10 Things You Didn't Know About Stevie Ray Vaughan
It’s been almost 35 years since Stevie Ray Vaughan burst onto the world stage, becoming the meanest thing to come out of Texas since J.R. Ewing.
Vaughan—devoid of light shows, dry ice, fog and lasers—refocused attention back to the essentials—guitar, bass and drums in a basic 12-bar format.
Think you know everything there is to know about the late, great SRV? Check out the story below to test your Vaughan knowledge. As always, enjoy!
01. Vaughan appears in an extended 1988 New Zealand TV commercial, which you can watch below.
He can even be seen riding in a tank at one point. Mind you, this three-minute-long video looks and plays like a fairly cheesy late-Eighties music video for a song called “Travellin’ On,” but—apparently—it’s a commercial for Europa, a New Zealand-based oil company.
The video features Midge Marsden, Murray Grindlay, Janna Lapidus (Vaughan’s fiancee at the time) and Brigitte Berger, all of whom drive around New Zealand’s North Island, eventually stopping off at a DC3 airplane parked in a small town. They step into a bar made out of car parts and join Vaughan on stage. Hey, it could happen!
“I like [New Zealand’s] climate, the air, the water. I like the smallness,” Vaughan told The Evening Post in 1989. “I feel good being here. It kind of reminds me of Oakcliff, Texas, where I’m from—the houses and countryside, except that the roads are real windy while at home they’re so straight!”
02. For a Halloween gig at the Austin Rehearsal Complex in Austin in 1980, Vaughan dressed up as Jimi Hendrix—wig, makeup and all. He got the wig from Randy Hansen and did the entire gig dressed that way.
03. He was a huge fan of Derek and the Dominos’ Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs album. He even learned to play every song note for note—including every Eric Clapton guitar solo—on the record.
04. Vaughan plays drums on the original studio version of “Empty Arms” on 1985’s Soul to Soul. He plays guitar on it too, of course. We say “original” because there’s another studio version of “Empty Arms” on 1991’s The Sky is Crying (featuring Chris Layton on drums).
05. Vaughan was a big fan of The Urantia Book, a spiritual and philosophical tome that originated in Chicago between 1924 and 1955; its authorship remains a matter of speculation. In his early days, Vaughan would carry the book with him everywhere.
06. SRV played guitar on Don Johnson’s 1986 album, Heartbeat. That’s Don Johnson, as in the guy from Miami Vice! What’s even weirder is that the album reached Number 17 on Billboard‘s Hot 100. Vaughan can be heard on “Love Roulette,” below. His solo starts around 2:51.
07. How did SRV get his “Number One” Strat? According to Double Trouble drummer Chris Layton: “He said he walked into Ray Hennig’s Heart of Texas Music with a black Strat and stood, looking at the guitars on the wall. He said, ‘Will you trade me this guitar for…[slowly moves his finger through the air in a straight line, and then stops, transfixed, like a divining rod], ‘…that guitar right there!’ [laughs] He picked up a vibe from the guitar, from all the way across the room!”
08. For a brief period, before he decided on being called “Stevie Ray Vaughan,” SRV wanted to be known as “Sting Ray.” We think he was wise to reconsider.
09. Vaughan was joined by the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood for a jam session at New York City’s China Club; Jagger wanted to sign Vaughan to Rolling Stones Records, but a deal was never offered.
10. SRV covered the Beatles! Vaughan’s studio version of the Beatles’ “Taxman” appears on Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble: Greatest Hits, even though it was a previously unreleased track and a total non-hit.