Tag Archives: Stevie Ray Vaughan

The lost summer

Twenty years ago, the life we’d built in one place was ending.

We’d decided, for many reasons, to leave Madison, Wisconsin — widely considered to be the cultural center of the universe — and move back to Green Bay. The lovely Janet had grown up in Green Bay but had been away for 15 years. I’d lived there for a couple of years out of college but had been gone for the better part of a decade.

So we put our house on the market. She stayed behind. I headed north.

I took a new job that really was my old job, the one I’d left eight years before. That was a little strange. As was sleeping on the floor of the guest room at my friends’ duplex. As was trying to find a new place, not knowing when — or whether — the house would sell. It was a blur.

And then my mom died.

It had been barely three weeks since I’d left Madison.

Mom had been in a nursing home, having reached the end stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Another part of our old life was gone. The handful of days that immediately followed also are a blur, save for the gorgeous summer day on which we buried Mom.

And then life went on. We found a place to live. (I’d come close to wearing out my welcome at my friends’ place.) Our house sold in 17 days. My brothers and I kept a close eye on Dad.

A few weeks later, I was at work, thinking about Dad, and about Mom. It was Aug. 27. It would have been her birthday.

And then the news came across the wire. Stevie Ray Vaughan had died.

It hit home, not so much because of who had died, but because of where and how. Vaughan died early that morning when his helicopter left Alpine Valley, a big outdoor venue southwest of Milwaukee, and crashed into a hillside. If you live in Wisconsin, you know Alpine Valley.

That, and it was a flashback to 1967, when Otis Redding died in a plane crash in Madison, in Lake Monona, not far from where we lived.

They are forever linked for me, my mom and Stevie Ray. Mom’s passing was not a surprise. Stevie Ray’s passing was startling.

“Rememberin’ Stevie,” Buddy Guy, from “Damn Right I’ve Got The Blues,” 1991. (The buy link is to an expanded edition released in 2005.)

Buddy Guy had jammed with Stevie Ray Vaughan that last night at Alpine Valley, along with Eric Clapton, Robert Cray and Stevie Ray’s older brother Jimmie Vaughan. This instrumental is his tribute.

This record was released on Aug. 27, 1991, the first anniversary of Stevie Ray’s death. It again would have been my mom’s birthday.


Filed under August 2010, Sounds

Two for the blues

That was the name of a show I used to listen to on WORT, the fine indie radio station in Madison, Wisconsin, back in the ’80s. (It’s still on the air, by the way, at 8 p.m. Saturdays. Listen live here.)

If I have the blues today, it’s because summer is hurtling past, and there’s nothing I can do to slow its pace. Too much work, though it beats the alternative. Too much softball and not enough skating, but only I am to blame for that. Too little time to listen to tunes, or to rip them, and then to write the blog, so I’ll try to make amends.


One for the rockin’ blues: George Thorogood and the Destroyers will be out with a new record later this month. “The Dirty Dozen” is set up a bit like a vinyl LP. The first six cuts are new tunes. The next six are covers, including three from earlier Thorogood albums that have gone out of print.

Thorogood has been rocking the car for the better part of the last week. His new stuff sounds just like his old stuff, and that’s OK with us. We count on George for crunchy, wink-and-a-nod rock, rhythm and blues, and that’s what we get with “The Dirty Dozen.”

“Twenty Dollar Gig,” George Thorogood and the Destroyers, from “The Dirty Dozen,” out July 28 on Capitol/EMI.

The first couple of times I heard this, I thought it was the worst cut on the record. Then I realized its genius was in its locomotive groove, its simple lyrics and Buddy Leach’s sizzling sax. It’s a garage band classic.


Two for the real gone blues: Anyone for some Albert King, playing live in the studio with Stevie Ray Vaughan? I thought you might dig it. “In Session” was recorded in Canada on Dec. 6, 1983, given a modest release in 1999 and reissued last month by Stax.

“Ask Me No Questions,” Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan, from “In Session,” 1999.

There’s plenty here for you blues guitar fans, including an epic-length “Blues at Sunrise,” two other Albert King originals and a cover of Stevie Ray’s “Pride and Joy.” That said, I like my blues cut with keyboards. Like this B.B. King cover featuring Tony Ll0rens on piano.

This is believed to be the only time King and Vaughan played together on a record. Vaughan died in 1990, King in 1992.


Filed under July 2009, Sounds