Editor's note: These stories originally appeared in the August 28, 1990, edition of The Dallas Morning News.
Air crash kills guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan
By VICENTE RODRIGUEZ/Pop Music Critic
Mr. Vaughan, who lived in Dallas, was on his way to Chicago after performing at a concert that included guitarists Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, Buddy Guy and Mr. Vaughan's older brother, Jimmie. None of those musicians was aboard the helicopter.
"This is the greatest loss to Texas music since Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) went down in the '50s,' said Casey Monahan, director of the Texas Music Office, who knew Mr. Vaughan. The two Texas musicians died with Ritchie Valens in a 1959 air crash.
"Stevie was a tremendous ambassador of Texas music to the world,' Mr. Monahan said. "He was also an inspiration to anyone who loved the blues and to anyone who was trying to recover from drug and alcohol abuse.'
The other victims were identified as helicopter pilot Jeff Brown; Bobby Brooks, Mr. Clapton's agent; Nigel Browne, a Clapton bodyguard and Colin Smythe, an assistant tour manager for Mr. Clapton.
"Bobby Brooks, Nigel Browne, Colin Smythe and Stevie Ray Vaughan were my companions, my associates and my friends,' Mr. Clapton said in a prepared statement. "This is a tragic loss of some very special people. I will miss all of them very much. I want to extend my deepest sympathies to their families.'
The Bell 206 helicopter, owned by Omni Flight Helicopters Inc., of Charleston, S.C., slammed into the side of a man-made ski hill just after midnight. It had just left the Alpine Valley Music Theater, an open-air concert facility at the Alpine Valley ski resort near East Troy, Wis., said Omni spokesman Phil Huth. The resort, where the musicians had played to a crowd of 30,000, is between Madison and Milwaukee.
Authorities discovered the crash at dawn Monday. Bodies and wreckage were strewn over 200 feet in the heavily wooded area. The victims appeared to have died on impact.
Although the crash occurred in heavy fog, officials have not determined whether poor visibility was a contributing factor.
But Charles Comer, Mr. Vaughan's publicist, said he was shocked that the helicopter was allowed to take off.
"I'm trying to find out who gave the authority for . . . the helicopter to fly in the fog, in the dark, at that hour with visibility being as bad as it was,' Mr. Comer said. "Buddy Guy made a statement
that he couldn't see 10 feet off the ground after (his own helicopter) took off.'
Mr. Vaughan took the last seat available on the helicopter because of a sore throat, Mr. Comer said. He added that had there been more room on the helicopter, Jimmie Vaughan and his wife, Connie, also would have been on the aircraft.
"Peter Jackson, Eric Clapton's tour manager, said to Stevie, "Hey, there may be a few (extra) seats,' ' Mr. Comer said. "Stevie said, "OK, great, for me, Jimmie and Connie.' Then Peter came back and said, "Look, I'm terribly sorry, there's only one seat.' So Stevie went back to the dressing room and said to Jimmie and Connie, "Is it all right if I take it?' And they said sure. And he got the last seat.'
Mr. Clapton's manager, Roger Forrester, told Britain's Sky News, "We had four helicopters and Eric and I were in one directly behind it when it suddenly disappeared from sight.'
Joe Cook, Mr. Vaughan's uncle, said the guitarist's mother Martha, who lives in Dallas, was "devastated' by the crash.
Mr. Vaughan narrowly averted death in July. A 30-foot-tall, 6-foot-wide beam fell, just missing him, as he left a stage after a concert in New Jersey.
His last concert in Dallas was a headlining show in June with blues legend B.B. King. In a prepared statement, Mr. King said, "Stevie Ray Vaughan was like one of my children.'
Mr. Vaughan moved to Austin from Dallas in 1972. After playing the Austin bar scene for many years, he got his first big break nine years ago when he and his band Double Trouble performed at a private party for The Rolling Stones. The guitarist came to national prominence in 1983 through his participation in the David Bowie album Let's Dance. His first record, the critically acclaimed Texas Flood, was released later that year.
Texas Flood sold nearly a million copies and received a Grammy Award nomination. Although he did not win a Grammy for that record, he did win two of the awards during his career.
