Redbeard: Hi, and welcome to "In the Studio." I'm Redbeard, bringing you the stories behind the greatest rock and roll albums in history. Today, "In the Studio," it's the conclusion at our two-part look at the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble.
"Crossfire" starts to play.
Chris Layton: ("Crossfire" continues to play in background) What I remember-I remember is when he introduced Stevie, introduced him as the world's greatest guitar player, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and when he played his first note, it sounded like he bent the string farther than there was fretboard, it was like the fretboard had been like four feet wide, this note just like shot out, and it was like amazing. Cause once again, I remember thinking just like the very first time I ever heard Stevie it was like you could hear the band but all of a sudden, you just heard this guitar, and this one note was like bigger than everything else that was going on and I thought God, I got these chill bumps it was like this thing ran up my spine I went "Jesus, what is goin' on", cause I mean I never heard him play a note like that, quite like that.
"Tick-Tock" starts to play
Tommy Shannon: Hi. This is Tommy Shannon.
Chris Layton: And I'm Chris Layton in the studio for the best of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, Part 2.
RB: In Part 1 of our "In the Studio" rockumentary on the best of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, we left off with the harrowing collapse of Stevie while on tour in Europe. He was hospitalized near death first in London, and then in a substance abuse rehab center in Georgia. Double Trouble bass player, Tommy Shannon checked into a similar detox facility in Austin Texas the very same day. The dream of player guitar for everyone, everywhere had turned into a nightmare. The gravity of Stevie Vaughan's and Tommy Shannon's medical condition pulled the large touring and recording machinery to a merciful halt. Drummer Chris Layton and keyboard player Reese Wynans were saddled with trying to salvage botched live recordings for a double live album. After a lengthy hospitalization, both Stevie Vaughan and Tommy Shannon rejoined the band but it was hardly business as usual. The real test of their newly found sobriety would be the road. Double Trouble drummer Chris Layton follows Tommy Shannon.
Tommy Shannon: I remember my first gig sober with Stevie and I was terrified -
Chris Layton: God.
TS: And I looked out there and saw those people and I mean my heart was goin' like this I was terrified - I was thinking God, boy I need a drink - but I went ahead and went out there and went through it and after a period of time you know, I got used to it. And I mean it felt different, everything about it was different, you know - there wasn't that sloppy abandon myself and just do all that you know it's kinda like as we went on I had to discipline myself you know, work on my techniques - sit down and do these petty exercises and stuff an I started wanting to become a better musician.
CL: I remember being a little bit frightened but at the same time had this confidence in everybody always knowin' everybody in this band to be people that didn't do things unless they really meant them and for the fact that everybody had decided to or said come to this point in their life to turn their life around that it woulda never gotten there if they didn't plan on stayin' there. I think you - Tommy had told me that how many people who become er-er in a recovery don't actually stay there and they fall back into drinking or doing whatever their drug of choice was - I thought I was kinda amazed by it
CL: because out of everybody in the organization that entered recovery, everybody's still there. It's like 100% where it's like the success rate was so
CL: small, and I thought well it-it didn't surprise me that everybody was still sober because I just figured wouldn't a done it if he didn't mean it.
TS: Yeah, it's like when we came back to work, you know being clean and sober at first, um, two of the guys in our crew had gotten clean and sober also and you know it's like there's all kinds of support you know the whole emphasis was on-on sobriety you know and used to be back when we were high all the time there'd be drugs and alcohol and all kinds of people anybody who had drugs ("Tightrope" fading in) could get in and it changed from that to people who had the same goals as us, you know staying clean and sober.
"Tightrope" is played.
RB: Heavyweight lyrics that pulled no punches, that's "Crossfire" by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble written by Tommy Shannon, Chris Layton and Reese Wynans for their first post-recovery album called "In Step." Here's Chris and Tommy.
