DFW Music News

The Kessler Wants Oak Cliff to Have a Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan Statue

Fans of Stevie Ray Vaughan have had to do a lot of waiting. They had to wait 25 years for the blues guitar legend to be inducted into the Rock and Hall of Fame — an honor that the late Texan finally received earlier this year. For fans in Dallas who want to see Vaughan honored in his hometown, the waiting continues. If The Kessler Theater has its way, those fans won't have to wait much longer.

On September 3, the Oak Cliff venue is hosting a benefit show to help make a long hoped-for memorial to Stevie Ray and his brother Jimmie a reality. It would be erected in Kiest Park, less than a mile from where they grew up. It's a plan that's been in the works, in one form or another, for years, but if the Kessler's fundraising goals are met Dallas may finally have a statue to honor the Vaughans — possibly as soon as 2016.

"We're fans; we think it's overdue," says Kessler owner Edwin Cabaniss of the project, known as The Vaughan Brothers Art Project, which has been spearheaded by Oak Cliff Foundation board member Kirby Wornack. Not long after the Kessler had reopened in 2010, they'd had a clay miniature statue of Stevie Ray in their lobby, which had gotten Cabaniss wondering just how difficult it would be build a proper memorial.

The answer, he found, was that it would be harder than you'd think.

"Anything of that scale that has the image or likeness of Stevie Ray Vaughan really has to go through the family," Cabaniss explains. For a long time that meant the brothers' mother, Martha, who passed away a few years ago. Now it requires the approval of Jimmie and other family members. "Jimmie went to Austin and never really looked back — which is pretty much the same thing Stevie did," Cabaniss says. Austin has its own statue of Stevie Ray, but getting Jimmie's approval for something in Dallas means mending those fences: "Over the past few years there's been a really wonderful relationship reestablished."

It was Wornack who eventually approached Jimmie for approval of the project, and when he gave his blessing the wheels were put in motion. Wornack has been working with the Parks Department and the City Council to sort out approval and funding, with the city offering to pitch in around $75,000. But, as Cabaniss points out, that doesn't include the cost of maintaining the memorial after it's been built. Those costs are estimated at $40,000 over a 20-year period.

That's where Cabaniss, who had a career in finance and fundraising before he bought the Kessler, comes in.

"We want to bring that figure to an even $100,000," he says of the initial building costs. Combined with the money needed to maintain the memorial, the exact figure that The Kessler is hoping to help raise is $68,000. "I feel like we're about halfway there," he says, and he's hoping the fundraiser in September will do the rest.

Once the fundraising goal is met, there will be a public call for art submissions, liaisoned by Wornack and the city with final oversight from the Vaughan family.

The show will feature Jim Suhler, Smokin' Joe Kubek and Carolyn Wonderland, with 100 percent of the proceeds going directly to the Art Project. The Kessler will be covering all production costs and costs for the musicians. There will also be an auction for memorabilia that's been donated by an array of different artists.

"Generally what holds up a process like this is the funding," Cabaniss says. "We're over the 50 yard line and now we need some help."