Stevie Ray Vaughan is well regarded as one of the greatest guitarists in history, but he’s also without a doubt a man who probably amped up his electric toothbrush to well beyond the Spinal Tap recommended level of 11.
He brought blues back in the 1980s and infused it with an adrenalised electronic edge. This scintillating sonic mix of the old and the new is what made his sound so iconic — and it was his unrivalled skill that catapulted that unique sound into the rarefied air of the guitar greats.
However, in his career, which was tragically cut short by a fatal helicopter crash, he was rarely caught with a good old-fashioned acoustic under his billowed sleeved arms, at least publicly that is. This is unusual in itself when you consider the footage below, which may well be the best piece of 12 bar blues playing that I have ever seen. Electricity may have been shunned but his stylings remain, right down to the cowboy hat that he seemingly slept in.
It seems unfair and beyond the point to continually drag out comparisons, but there is, nevertheless, an unmistakable similar approach to how Jimi Hendrix also tackled the old unplugged.
In the clip, he exhibits the sort of skill that Robert Johnson had to sell his soul to acquire and the ease at which he picks the lick summons up notions of similar suspicious bargains with Beelzebub. I am sure there is also some behind the scenes footage cut from after this riffing that shows the guitar choking down a cigarette.
He may not have played frequently propagated the wholesome sounds of the acoustic much in his with work the Nightcrawlers, the Cobras or later in his own group the Trip Threat Revue, but this footage proves without a doubt that no matter what style the six-string was, he could make it kick like a mule.
You can watch the devilishly sumptuous guitar playing below.