CL: And then right at that point when they went in treatment I mean I stopped - I stopped doing everything for a few months - started working out and gettin' real healthy and swimmin' and doin' all this stuff and I started feelin'' great I thought wow, what a change from the life that I had been leading.
TS: One thing, you know, it was gonna be our first album clean and sober and S-Stevie he was real afraid, you know, of tackling this clean and sober, matter of fact I was too. We both had the same fear that it might not work - it was very frightening, it really was cause the back of your head you're goin' well what if this if this doesn't work when you're sober? you know, it turned out I think to be our best record.
RB: I asked Double Trouble's rhythm section if they noticed any change in Stevie Ray Vaughan's performance while recording the "In Step" album.
TS: I thought he was playin' better, you know, a lot more tasteful and um I thought his vocals improved tremendously - I think his vocals on that record were definitely the best.
CL: Yeah, his-his vo-his whole scene got incredibly better and his guitar playing did to. He got more concise what he really felt - what he felt and what he was able to say with his guitar was more connected then it ever had been. I mean he would say that too beforehand it was like he would like just kinda do all kind he could do anything it always sounded good and that's what he said he would you know tend to do - you know play too many notes or pl - whatever and maybe really wasn't what he f - wanted to do but he connected up with everything - all his feelings and thoughts everything connected much more with what actually came out in making that record.
"Let Me Love You Baby" is played.
RB: Oh yeah, that's Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble from "In Step" with "Let Me Love You Baby," written by the great blues man, the late great Willie Dixon. In talking with writer Joe Nick Patoski, co-author of the Stevie Ray Vaughan biography, "Caught in the Crossfire," I mentioned what Buddy Guy told me about the importance of Stevie's work. Buddy Guy told me something, Buddy Guy and this is a quote, he said "Stevie Ray Vaughan had a skeleton key that unlocked all the doors for the rest of us."
Joe Nick Patoski: And that's the truth, there's no question about that these-these guys were they were in a period of decline an-and really not since the Fillmore scene in the late 60's when Albert King and B.B. King and Buddy Guy and Junior Wells folks like that had really had their uh-uh heyday with as far as reaching a-about as broad an audience as they ever had - it had been on the decline since then and um work was harder they were-they were resigned to either playing clubs or working the chitlin circuit for those ah few older blacks that were still ("Tight Rope" fades in) smitten with the blues, but they had kinda fallen out of favor with-with this larger audience and Stevie opened the door for 'em again.
"Tight Rope" is played.
RB: Walkin' the tightrope from Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble's "In Step," and written by two who should know, Doyle Bramhall with Stevie Vaughan. I'm Redbeard - next we'll hear how one of Stevie Vaughan's dreams to record a whole album with his brother Jimmy became a reality "In the Studio" with the best of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Part 2.
RB: Welcome back "In the Studio" for the best of Stevie Ray Vaughan Part 2. I'm Redbeard. If there was one single motivating factor in young Stevie Vaughan embracing the guitar, it had to be his big brother Jimmy. He had the first guitar - he had the first amplifier. Jimmy had the blues records that entranced little Stevie and it was Jimmy who first left home and made quite a reputation as a guitar slinger with serious chops. Even after Double Trouble had sold millions of albums themselves, Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton recall Stevie's opinion of big brother, Jimmy Vaughan.
Tommy Shannon: He adored Jimmy. He said Jimmy was his number one influence.
Chris Layton: Yeah, he did he-he loved everything that Jimmy did "oh wow man, he goes that's so cool check that out" you know it was like you know Jimmy couldn't do any wrong.
TS: Yeah, I remember him sayin' Yup, that's still my big brother, you know, Jimmy be out there playin'.
CL: 'Member Stevie went "Man I get up there" and he goes "I played like a million notes and then Jimmy steps up there and plays like one note and knocks everybody down in the whole club" you know he goes "whoosh, man, that's cool". (Tommy & Chris laugh)
RB: So how did they feel when Stevie Vaughan announced his plans to record an entire album with his brother?
