Post image for SRV – 25 years gone, the sky is still crying

SRV – 25 years gone, the sky is still crying

by Michael on July 10, 2015

This year is the 25th anniversary of the death of blues rock guitar great Stevie Ray Vaughan. On August 26th, 1990, he had just finished a monster show at the Alpine Valley ski resort in Wisconsin. Other players on the bill included his brother Jimmie, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy and Robert Cray. The concert ended with all the performers on stage for a rousing rendition of Sweet Home Chicago. That would be Stevie Ray’s last song.

After the show the performers boarded helicopters to fly back to Chicago. They were going to meet up and play a gig at Buddy Guy’s club. Stevie, his pilot and two others never made it. Flying through unfamiliar terrain on a foggy night, the pilot crashed into the ski slope. Stevie Ray Vaughan was 35.

stevie ray vaughan crash site alpine valley

The ski slope that wasn’t seen in the fog.

In a strange turn of events, his death is what got me into taking up the guitar. As so often happens after the death of a musician, radio stations play their music more frequently. I guess hearing them somehow softens the blow. Listening to his music I became attracted to his Texas attitude to blues and rock. No one before or since sounds quite like him.

On August 27th, 1995, the 5th anniversary of Stevie’s death, I saw his older brother Jimmie perform in concert. The prior year he had released his first album since the accident. It contained a tribute song called Six Strings Down, the story of a guitar slinger called up to heaven too early, and meeting other blues icons such as Jimi Hendrix and Albert Collins. As Jimmie sang that song on a sweltering summer night on the Camden waterfront, the emotions were still raw. Tears and sweat merged to form a river of pain. It was the most emotional performance I’ve ever seen at a concert.

On a recent road trip I stopped in at Alpine Valley to see the place where Stevie Ray last performed. The concert stage looked like dozens of others that welcome summer touring shows. But this one felt different. It hosted the last live performance of a music legend. The gloomy sky, laden with gray storm clouds, mirrored how I felt as I stood in the empty arena.

alpine valley srv final concert

The concert stage at Alpine Valley.

As I got into my car and drove away, the sky finally opened up and the rains came pouring down. I flipped on the wipers and slid in a CD I had brought along for the trip; the opening notes of The Sky Is Crying filled the car as Stevie once again wailed away on his battered old Fender Stratocaster.

Last year  I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. It surprised me that Stevie Ray Vaughan is still not enshrined there. Rolling Stone magazine has already selected him as the 7th greatest guitarist of all time. Not bad for a scruffy kid from Oak Cliff, Texas. Maybe the anniversary of his early death will shine a new light on Stevie Ray’s brilliant career.

UPDATE 2015:

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.

SRV Stevie Ray Vaughan statue Austin texas

The Stevie Ray Vaughan statue in Austin, Texas.

Related Post: Bruce Springsteen – A holy relic in denim and sweat

What are some of your memories of Stevie Ray?


28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Terry May 27, 2012 at 4:49 pm

I just wanted to thank you for the pictures of the stage where SRV last performed, and the way you told your story. I know what you mean about feeling that feeling! I’ve seen the pics that showed them all on stage, but never got a clear view of what it really looked like. I miss him dearly. I used to run into him all over the place in Austin. It makes my hands tingle just thinking about how we will never see him again, this side of Heaven. But, I intend to see him again one day! Thanks for the article and the pictures!

Michael May 27, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Terry,

Thank you for your kind comments. Your memories of him must be so precious. Thanks for sharing.

Michael

Damien Wilson December 12, 2012 at 8:44 am

Hi Michael, Thanks for sharing this with us, Stevie is a true legend, and it is so sad that we have all missed out on what Stevie would yet to have done, had this tragic accident not happened, RIP.. SRV.

Damien
N,Ire.

Michael December 12, 2012 at 9:23 am

Thanks Damien. Ironic that yesterday the latest inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were announced and once again SRV was passed over.

