There was something that Stevie Ray Vaughan brought to the music scene of the 1980s that just wasn’t present. Sure, it was the strict adherence to the blues and the wild stage theatrics that channelled Jimi Hendrix, but there was also something so effortlessly cool about Vaughan.
He always seemed unphased, whether it was by an audience’s reaction or the more popular styles of the day. Vaughan just carried himself with an inherent detached smoothness that let him float above any detractors or naysayers. So what if Texas blues wasn’t en vogue? Stevie Ray was still going to play it. So what if the guitar had been supplemented by the synthesiser in popular culture? Stevie Ray was going to be a modern guitar hero anyway. Nothing was going to stop him on his path towards greatness.
Not even equipment malfunctions could hold him back, although I doubt you could accurately describe what happened to him onstage at Austin City Limits in 1989 as an “equipment malfunction”. Rather, Vaughan rocks so hard that he encounters what all guitarists fear will happen when they’re in the middle of an impassioned solo: a guitar string breaks.
Guitar strings breaking is nothing new for anyone that’s played a six-string, but they were a relatively rare occurrence for Vaughan. He played 13 gauge strings, which allowed him to attack the guitar his signature ferocity (in contrast, one of Vaughan’s major influences and follow Texan, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons plays with seven gauge strings). His monster bends would sooner shave bits of skin and nail off his fingers than break a string, but even when the improbable happened, Vaughan remained cool as a cucumber.
While performing a killer solo during ‘Look At Little Sister’, Vaughan’s high E string breaks, forcing him to continue his solo on the lower octaves. Vaughan never misses a beat, and if you weren’t watching closely you’d never notice that Vaughan was down a string. With the help of a roadie, Vaughan then times a guitar switch with a breakdown section of the song so that he can come back in with a brand new guitar without ever missing a single note.
It’s just about the smoothest thing you’ll ever see, and it’s remarkable that it got caught on camera, in Vaughan’s home state, on a stage that was practically his second home.
Check out the smooth switch during the solo of ‘Look At Little Sister’ down below.