TS: At first, you know, I started thinkin' maybe they were gonna to join a band together you know and little fears like that crept in but-but all in all, you know, it didn't really bother me that much, you know, cause I knew Stevie wanted to play in our band, I know that, you know he loved doin' that.
CL: Yeah, I had-I had that same fear for a minute cause I thought oh Jimmy, I said boy you know big brother, he takes precedence over everybody when it comes to music I thought wow what if they decide to get a band and they don't want us or you know somethin' like that you never-you never know what might happen but um at the same time too I know that Stevie'd always wanted to make a record with his brother - always do something that was like a recorded creative statement involving his-he and his brother and so I was real happy about that 'cause I mean reflecting on it, it was 'um he got to do that, he wanted to do it, I was glad that that happened.
"Telephone Song" is played.
RB: That's "Telephone Song" from Stevie Ray and Jimmy Vaughan's "Family Style" album with a song co-written by Doyle Bramhall. Big Doyle's importance to the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan cannot be overstated. Bramhall had influenced Stevie's singing style long before Double Trouble even formed. And later, Big Doyle Bramhall would write or co-write many of Stevie's most popular songs. Here's author, Joe Nick Patoski.
JNP: Doyle is one of a the great role models of-of for Stevie Ray Vaughan of probably more so than any one other than ah Jimmy Vaughan. Stevie was never a very prolific songwriter and in fact I mean he was as much a ah ah an interpreter as he was a ah an original composer. And I think when push came to shove and it was time to come up with some material, he found great comfort in Doyle - things clicked and I think that was the one area where ah, there were some-some real positive benefits out of the "Soul to Soul" session as it really solidified his relationship with Doyle as a ah as-as a songwriting team. It continued into the en uh up in to the end and I think ah Doyle was also an inspiration is ah ah someone who had ah overcome his chemical dependencies. He'd done it before it was cool. When Stevie decided to ah get his own head straight, Doyle was there to offer not only ah ah support as a lyricist but also as a as a friend in ah um someone who had walked a mile in-in Stevie's shoes.
"Long Way From Home" is played.
RB: You can hear that they were havin' fun - that's Jimmy and Stevie Vaughan with "Long Way From Home" from the album, "Family Style." Comin' up next , you'll hear the recollections of Double Trouble's Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton along with Blues man Buddy Guy and the legendary Eric Clapton - all four of whom played with Stevie Ray Vaughan in his final performance. I'm Redbeard "In the Studio" for the best of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Part 2.
RB: You're back "In the Studio" for the best of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Part 2. I'm Redbeard. The Family style album by the Vaughan brothers had been recorded by the summer of 1990, so Double Trouble was free to hit the road again fresh, rested and tapping newly found energy and sobriety. Two of the marquis dates were back-to-back nights with Eric Clapton and Robert Cray at a large open-air amphitheater between Chicago and Milwaukee known as Alpine Valley. Because the concert site was 50 miles from Chicago, where all the bands were staying, helicopters were used to shuttle the bands and their tour managers over the concert traffic, in and out of Alpine Valley, in the Wisconsin countryside. Blues man Buddy Guy was there, at the invitation of all three guitarists on the bill. I asked Buddy Guy if he saw Stevie Ray Vaughan play on that second night.
Buddy Guy: Well first of all, I had to see if I-I'd saw from the first lick to the last one because I-I actually wasn't on the show - they invited me up there just as a guest, so I was sittin' on stage from start to finish. And I've seen him play on many nights and this particular night he played incredible well, he played licks that had neither one of us heard before something about that night so special I don't know if that's because of his death or what but there just something special about that night I wish they had a recorded it because while Eric was playing he was standing backstage talkin' to me and he said "Man, you know, we gotta get you into the studio, we don't have nobody to steal licks off no mo' so we gonna get you a rec-recording contract that we have to go in there and do it an-an-an do it ourselves" and him and Eric and Robert Cray and ah his brother an all them put down around me sayin' you'll be recorded before the year is out.