George Goldstein February 28, 2013 at 3:07 am

Here’s a LIVE recording of an Austin singer songwriter (Scott West) performing his song “Stevie Ray” LIVE at SXSW in Austin, Texas with Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble bandmates bassist Tommy Shannon & drummer Chris Layton, and an All-Star band made up of some of the finest Blues players in the world including perennial Blues Music Award winner for Best Harmonica (Jason Ricci) and two-time Grand National Fiddle Champion Alex DePue (Steve Vai). Enjoy: http://www.reverbnation.com/ScottWest

Anonymous April 5, 2014 at 12:33 pm

I was at that last show, his best and sadly, his last.
I can attest to the fog that night, for I spent hours in it driving down highway 41 to get back home, tight wristed and tired from the trip.
I was at work the next morning, not having had much sleep, when I heard the news.
I literally hit the floor crying and laid there for an hour or more. Just could not even move. My boss almost called the paramedics for me. Not a joke.

What is most fine and at the same time sad to say, is that on that final day, it was NOT anything other than normal for SRV. And here is what I am saying…..
He gave all of us his consummate show. As he did every single time he went out on performance. Every single day. Every single note.
I am still awestruck. The fact that he made it look effortless was in direct proportion, I think, of the soul he put into it. Every time, every note, all the time. I still have an unopened copy of his first CD. LOL….all else is on vinyl. I only bought the CD for a keepsake.
And now it is. Forever, my man, SRV.

Michael April 5, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Thank you for sharing that heartfelt story about Stevie Ray Vaughan’s last concert.

Steve Reiff May 19, 2014 at 3:13 am

I never met Stevie but have been playing guitar since I was 12 years old. I am 61 now and would like to share a dream I had about him. About 5 years ago I dreamed I was sitting at the bottom of a hill on the front porch of some old shack playing an acoustic guitar by myself . A little while before sundown, I noticed a person walking down the hill on a path towards me from the mountain. It surprised me to see this person was Stevie Ray Vaughan. I have always admired his style and have often tried to play like him. We sat on the porch and talked for awhile, I don’t even remember what we talked about but he had taken his hat off during the conversation and just before it got dark, he stated he had to go. He put his hat back on and said goodbye. I watched him walk back up the mountain trail and saw his silhouette disappear in the dark. He was a very nice young man and I haven’t dreamed about him since but I feel there was a reason for his visit with me and that it was spiritual. Ever since then, I have been able to play a lot more of his songs.

Michael May 19, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Hi Steve,

Thanks for sharing that incredible story.

Alan in England April 5, 2015 at 7:22 am

Very poignant and moving pictures of SRVs last stage.
A real tribute for fans of the much-missed guitar genius.
Take a bow, sir!

Michael April 5, 2015 at 11:11 am

Thanks for the kudos.

Marina July 21, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Wow has it been that long? Ironically, it’s the same year I graduated highschool and we used to listen to him all the time back then.

Michael July 23, 2015 at 1:44 pm

As I wrote this post I found it hard to believe it’s been that long too.

Bwild August 21, 2015 at 10:55 am

I was also at that last show. Not only was the entire show spectacular… he did Voodoo Chile like a musician as always … and the fog was so memorable afterwards as has been said. However, the one thing I remember most was the way the weather was earlier in the day. I am not kidding when I state this as it has always been the way I’ve remembered it, but there was a storm that came through the area earlier that day. That in itself was not so striking; however, you could see the clouds coming in from the West, and the looked like a rolled up something in the front, and as the storm came closer, the storm seemed to split as it approached Alpine Valley. It was as if the storm parted for this show… If there is anyone else out there that remembers something similar that afternoon, I’d like to hear it.

Michael August 21, 2015 at 11:03 am

What an incredible story about his last concert. Thanks for sharing

Julia August 25, 2015 at 8:44 pm

I saw SRV at his last Toronto, Ontario show. He was amazing. it is hard to believe that it has been 25 years, but I can never forget that either as my daughter was born August 20th of that year. I got home from the hospital the day before and had not slept much that night. I was laying down listening to the radio while she napped when they announced something on the radio about Clapton not being on the helicopter that crashed, but still not having all the information. (being a huge Clapton fan I was sitting up and wide awake with that comment). It was not long after that they announced that it was SRV that had been on the helicopter. As a toddler, Family Style was one of her favourite records and she would dance around the living room with her dad, both of them grinning ear to ear, the music cranked.

Michael August 26, 2015 at 7:50 pm

Thanks for sharing your memories.

