Bluzzi

TDPRI Member
Joined
Jan 2, 2020
Posts
23
Location
Montreal
I think you just put into words what we all have been thinking for decades (at least for me anyway). I don't have the eloquence or patience to write it all out so I think thanks are in order. Your love and respect for SRV and The Blues shows and is mirrored in all of us I would like to believe.

I have been saying almost the same thing for about 12 years now. Our Blues festivals here in Quebec and probably all of Canada have become a poor example of what the Blues (in my mind) ought to be. Quality of bands has been going down steadily. My fear was that new audiences would see those bands as examples of The Blues and would be turned off or at least not be impressed enough to check out more of the genre.

I think SRV as many of his contemporaries (Ronnie Earl comes to mind) had enough of the old Blues artists around to mentor them or at least be in the presence of and "get" The Blues. I am old enough that I was priviledged enlough to have seen Muddy Waters, Freddie King, Paul Butterfield, Bloomfield, BB King (in his prime) etc.. I saw them mostly in small venues where I think Blues belongs.

Before SRV there were almost no Blues Festivals in Quebec or probably Canada but after his passing the scene exploded. He somewhat like Clapton and Bloomfield brought Blues to the forefront and exposed millions to the Blues or at least the "feel" of the Blues.

Blues I believe has had it's days of being popular and just like Jazz (Jazz festivals seem also to have become diluted. Where are the Dizzy Gillespie or John Coltranes?) has become a "folk" music. That is not a bad thing. The bad thing is that there aren't enough fans of the genre to support artists to the point where they grow artistically. Also the times have changed and the music industry has changed.

I would love to be proved wrong but my hunch is that music genres are like mines. First ones in get all the gold and diamonds. Sure there always some left but it gets rarer and rarer as time goes on. SRV was able to fuse many American styles into one and also play each one convincingly. Ha! Convincingly, that is the word that says it all for me. I just don't find many Blues bands that convincing these days. Is it because the younger ones never got to see the Muddy Waters or Freddie Kings etc.. in person? I don't know. Blues tends to have gron more towards the Rock side of "feel" (not a bad thing but I prefer the soulful, swampier funkier side of it). Let's face it Blues to day is really Rock with a Blues progression.

SRV's echo is still heard in Blues festivals but like an echo it eventually fades away. Before we get another SRV there would have to be support from mentors and labels and ultimately the public (SRV was also helped by the music videos). I cross my fingers in hope but theres enough music for me to listen to and not only Blues as I've gotten into Americana a lot and singer songwriters such as Lucinda Williams have inspired me to write songs.

Sorry about the long rambling but your comment was so eloquent and hit right to the heart it fired me up.
 

Lone_Poor_Boy

Tele-Holic
Joined
Sep 14, 2021
Posts
957
Location
Colorado
I love Stevie Ray Vaughan.
His music.
His playing style.
His tone.
His singing voice.

The instruments and effects and amps he used has affected my instrument choices (along with a million other blues and rock players) down to this day.

His battered-Strat-and-black-bolero-cowboy-gypsy image—too often imitated, and never equaled—was a spectacular package to behold.

The background story of a less-handsome little brother living in the shadow of a often-dismissive and sometimes-contentious older sibling resonates greatly with me (personally)…add the ramshackle Oak Cliff childhood and status as an outsider in his own hometown, it becomes even more resonant to me.

His initial professional struggles and failures, followed by unexpected success in a landscape of synths, drum machines and hairspray makes me smile.

The fact that he told an established superstar (David Bowie), “Thanks but no thanks, I got my own thang to do…” when it could have led to a lot of professional exposure just oozes Texas Swagger (which I love).

The fact that his ground-breaking first album was recorded in just a couple of days of studio time borrowed from another superstar (Jackson Browne), along with the tickling of my Guitar Nerddom because those studio session led to SRV discovering a rare and iconic amplifier (Dumble), which shaped his sound even further.