Guitar Player magazine named Mr. Vaughan as the best electric blues guitarist from 1983 to 1986 and in 1988. He was named to the magazine's "Gallery of the Greats' in 1989. Earlier this year he was chosen Austin musician of the decade at the South by Southwest Music and Media conference.
Mr. Vaughan was remembered in Austin Monday night at a vigil that drew about 3,000 people to Zilker Park. A radio station's continuous broadcast of his music echoed through the park from the station's van, decorated with a guitar-shaped memorial wreath, and from hundreds of radios in the crowd.
"He is Austin and we love him,' said William Goode, 49, owner of a construction company.
"It's not goodbye,' he said, because the music will live on.
Mr. Vaughan began playing the guitar at age 7 while growing up in Oak Cliff. He followed in the footsteps of his brother Jimmie.
"It was my guitar and my records,' Jimmie told The Dallas Morning News earlier this year. "When I left, I would say, "Don't touch my guitar because I'm going to get you. Leave my guitar alone.' And of course, when I would leave, he would go straight in there and play with my guitar and try to learn what I had been playing.'
Mr. Vaughan's career, however, was derailed for several years because of drug and alcohol. He sought substance abuse treatment in 1986 after collapsing during a concert in London. "I nearly died,' he told The Dallas Morning News earlier this year, "and it got my attention.'
Clean and sober, Mr. Vaughan returned to the studio last year and recorded In Step, his first album in three years. In Step earlier this year won a Grammy Award in the best contemporary blues category.
Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan, who is a former member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, had just completed their first album together. "It's very Vaughan,' Jimmie Vaughan said in an interview this year with The News. "We're just doing it the way we hear it. . . . If you like what we do, you'll like it.'
The record, titled Family Style, is scheduled to be released Sept. 25, said a spokeswoman for Epic Records.
"The Vaughan brothers' album represented the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for Stevie,' said Dave Glew, Epic Records president, in a statement. "At a time when he was achieving great personal happiness and creative growth, we've lost a very special artist and a very special man in Stevie Ray Vaughan.'
Mr. Vaughan's body was to be flown to Dallas Monday night, Mr. Comer said. Mr. Vaughan's family will announce funeral arrangements Tuesday. The guitarist is survived by his mother and his
Staff writers Diane Jennings and Tom Maurstad in Dallas, Karen Adams in Austin and wire services contributed to this report.
Stevie Ray embodied Texas roadhouse music
By DIANE JENNINGS/Staff Writerfirstname.lastname@example.org
Blues musicians and fans were shocked and saddened by news of Dallas guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan's death Monday.
The 35-year-old musician "was like one of my children,' said blues great B.B. King in a prepared statement, "and I felt a great loss when I heard the news. The loss is a great loss for blues music and all fans of music around the world. . . . I am saddened beyond words.'
"He's been our brother for almost 20 years,' said Clifford Antone, whose club is the focal point of the Austin blues scene. "You just can't believe it. It's not real.'
"I'm just in shock, it's a total tragedy,' said Austin musician Lou Ann Barton, a close friend and former singer in his band. "We helped raise each other, we loved each other and I'm just devastated.'
"Everybody's shocked; nobody can believe it. . . . It was just a tragedy, a terrible tragedy,' said Chesley Millikin, Mr. Vaughan's personal manager from 1980-1986.
Mr. King, who appeared with Mr. Vaughan at the Benson & Hedges Blues festival in Dallas in June, said the Texas musician was "just beginning to be appreciated, and to develop his potential.'
Mr. Vaughan's name isn't as well-known to pop radio listeners, but he was widely regarded in the music business as a master of his craft. Rolling Stone magazine called him a "guitar guru,' and Guitar World dubbed him "the most popular, most widely exposed blues celebrity.'
"He was just gifted. You just don't learn to play like Stevie,' said Mr. Antone. "He had the respect of the old-timers, which is so hard to get.'
Mr. Vaughan and his band, Double Trouble, won a Grammy earlier this year for their most recent album, In Step. The award was the second for Mr. Vaughan and Double Trouble, who also won a Grammy in 1984 for a recording on a compilation album, Blues Explosion. The group had been nominated several times since 1983, when it made its national debut with the album Texas Flood.
