Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Great Guitar Solos, #9: Stevie Ray Vaughan slays "Leave My Girl Alone"

According to Caught in the Crossfire, by Joe Patoski and Bill Crawford, Stevie Ray Vaughan was up to a daily intake of seven grams of cocaine and a fifth of Crown Royal by the time he bottomed out, in 1986.

After a breakdown and a visit to the ER, Vaughan got clean for the first time in over 15 years. Sobriety, in concert with a deep spiritual focus and regular AA meetings, did wonders for Vaughan mentally and physically, but he worried about his guitar playing, which had been fueled by drink and drugs for so long. Would he be able to light up the guitar without his chemical crutches?

The fireworks on Vaughan's next album (In Step) and the shows in support of that release proved that his concerns were misplaced. In October of 1989, a few months after In Step came out, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble played their home town of Austin, where Vaughan had been a struggling musician for over a decade, couch surfing and gigging for peanuts, before David Bowie plucked him from obscurity for the multi-platinum Let's Dance album.

My favorite performance from the Austin City Limits show is the rendition of "Leave My Girl Alone," a tune written by Vaughan's good friend, blues titan Buddy Guy. The song is simple and heartfelt, the guitar and voice up front as the rest of the band hang back. The singing is passionate; when Vaughan says "you better leave my little girl alone," you believe him. The guitar fills are a model in economy and bite. And the solo, from 2:11-3:40, is epic: Vaughan rips into his guitar with raw blues power, for the most part bypassing the big, juicy bends and wide vibratos that were his specialty in favor of ferocious runs that stop and start on a dime.

This Saturday, on what would have been Stevie's 61st birthday, blues fans and six-string aficionados alike will mourn the early passing and celebrate the lasting legacy of the last true guitar hero.    

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Other Truth and Beauty guitar hero essays:

         Click here for "The Second Coming:  Stevie Ray Vaughan," 
a first-hand account of Vaughan's final concert

here for "The heaviest New Year's Eve guitar jam ever: Hendrix
does 'Machine Gun'"

here for "Great Guitar Solos, #8: Freddie King's 'San-Ho-Zay'"
  here for "Link Wray's 'Rumble'" 
here for "Great Guitar Solos, #1:  Eddie Hazel (Funkadelic)"

here for "Great Guitar Solos, #2:  Frank Zappa"

here for "Great Guitar Solos, #3:  Hiram Bullock" 

here for "Great Guitar Solos, #5:  Alvin Lee"

 here for "Great Guitar Solos, #6: Neil Young's 'Hey Hey, My My'"

and here for "Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar - The Six-String Wizardry of Frank Zappa, Part II"


1 comment:

  1. Dan, thank you for your fine tribute to Stevie Ray's fierce and irreplaceable talents.
    You explain to us so clearly what before we only sensed: what he did, and how he did it, that made him one of a kind.