Stevie Ray Vaughan (October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990) was an American blues guitar legend, known as one of the most influential electric blues musicians in history. His playing style is often compared to that of Jimi Hendrix, though such comparisons often inspire sharp debate among music fans.
After playing in a series of bands, Dallas-native Vaughan formed the blues-rock combo Double Trouble with drummer Chris Layton and bassist Tommy Shannon in the late 1970s. A popular local draw, Vaughan soon attracted attention from David Bowie and Jackson Browne, and he played on albums with both. Bowie first caught Vaughan at the Montreux Jazz Festival where he was initially booed by many who disliked his hard blues sound. Vaughan is most notably featured on Bowie's album Let's Dance, in the songs "Let's Dance" and "China Girl."
Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble's debut album was released in 1983; the critically acclaimed Texas Flood (produced by John Hammond) featured the top-20 hit "Pride and Joy" and sold well in both blues and rock circles. The debut was followed by equally successful followups Couldn't Stand the Weather (1984) and Soul to Soul (1985).
Drug addiction and alcoholism took a toll on Vaughan, and in the mid 1980s, he collapsed, while on tour in 1986. He checked into rehab in Georgia later that year.
Following his return, Vaughan recorded In Step (1989), another critically acclaimed disc that won a Grammy award for Best Contemporary Blues Record.
Vaughan's comeback was cut tragically short when, in the early morning of August 27, 1990, he was killed when a helicopter he was riding in crashed near East Troy, Wisconsin following a concert at the Alpine Valley music theater where he had appeared earlier in the evening with Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, and Eric Clapton.
A duet album, Family Style, with his brother, Jimmie Vaughan (also a noted blues-rock guitarist and former member of The Fabulous Thunderbirds) was released in September 1990 after Stevie's death and was a popular hit. 1991's The Sky is Crying was the first of several posthumous Vaughan releases with chart success. Jimmie Vaughan would later co-write and record a song in tribute to his brother and other late blues guitarists, entitled "Six Strings Down".
Stevie Ray Vaughan is interred in the Laurel Land Memorial Park, Dallas, Texas.
In 1991, Texas governor Ann Richards proclaimed October 3, Vaughan's birthday, to be "Stevie Ray Vaughan Day."
In 1992, Fender released the Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature Stratocaster, designed along with Stevie before his death. As of 2004, this model is still in production.
In 1994, the Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial Statue was erected at Auditorium Shores on Town Lake in Austin, Texas.
In 2004, Fender released the Stevie Ray Vaughan Tribute Model "Number One" Stratocaster Guitar.