Though Mr. Vaughan became nationally known in recent years, he was a legend in Texas music circles for almost two decades.
"He's our (Austin's) pride and joy,' said singer Marcia Ball. "It's just terrible.'
"He opened up the doors for the blues like nobody has done in the past,' Mr. Millikin said, pointing out that Mr. Vaughan was "the first white man to win the W.C. Handy Award,' a national prize for blues music, a genre traditionally dominated by African-Americans.
"For many, many years blacks said that no white boy could play the blues,' Mr. Millikin said, "and Stevie Ray Vaughan proved them wrong.'
Mr. Vaughan began playing guitar in Dallas clubs at age 13. In an interview earlier this year, Double Trouble bass player Tommy Shannon remembered walking past a club called The Fog. "I heard this guitar player I couldn't believe,' he said. "I thought, God who was that? I went inside, and there was this little kid. He was about 14 years old, and it was Stevie.'
Mr. Vaughan began playing out of a desire to emulate his older brother Jimmie, the longtime guitarist of The Fabulous Thunderbirds, who recently left that band. Though he had no formal training and couldn't read or write music, the younger Vaughan brother quickly developed his own style, a flamboyant roadhouse sound with a rock sensibility similar to that of his idol, Jimi Hendrix. When everything was going right, Mr. Vaughan said he knew it because "your toes curl up and you get chillbumps all over the place. That's when you know you're doing it.'
He dropped out of high school during his senior year and moved to Austin, then began making the Texas club circuit. In 1981 he formed Double Trouble, and a few months later Mr. Millikin gave a tape of the group to rock star Mick Jagger. The Rolling Stones hired Double Trouble to play at a private party in New York, where Mr. Jagger "just went absolutely ecstatic,' Mr. Millikin said, "and became one of Stevie's major fans.'
Double Trouble's big break, however, came in 1982 at the Montreux Jazz Festival. The band was the first to appear at the prestigious Swiss festival without an album, but its performance caught the attention of stars such as David Bowie and Jackson Browne. Based on that appearance, Mr. Bowie asked Mr. Vaughan to play lead guitar on his 1983 album Let's Dance, and legendary producer John Hammond helped Mr. Vaughan get a recording contract with Columbia Records.
"That boy came from nowhere,' Ms. Barton said, "and he went everywhere.'
The band's debut album, Texas Flood went gold, and Double Trouble began touring constantly. During those years, Mr. Vaughan began drinking and taking drugs heavily. "It was more of a whirlwind,' he said. "There was more drinking and more drugs. Stronger drugs, stronger drinking, stronger alcohol.'
He began drinking at age 6, he said, and by 1986 was a full-blown alcoholic and addict. When he had a "nervous breakdown' that year, he checked into a treatment facility in Georgia.
Mr. Vaughan and his friends and family were proud of his ability to conquer his addiction, and Mr. Vaughan made a point during his concerts of warning people about the dangers of drug abuse. In addition he frequently met with kids in an effort to help them avoid the mistakes he made.
"He'd had such a hard time of it, he had to fight so hard for a long time,' said Dallas promoter Angus Wynne. "He was doing so well after overcoming all of his personal problems, it's a shame it had to end so suddenly and tragically.'
Despite his fame Mr. Vaughan never forsook his roots. He took a place in New York earlier this year but always kept a home in Texas. He had moved back to Dallas after a divorce, saying he wanted to be closer to his family. He was renting a house on the edge of Highland Park at the time of his death. "I go other places, and they're real neat for a few days or a month,' he said. "And then I miss it so bad, it's like I can't wait to get back.'
"He was the consummate Texas blues artist,' said Dallas singer Ann Armstrong. "It's a grievous loss. He was a Texas icon. He was one of the greatest Texas blues musicians ever.'
Staff writers Karen Adams and Tom Maurstad contributed to this report.
Oak Cliff recalls musical favorite son
By RUSSELL SMITH/Staff Writer
Oak Cliff doesn't have that many favorite sons to spare.
So the old neighborhood took special pride in the success of Stevie Ray Vaughan. A lot of the kids at Justin F. Kimball High School may not have known who Stevie Ray was at the time, but then, we didn't know who Justin F. Kimball was either.