The story arc of alcohol and drug abuse, hitting rock bottom, then redemption through rehab, then making two more (spectacular) albums while sober, overcoming his fear of playing without some chemical help/enhancement is inspiring.

The similar and related aspect of a toxic and occasionally abusive marriage, which fell apart and was followed by a meet-cute story of literally seeing a girl on the side of the road in a foreign country and stopping to introduce himself, is a dramatic rom-com in the making.

The fact that the second album of his sober life was two full-circle moments (reuniting with Nile Rogers, who was instrumental in Stevie’s first professional success on David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” and—probably more importantly—the first full album of playing with his big brother) deepens the tragedy and inspiration—the romance, if you will.

His untimely death, when on the brink of…well, who knows what…is tragic and painful for fans of his music as well as his bandmates and friends.

Even the melodrama of his backing band moving forward with (first) the Arc Angels and (second) Storyville, with episodes of playing with multiple guitarslingers (Susan Tedeschi, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, etc) littered along the way is interesting and melancholic.

I don’t know why Hollywood hasn’t snapped up the rights to make this into a movie. The entire story is as cinematic as award-winning biopics like The Buddy Holly Story, La Bamba (Ritchie Valens), Ray (Ray Charles) or Walk The Line (Johnny Cash).

Jimmie’s quote sums it up pretty good:

“The world misses his music, but I miss my brother.”

Not to diminish Jimmie’s relationship with Stevie or his pain, but a lot of people feel the same way, myself included.

Having said all that, there is a second aspect to Stevie’s death that I think goes just as deep and has affected the music (blues) I love so much.

Stevie’s death was a severe blow to the music world, but more so to the blues world in particular. He led the charge, the revolution, the resurrection of Blues music as a viable and profitable product in the 1980’s. His success led to wider recognition for artists who’d been around and playing music for a long time—folks like Robert Cray, whose smoother delivery and sweeter sound belied his ability to *Bring It* when the time came, and his brother’s band, the Fabulous Thunderbirds—who’d already made four of the finest blues albums in history, yet been released and relegated by their label because mainstream success eluded them. The attention given to Stevie led to attention being given to Jimmie and Kim Wilson, who were given another chance, and delivered in spades throughout the rest of the decade.

The whole Austin Blues scene—centered especially around Clifford Antone’s namesake club—was already firmly established by 1983, when “Texas Flood” was released…but the success of the disc brought more national, and eventually international attention to the scene. It grew exponentially, but still seemed to stay true to its roots. Clifford’s habit of mixing new young blood with old legendary players (like putting the T-Birds behind Muddy Waters, putting Stevie onstage with Albert King and later, dropping Sue Foley off to play with Buddy Guy and Albert Collins) continued to foster new growth while strengthening old roots, to great results. The Texas Blues scene became so dominant that a mainstream movie set in Chicago (Adventures in Babysitting), used a Texas Blues guy (Albert Collins) for an important scene, instead of drawing from the local Chicago talent that was undoubtedly available.

The Dallas and Fort Worth blues scenes (close in geography but distant in style and personnel) grew greatly as well; Houston’s pre-existing scene benefitted along the way.

Blues had a scene that could be a worldwide focal point. All was good.

However, there’s some evidence that the whole thing started crumbling when Stevie died.

Just like an old tree doesn’t die just because a limb or two cracks, it wasn’t an immediate collapse. There was great blues and blues-based music made—in Texas and elsewhere—after Stevie’s death (and there still is).

The first big problem was that a lot of people decided that somebody—anybody—needed to fill Stevie’s boots…and the second big problem was that a lot of guitarists tried.

I’m not criticizing the Vaughan-a-bees for their musicianship. Anybody that can reasonably cop SRV’s licks obviously has some talent, aptitude and ability on guitar. But by copying him note-for-note, lick-by-lick and tone-for-tone, those copyists are missing what made Stevie so revolutionary.

