Stevie Ray Vaughan would be 65 years old today. It makes my head explode to even think of what he would have accomplished if he hadn’t been on that helicopter. Doubly tragic is the fact that he’d gotten his life together after a rough patch with addiction. His doctor had given him a month to live if he didn’t go to rehab. So he did. Hailed as one of the true guitar masters who helped revive the blues, there was still so much ahead of him.
And man, do I remember being on the air that day when we got the news. 8/27/90. This was pre-internet, pre-cell phones. We relied on the AP ticker. The helicopter crash had happened shortly after midnight and the news started trickling in while I was on the air in the late morning. Stevie Ray had been opening up on tour with Eric Clapton and had played an All Star Jam at Alpine Valley in Wisconsin to close out the show. He boarded the helicopter with several members of Clapton’s entourage. Originally his brother Jimmy was supposed to be on this flight too but the seats were taken. Stevie said it was urgent that he get on this flight to leave early so he was given a seat. When the initial reports came in, we heard that Clapton had been onboard as well. The news kept changing but the final fact was that Stevie Ray had died along with everyone else on that flight. Strangely, he had had a dream just days before in which he was dead and at his own funeral.
And what is the Stevie Ray and Jackson Browne connection? Well, Stevie was distraught after being booed at the Montreaux Jazz Festival. Jackson happened to be in Montreaux and ended up jamming with SRV in the lounge and was so floored that he offered Stevie his studio to record an album. And THEN the calls started coming in from David Bowie and everyone else.
There’s a joyful noise going on somewhere today and Stevie Ray Vaughan is right in the middle of it.