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Music

Stevie Ray Vaughan’s favourite musicians

Stevie Ray Vaughan was a strong guitar player, who melded a new form of guitar work in the decade he seamlessly conquered, but he too had his influences. One of the men who made an imprint on him was his brother Jimmie. Vaughan generously praised his brother during an interview conducted in 1988.

“With that kind of an influence as your big brother it’s real easy to get into playing,” he said. “I saw how much fun he was having with it. Also I saw how dedicated he was to it. It gave me a lot of inspiration. When he would leave, partially because he was big brother and you’re not supposed to touch big brother’s stuff. Also partly because he told me not to touch his guitar… ahh, I did.”

B.B. King was another guitar player he admired, although on this occasion, the feeling was mutual between the two of them. King – who jammed with Vaughan – felt the younger player had promise. “Stevie had many ways of showing you that he had not only talent but he had the feel for playing Blues,” King admitted.”His hands seemed to be flawless the way he moved with it.”

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Far Out recently reported on the jamming sessions he enjoyed with Albert King, and the finished results were fronted by bark, snarl and animal precision. Vaughan adored King’s guitar playing, as was clear from the below quote. “They’re the pioneers and the innovators and they deserve respect for that,” Vaughan recalled. “Listening to all the great records by Albert King and Albert Collins, Otis Rush, B.B. King. There’s millions of records we could talk about and each one of them is unbelievable in its own right.”

And then there was Lonnie Mack, who created a more rollicking form of guitar precision and polish. The songs were filled with passion and panache, putting a certain level of imagination in the young burgeoning guitar player. “It was the first album that I ever bought. He turned me on to the guy and let me know who he was. I went straight and bought the record. Also was one of the first things that I ever really tried to learn, which is pretty hard thing to learn. But it worked out,” Stevie Ray Vaughan said.

Vaughan’s influences stemmed from the beginnings of rock, some of it veering back to a decade that arrived before his time on this mortal coil. Muddy Waters was another formative influence on the young Vaughan. Waters probing blues work was instrumental, not just in the way it was presented, but in the way it cast a shadow on the young, fiery musician. Vaughan would never compare himself to Waters: “Yeah, but because people don’t understand there’s only one Jimi Hendrix. I do what I can do. I’m very, very glad to be able to hear him and be influenced by his life and his music. But there is only one Jimi Hendrix. Just like there is only one Bo Diddley. Also only one Muddy Waters and only Howlin’ Wolf.”

And then there was Howlin’ Wolf, a precocious artist who made an impression on the Vaughan family, including Jimmie Vaughan, who led the older brother to impart this knowledge onto the next generation. “When we were first startin’ off we had some friends of the family show us stuff,” Vaughan admitted in 1989. “Like one guy played with Ray Sharpe and the Razor Blades. So right off the bat we were playin’ “Linda Lu” (a Ray Sharpe hit), Jimmy Reed. Really hip stuff for little kids.” The shrill, soulful riffs melded together to create a distinctive whack, like the sound of a bricklayer putting down cement.

Vaughan died in 1990, at the heartbreakingly youthful age of 35. Who knows what he might have achieved if he’d lived for longer? Perhaps he might have toured with Jimmy Page, or perhaps he might have worked with another guitarist par excellence a la Rory Gallagher. Or he might have changed direction entirely, and written something more pastoral sounding, much like Ritchie Blackmore has done with his new band. Who knows what he might have done, but he invoked his superiors well when it suited him.

The six guitar players who inspired Stevie Ray Vaughan:

  • Jimmie Vaughan
  • B.B. King
  • Albert King
  • Lonnie Mack
  • Muddy Waters
  • Howlin’ Wolf