Your week-ending farewell comes a little earlier than usual this week with good reason: Twenty years ago today, at around this very time, I was sitting at my desk at the Dallas Times Herald writing for the afternoon edition the front-page obituary for Stevie Ray Vaughan, who died in a helicopter crash on his way out of a fogbound East Troy, Wisconsin, following a show with, among others, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy and brother Jimmie. The rest of that day became a blur: David Kronke and I spent hours interviewing friends and family and local musicians who'd known and played with the Oak Cliff native -- grim duty. But I do recall: It was Stevie's Uncle Joe Cook who'd invited David to the house, and he spent an hour regaling David with tales of his nephew's greatness.
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When we finished writing, around 11:30 that night, David and I went to the old Champion Lounge for a couple of drinks; then we sat in his car, in the Herald parking lot, listening to In Step in its entirety. Days later was the memorial service and funeral at Laurel Land -- a wrenching, sweltering, 1,500-strong affair during which Nile Rodgers spoke and Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Wonder sang "Amazing Grace." I still have the cassette of that recording.
And somewhere in my collection is this beloved gem: The 1978 Nashville sessions recorded at Jack Clement's studio that feature on vocals not only SRV but also Lou Ann Barton, then part of the Triple Threat Revue that would shortly become Double Trouble. "Raw and ragged and on fire" is how biographer Joe Nick Patoski described the recording when he and I spoke this morning.
And, he reminds: While this tape is among a number of recordings SRV made back then, this one -- featuring "Pride and Joy," "Love Struck Baby" and "Rude Mood" -- comes closest to sounding like the major-label artist he'd become five years later.
"The dynamics are there," Patoski says. "'Pride and Joy' and 'Love Struck Baby' were already club standards, and those are where he took off and showed off. It was translating that to recording that was the tricky part." The session, though, was brief; hence the addition of several bonus tracks, including a few featuring, on sax, none other than original band member Johnny Reno.