote many of his own songs, but he also continued to cover blues songs from older artists.
Within a few years, Vaughan had formed his ultimate band, Double Trouble. After playing at the Montreux Jazz Festival, they were noticed by rocker Jackson Browne who offered them time at his studio to record an album. Vaughan was also noticed by rocker David Bowie, who invited him to play on his new album “Let’s Dance.” The album was a big success for Bowie whose sales had been falling off over time. This attention led to the band being signed by Epic Records.
Texas Flood – Larry Davis
The song “Texas Flood” appeared on Vaughan’s first album by the same name. The song was a cover of a song by an older Texas blues musician, Larry Davis. The 1955 single appeared on Duke Records and featured Fenton Robinson on guitar, with Davis himself on bass and vocals. The song became a regional hit.
Vaughan was introduced to the song by Angeli Strehli, who was the stage manager and sound technician for Antone’s, but he also heard Davis play the song live when he came to Antone’s playing bass for Albert King.
The Sky Is Crying – Albert King
“The Sky Is Crying” was released on Stevie Ray Vaughan’s posthumous compilation album of the same name. While the song originated with Chicago based slide guitarist, Elmore James, Vaughan clearly references the Albert King version.
Albert King was best known for his Stax Records material, with his most famous song being “Born Under A Bad Sign”. He was an impressive figure, standing well over 6 feet tall and playing a flying V guitar left handed. His playing style featured aggressive string bending.
Vaughan cites Albert King as a major influence. The two first met and played together in 1976, and subsequently became friends.
Mary Had A Little Lamb – Buddy Guy
Vaughan’s version of Buddy Guy’s humorous take on the 19th century nursery rhyme was also released on the “Texas Flood” album.
Buddy Guy is a Chicago based blues guitarist who was also a session guitarist at Chicago’s Chess Records during its heyday, backing up Muddy Water, Howlin’ Wolf, and more. “Mary Had a Little Lamb” was one of the early songs of his solo career.
Vaughan and Guy met and played together a number of times.
The Things That I Used to Do – Guitar Slim
The Things That I Used To Do was a million selling hit for New Orleans based singer and guitarists Eddie “Guitar Slim” Jones.
He was famous for his stage act which consisted of brightly colored suits with matching dyed hair and a distorted fuzz guitar tone years before Jimi Hendrix. Guitar Slim would ride on the shoulders of his assistant or hook his guitar up to a 350 foot long cord so he could walk through the audience, or even go outside, all while performing.
Vaughan released his version of the “The Things I Used To Do” on his album “Couldn’t Stand The Weather”.