Stevie Vaughan copied, borrowed and stole from everybody (as all good musicians do), not just a singular source. He could have made a (reasonable) career just copying Hendrix (like Ernie Isley and Robin Trower and Lance Lopez have done)…he also sounded so much like Albert King that Nile Rogers told David Bowie, “Man, I didn’t know you wanted that on your album—if I’d known, we could have called Albert himself!” (I’m paraphrasing, don’t @me).

But Stevie wisely took a plank or a brick or a shingle from each of his heroes’ homes and made his own castle.

Listening to an album you’d hear traces of Lonnie Mack or Buddy Guy or Hubert Sumlin or Kenny Burrell or Otis Rush or Howlin’ Wolf or the aforementioned Albert King and Jimi Hendrix—or a dozen other influences…but he also sounded exactly like himself, like all those flavors were being blended up in that beat-up Strat and spewed out through a pair of Vibroverbs.

His music was impactful because it sounded familiar, but it also sounded fresh.

He was embraced by his forebears and old-time blues fans was because they could hear his respect for and homages to themselves and their peers.

He was embraced by newer blues enthusiasts because it wasn’t a fourth-generation rehash of what they’d been listening to all their lives.

Stevie sounded like old blues, but with a second gear.

But nowadays, when I hear “Latest Vaughnabee X” I think, “Not bad…now show me your second gear.”

Some have grown into it—they started out with him as a major (or even singular) influence, and matured as a musician to where his influence is still heard, but has become a piece of the puzzle rather than the whole picture.

Some have never grown beyond it, and seemingly never will. They’re not just stuck in first gear, some have put the car in park and they’re just idling.

The problem this phenomenon (“finding/becoming the next SRV”) created is that blues and blues/rock stagnated for 20 years. There was little or no growth, overall, and a large number of marginal blues fans have grown tired of the genre…and since the money isn’t made on the hard-core fans, but rather the (larger) mainstream demographic, festivals, clubs and even regional scenes have shrunk, suffered or died.

The hardcore fans (such as me) are still there; I’ve branched out and explored sub-genres that I was aware of but not well-versed in (North Mississippi Hill Country Blues artists such as Junior Kimbrough and RL Burnside, as well as their acolytes such the North Mississippi All-Stars and The Black Keys). Artists such as Eve Monsees and Mike Flanigan have come into their own, and I’ve also continued to follow the folks who were around during Stevie’s lifetime—Derek O’Brien, Lou Ann Barton, the recently deceased Denney Freeman, Sue Foley, and of course, big brother Jimmie.

But I love the style and the art form, going as far back as Bessie Smith and Sylvester Weaver and on through Robert Johnson and Son House and Charley Patton and on through Muddy and Wolf and BB and…you get the point. I love blues, and I’ll keep listening to it.

So what is needed?

Well, in a way we need what we’ve been searching for—another Stevie Ray Vaughan…

No, not yet another person who plays like him, but a player who combines all the cool elements of their forebears and puts out a different-but-familiar sound that’s enjoyable across the board.

I was hoping it would be Gary Clark, Jr and Eve Monsees.

Mr. Clark has done a lot, and received a lot of mainstream attention, but his influence hasn’t become as wide-spread as SRV’s was…

I love the fact that Mr. Clark has re-opened Antone’s nightclub and Mrs. Monsees-Buck (yes, she married the Fabulous Thunderbirds’s original drummer, Mike Buck) is now proprietor of Antone’s Record Shop, but their musical influence is far from the mainstream, in total.

Blues needs a new revolution, a new scene, a new explosion…and us blues fans need it now!
Holy crap what an outstanding write-up.

My hack take is, though Stevie got sober something fundamental to him was his demons, his internal struggles, his pain. There's a craziness, a chaos, to what you are willing to try and what can come out of you when lit up and the door opens to release caged emotions.

Many of the inspired musicians that have come after are technically gifted and are amazing musicians. But most come across as too sterile to me. It reminds me of why I'm not a Steely Dan or Toto fan. Amazing musicians but they perfect the life out of a song.

From my view, the demons, self-medication and unique creativity is the arc of many and especially most of those in the 27 club.
 




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