“Ladies and gentlemen, from Austin Texas, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble!” was the matter-of-fact introduction to one of the most remarkable blues guitarists of all time. In a career that spanned just seven years before his tragic death in a helicopter crash in 1987, Vaughan (SRV) is credited for having a large part in reviving the blues in the 80s, and his legacy is legend.
Born on October 3, 1954 in Dallas Texas, Stevie, following his brother Jimmie Vaughan’s footsteps, picked up a guitar at 7 and didn't look back. He diligently practised the songs his heroes played, from Albert King,and Muddy Waters to Jimi Hendrix and Lonnie Mack, quit school at 17 and set out to make something of himself and his guitar.
Today, his birthday, (he would have been 63 on October, 3), we look back on the album that introduced him to the masses and contributed greatly to a resurgence of the blues and guitar rock/blues in particular:Texas Flood. This was his first record with his band Double Trouble, the group’s name came from an Otis Rush song and comprised two ‘flame throwing’ sidekicks, Chris Layton on drums and Tommy Shannon on bass. So let’s have a listen…
The opening number is Love Struck Baby, an evident tribute to Chuck Berry, another of his idols, and is practically a replica of Johnny B. Goode, with it’s rockabilly flavour. It is a radio-friendly ditty for first-time blues enthusiasts. Track 2, Pride and Joy, is classic SRV, with a rolling bass ‘groove’ and an opening riff that defines the band’s sound for good. Most of his work was with a Fender Stratocaster, his favourite was with a ‘63 body, ‘62 neck, and 1959 pickups, that he called ‘Number One’... “I like the strength of its sound. Any guitar I play has got to be pretty versatile. It’s got a big, strong tone and it’ll take anything I do to it.”.
The title track Texas Flood has been described as one of his best. The song is laced with ripping licks that punctuate his voice. A voice ‘Claptonesque’ in tone and pitch, one that truly compliments his deft touch with his guitar. Track 3 is a cover of a Chester Burnett’s (Howlin’ Wolf) Tell Me, a rollicking R&B number. The album contains a few covers, such as Testify (an Isley Brothers’ song where Jimi Hendrix provided the guitar parts), an instrumental that puts SRV in a category with few others. The mastery over his instrument is enviable and inspiring at the same time. Another cover is Mary had a Little Lamb by Buddy Guy, and Dirty Pool, and collaborative effort written by SRV and Doyle Bramhall, another fellow Texan.
The second instrumental on the record is Rude Mood, a quick-paced piece that's fun to listen to, but not so much to play; the complexity of the riffs are hard to copy. In the middle there’s a nifty duel between Shannon’s bass and Stevie’s guitar, which is certainly delightful.
This record is a gem in two ways, firstly, it brought the blues/rock guitar back in vogue, and secondly, it shows his commitment to honing a sound that reflects his love of playing the guitar he plays, “If I can’t love my baby, I can’t live another day”. (lyrics from I’m Cryin’). Some of his other ‘babies’ were a Gibson ES-335, a Tokai TST 50, and a 1963 Epiphone Riviera, and of course the Composite Fender Stratocaster “Lenny”, to mention just a few.
Which brings us to Lenny, the last track. It is a sweet tribute, a kiss, to his then wife Lenora Darlene Bailey, who, with the help of some friends, bought him this 1965 Strat at a pawn shop in 1980 for 300$, she knew how much he loved it, with its 1910 mandolin inlay just below the bridge, it touched his heart, and became the guitar he touched like a boss, for most of his run to the top.
Texas Flood, is remembered as the definitive SRV album, and rightly so, it is a masterpiece of sound and style.