"You always saw him with a guitar in his hand,' says Pamela Mount, 38, who went to Sunset High but remembers Stevie Ray as a kid who made the rounds playing garage talent shows and parties at Kiest Park.
"He was just a little kid,' she says. "He played the guitar like he does now -- with his head down.'
The Kimball neighborhood was a nice one, full of neat hedges and comfortable brick houses right out of Leave It to Beaver. But the times weren't so well-manicured: Boys still were being drafted to Vietnam and, in 1970, the year before Stevie Ray dropped out of Kimball during his senior year, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin died drug-related deaths.
"That was a pretty confusing time,' says Janie Paleschic, Stevie Ray's classmate who edited the Kimball yearbook for the class of '72. Ms. Paleschic, 36, estimates that out of a class of about 700, only 500 or so stuck around to graduate.
She remembers the Vaughan brothers even from her days at Stockard Junior High.
"We grew up arguing about who was better (on guitar) -- Jimmie or Stevie,' says Ms. Paleschic, a former Dallas Morning News editor who is assistant business editor at the Los Angeles Times.
When he was 13, Stevie Ray began playing in bands at night-spots with names like The Fog and The Cellar. Some nights, he'd be out until 3 or 4 a.m., with a full day of school ahead.
Denise McQuinn knew him from the seventh grade but had only one class at Kimball with the budding musician -- study hall.
"He just basically would sleep,' she recalls, "because he had been out playing clubs all night. The teachers probably thought he was worthless.'
"Stevie was cool even when we were little,' says Ms. McQuinn, 36.
Although she followed the Vaughan brothers' careers locally for years, Ms. Mount says she became close to the family only in the last 10 years or so. She's covered Stevie Ray's appearances in Dallas for the Oak Cliff Tribune and hoped to persuade him to participate in a gala Sept. 8 to benefit the restoration of Oak Cliff's historic Texas Theatre.
A European engagement got in the way and the guitarist had to bow out, Ms. Mount says.
"He was the sweetest, kindest person,' she adds. "He hated turning people down.'
The show will go on at the Texas Theatre, says Ms. Mount -- fashioned now as a tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan.
She says, "It will be up to his hometown to show that re
Bonus read: One of Stevie's last shows
Thor Christensen, now a freelance music critic for The Dallas Morning News, was the music critic at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in 1990. He reviewed the second-to-last show Stevie ever performed, on Aug. 25, 1990, the first of two shows in East Troy, Wis. Read that review here.
ABOUT STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN
Born: Oct. 3, 1954 in Dallas.
Began playing guitar: age 7.
First performed in clubs: age 13.
Famous sibling: Jimmie Vaughan, former member of the band the Fabulous Thunderbirds.
Education: Dropped out of Justin F. Kimball High School in Oak Cliff at age 17.
First album: Double Trouble's Texas Flood, 1983.
Awards: Two Grammys (Best Contemporary Blues -- In Step, 1990; Best Traditional Blues Recording -- Flood Down in Texas from Blues Explosion, 1984). Won National Blues award in 1984. Named Best Electric Blues Guitarist by Guitar Player magazine in 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1989. Named in Guitar Player's "Gallery of the Greats' in 1989.
Achievements: First person to appear at Montreux Jazz Festival without having produced an album. Played at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.
Bands he performed with: Double Trouble, Chantones, Brooklyn Underground, the Southern Distributors.
Personal: Moved to Austin in 1972. Gained wide recognition after serving as lead guitarist on David Bowie's 1983 album Let's Dance. Collapsed during a London engagement in 1986 and entered drug treatment center. Moved back to Dallas after his release.
STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN'S RECORDINGS
1983: Stevie Ray Vaughan comes to national prominence after playing on David Bowie's Let's Dance album.
1983: Texas Flood. His first solo album receives a gold record award for selling more than 500,000 copies.
1984: Couldn't Stand The Weather. The album goes platinum, selling more than 1 million copies.
1985: Soul To Soul. It goes gold.
1986: Live Alive.
1989: In Step.
1990: He and older brother, Jimmie, complete work on Family Style, scheduled for release Sept. 15.