Danita Lampi August 26, 2015 at 10:40 pm

I had an incredible thing happen to me. I had never heard of SRV till the night he died. Never saw a pic of him or heard any songs. I was more into country music then. The night he died I had a dream that I was in a concert hall all by myself. I asked the guitarist who was on stage why I was the only one there and he replied that It was a private concert and he hoped I would pass his music along because he didn’t think he would be coming back. I forgot all about the dream till the next day when I saw his picture on the news. I almost fainted when I saw it was the same person in my dream! I remember getting up around 1:30 a.m to use the washroom. So I had the dream at about the same time the crash happened! I had put my guitar away for 25 years. Lost interest I guess. After I had this dream and heard his music I had to get an electric guitar and learn his music. I am now a female blues vocalist and guitarist all because of him!

Michael August 26, 2015 at 11:16 pm

Wow. That’s surreal.

Susan August 27, 2015 at 2:45 pm

I too was there that night. I think the best memory was when they all sang “Sweet Home Chicago”. So much great guitar playing at the same time was almost too much to take in. I almost didn’t go to the concert because I had seen them all before and I had a business trip the next day. After the concert I thanked my friends for dragging me there. Honestly I think it was the best concert I ever saw. I remember the fog. You went 2 miles from the parking lot with hundreds of cars and felt like you were alone. I remember the next day finding out driving in California that he had died…. The radio Dj said “That was the late Stevie Ray Vaughan” .. and I thought no I saw him last night. Then I heard the news story. Driving alone in the California desert, after hearing the news, was erierly similar to driving in that fog, I felt alone. In 1995 I named my first son after my 2 fav guitar players Eric (Eric Claption) middle name Vaughan (after Stevie Ray). He’s 20 and I don’t think it impresses him, but it ask anyone my age and they think it’s really cool.

Michael August 27, 2015 at 2:50 pm

Thanks for sharing those memories.

Billbobaggins September 3, 2015 at 2:01 pm

I have been a drummer for over 30 years and played SRV music all my life. I also have a very keen ear for guitarists, and one day this song came along TIGHT ROPE,,,,I fell in love. There is something that I just loved about the flow and how it moves. I went out and bought every album he made. I even got the bands I played in to play Tight Rope, and got a lot of people that love to hear it. When I heard he had passed I took the day off from work and played drums for 3 hours and listened to him.
I drove out to St. Augustine that night and listened to the wind thanked him for his wonderful gift of music. I was always amazed at how he could fill in after solo’s and most bands have two guitars and yet he did it himself. Mind bogeling!!!!
I hope to one day meet this man in heaven, and it would be such a wonderful one. Thank you for turning my music taste yet again to something different, Looks like I’ll have to play Tight Rope again to re-live it all over again. 🙂

Michael September 6, 2015 at 4:10 pm

Thanks for sharing that memory.

Kelly O'Day February 9, 2017 at 2:37 pm

I was at that last concert and it was incredible. I had planned on catching his next concert; I had too much work to do, but a few days before I was working super late and they offered tickets on the radio to the 10th caller. I thought, “Well, if I win free tickets to my favorite artist…” I waited enough time to be the 10th and was the 1st. I immediately started dialing, and was the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 9th and 10th. I was changing my voice just in case they didn’t like me calling so much and they kept saying, “Sorry, you’re the nth caller.” They said, “Sorry you’re the 10th caller,” too, but I jumped in “Sorry, my ass, you said 10th caller!” I got the tickets and took a great friend who also died way too young, of an old man’s cancer in a young man’s body. Johns Hopkins was even studying him, and he almost made it, but tragically didn’t.

It was one of our best times ever. The only deal was he had to drive home so I could sleep to get up and finish my work. When we left it was all foggy, so I drove to Madison to a rest stop, and said, “Take over.” Upshot was he was too tired, so we slept right there.

The next morning the radio said “A terrible tragedy has happened, Jimmie Vaughn died in a helicopter accident.” We shook our heads at the inhumanity of it, but said “At least it wasn’t Stevie Ray!” A little while later they came back and said they had made a mistake. It was Stevie Ray. We were in complete shock.

The worst part was Stevie had given up drinking and drugs and was likely to make new great music, like he had with Jimmie on Family Style, for decades more.

Michael February 9, 2017 at 9:40 pm

Thank you so much for sharing that incredible story. What a night of highs and lows.

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