RB: Headliner Eric Clapton saw Stevie Ray Vaughan's performance that fateful night too. Like Buddy Guy, Clapton couldn't help but notice that Stevie was in a zone that night. I asked Eric Clapton to describe what would be Stevie's last performance with Double Trouble.
Eric Clapton: Oh, beyond anything that I could even describe.
"Lenny" begins to play softly in the background.
Eric Clapton: I think, um, the best way to describe it was just to sit to-to be to have been in my shoes in the dressing room watching the monitor and so I could sit in my dressing room with the door open and hear him from the stage and see him on the TV, knowing I had to go out later and play and what was happening was I was actually so bowled over and-and so in love with this guy that was playing on stage from the heart completely, you know that I started to feel ashamed of what I was gonna go on and do cause I was gonna go out there and do Cream songs and do little dis-different kinds of music and here was one guy playing one kind of music in a one kind of way and it made me kind of feel "well God are you ever gonna be like this", you know that's the way I felt, "are you ever gonna get to THAT point, the point you are watching right now" and I don't know if any, that many people ever do - that many people ever do - 'cause I enjoy in my life playing all kinds of stuff you know I'm not-I don't I-know I play blues probably easier than-than- than anything else, you know everything else is bit of a-a learning experience but I do dabble around in other areas, your Rock and Roll and Country and this and that and songwriting, but um none of it has that oneness that Stevie Ray had.
RB: Ah, in your experience ah, have you seen or heard others get to that point where the emotion that's in the music is almost palpable you almost can touch
EC: Very rarely,very rarely. And-and very you know usually it's-it's a question of balance a question of how many things there are in the mix you know whether the-the-the person is in good mental health, whether in good physical shape, whether their motives are clear, you know all of these things that really wrap up the character and the embodiment of the human being with this gift and at state you know the state he's in at that time when you're seeing the performance with all those things in-in-in question, it's a very rare experience. Now Stevie Ray on that night and many nights before, I'm sure, had all of these things, had all of these things in control and was master of EVERYTHING, everything, and now th-you know there are a lot of other people I've seen who have some of them together, but then maybe they had a couple of drinks before they went on, or maybe they got a headache, or maybe they you know they're tired or maybe the-they're in great physical and mental shape and-and living a good life but they haven't got the right musicians in the band or the songs aren't right you see now there's so-so many elements involved and and when we when I when I recall that night there's no, there was nothing required there was no there was nothing missing there was no improve-no room for improvement. ("Lenny" stops playing in the background)
RB: Here is Eric Clapton's actual introduction of his musical guest at Alpine Valley that night August 26th 1990, for the encore of "Sweet Home Chicago.
EC: I'd like to bring out, to join me ah in truth the best guitar players in the entire world man. Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughan Robert Cray and Jimmy Vaughan.
RB: Double Trouble drummer Chris Layton watched from side stage while each of these guitarists took the spotlight in turn, then it was Stevie who stepped up to the plate.
Chris Layton: What I remember-I remember is when he introduced Stevie, introduced him as the world's greatest guitar player, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and when he played his first note, it sounded like he bent the string farther than there was fretboard, it was like the fretboard had been like four feet wide, this note just like shot out, and it was like amazing. Cause once again, I remember thinking just like the very first time I ever heard Stevie it was like you could hear the band but all of a sudden, you just heard this guitar, and this one note was like bigger than everything else that was going on. Just like that just like just like the first time I ever heard him it was like right then it was like this big note and there it was and he really and I thought God, I got these chill bumps it was like this thing ran up my spine I went "Jesus, what is goin' on cause I mean I never heard him play a note like that, quite like that.
RB: After the last note of the guitar superstar's summit, Chris Layton had the opportunity to chat with Stevie backstage while they waited for the helicopters to begin ferrying the large contingent of musicians, tour managers, agents and assistants back to Chicago. The dense fog that had rolled into Alpine Valley wasn't really a topic of conversation.
