Stevie Ray Vaughan Plays "The Sky Is Crying" at an Austin Club in 1980
An incredible piece of blues—and music—history recently surfaced online. Below, check out a rare video of Stevie Ray Vaughan performing “The Sky Is Crying” at an Austin, Texas, club circa 1980—before Montreux, before “Let’s Dance,” before his cowboy hats—before anyone in New Jersey or Ohio or Paris had any idea who he was.
It’s so early, in fact, that he’s still called “Stevie Vaughan” at this point. In the clip, Vaughan—who is seen here with bassist Jackie Newhouse and drummer Chris Layton—are performing at the Rome Inn, a legendary Austin club that closed its doors in April 1980 (Note: Several sources say this video was filmed April 20, 1980).
The video starts off with Jimmie Vaughan’s band, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, finishing up a rocking instrumental number (It sounds a lot like “Jumpin’ Bad” from 1980’s What’s the Word?). This is interesting on its own, since it shows the late Keith Ferguson on bass. At the :48 mark, an unseen announcer says, “We’ve got a little surprise for you. Stevie Vaughan is gonna come up here and play something with his band.”
After that, there’s a whole lot of square-shaped nothingness, until around 1:31, when Stevie starts playing his fireworks-packed take on Albert King’s version of Elmore James’ “The Sky Is Crying.” You get to watch him play the entire song, guitar solos and all. He’s even using his “Number One” Strat.
As Vaughan fans know, a live album called In the Beginning captures a full “Stevie Vaughan” set from this period. The album, which was released in 1992, was recorded April 1, 1980, at Austin’s Steamboat 1874. However, that album doesn’t include “The Sky Is Crying.”
Again, this is an incredible piece of footage—possibly the most-sought-after Vaughan footage in existence. Enjoy it while you can! By the way, if you can’t get enough of this early Stevie/Jimmie/Austin stuff, be sure to read this 2014 story by the Austin Chronicle. It adds some background info to this GuitarWorld.com story.