CL: The conversation was actually very light, there was nothing heavy in it- it was just like gr-this is a great coupla nights and wasn't it great to be here and talked about (clears throat) the record that he and Jimmy just made, he said yeah - talked about how they had a lot of fun and that was exciting - he was looking forward to that comin' out and lookin forward to us makin' another record an, he was in great spirits I mean we just had two great nights and we talked about all kinds of stuff, talked about the son that my wife and I were getting ready to have - we didn't know it was a boy - but just anything and everything, we talked for like I guess almost 30 minutes. Then he-he got up he said I'm-I'm gonna go back down to the dressing room for a minute and I don't know five maybe five minutes or so later he came back up and he had his-his uh jacket on, he had his bags and he kinda I think he was just gonna walk not right by me cause he was at that path, but he was making this turn and I said "Hey" I said, " what are you doin'?" And he said "I'm gonna go back to Chicago." I said "Well, now? And he said, "Yeah, I-I gotta get back I want to call J-Janna" who was his girlfriend who was in New York ("Tick Tock" begins to play) and I thought Jeez you could actually call her anywhere and then call her later, this is what I was thinkin' but he said he turned he kinda took another step and then he turned around and said he said "call me when you get back." Then he said "I love you" and kinda gave me that wink of the eye that he would do and then he was gone and that was the last time I saw him and he just disappeared into the night.
"Tick Tock" is played.
RB: The Vaughan Brothers from "Family Style." Tommy Shannon, double Trouble's bass player had shuttled back to Chicago by helicopter even before Clapton's encore while Layton had left on yet another chopper much later than Stevie Vaughan. I asked Tommy when he first knew that something was terribly wrong. "LIttle Wing" starts to play in background.
Tommy Shannon: I didn't find out 'til the next morning and our manager Alex Hodges called me, whew - I mean-I mean is a I can't put in words how I felt you know, he said one of the helicopters went down last night that Stevie was in and they reported no survivors and um that's probably the worst moment of my li-entire life, I mean we shared things we'd never tell anybody else - ever. You know, he was the best friend I ever had.
CL: Tommy called me, he said that we needed to have a-a band meeting in Skip Rickert's room our tour manager I thought this is something's not right - there's you don't have band meetings it was real late we didn't get back to the hotel 'til like God after five maybe 5:30 in the morning from the flight and it was a-a little while later and I walked in everybody was starting to assemble and I thought this is just wrong.
TS: Yeah, seven o'clock in the morning.
CL: The phone rang, we got on and I think Alex was, well as I remember it, he was trying to be as gentile as possible, said he was with Roger Forrester, Eric's manager and that-that one of the helicopters, the one that Stevie was on, didn't make it back, it was 98% - that's the way I remember him sayin' - 98% certain that there was no survivors and I thought this can't be. I remember I went and ran and got security and made them open Stevie's door just to prove that this was like a-a nightmare. 'Member went and opened the door and the door opened up and there's the bed was untouched - he had never made it back. The radio was on like when they do turn-down service and I heard the first report of it over the radio right then as I was standin' by his bed and I uh.
RB: Three of Eric Clapton's closest associates along with the helicopter pilot never made it back either. It was August 27, exactly four years to the day that Stevie's father had passed away. But it was also three years, 317 days and 40 minutes of redemption and during that time, Stevie made the greatest music of his career. Who knows how many lives he changed by his courageous victory over substance abuse? There are some of us who truly believe that there are fates worse than death. When I think of Stevie Vaughan's too-short time among us, I'm reminded of a quote from my youth: A coward dies a thousand times but the valiant tastes of death but once.
"Little Wing" is played.
RB: Written by Jimi Hendrix and performed by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, that's "Little Wing," from the Grammy award-winning album, "The Sky is Crying," compiled by Stevie's big brother Jimmy. I'm Redbeard. We'll be back "In the Studio" after this.
In the Studio - The Best of Stevie Ray Vaughan