Rock Stars - Stevie Ray Vaughan

Air Date: March 12-March 25, 1990
Hosted by John Sebastian (from The Lovin' Spoonful)
Transcription by Kam Myers

[intro--"Riviera Paradise" playing in background]

Announcer: Now, from Radio Today Entertainment:

Stevie Ray Vaughan: Sometimes we have to tell what's gone on in our lives so that we can say what we're trying to say. A lot of these songs have to do with trying to get back to reality, you know--being able to relate to each other--people--and go on with life. We've gone through some things-- quite a few changes in our lives. Mine in particular was a lot of drug and alcohol abuse, and all the things that go along with it. The reason we have a lifetime to work this stuff out is 'cause that's what it takes, you know?

Announcer: Rock Stars proudly presents Stevie Ray Vaughan.

SRV: It's more like family than it is working together. And that's really the coolest part of this band...I think. We really enjoy playing together, and we make good music.

[Sound bites of "Look At Little Sister", "Crossfire", "Let Me Love You Baby"]

SRV: A lot of my tendency is not to slow down. And, ah, that's something that I'm trying to learn and I probably will, hopefully I'll learn it one of these days, but it means a lot more to play one note that really says something than it does to play a million notes that don't ever get there.

Announcer: It's two hours with Stevie Ray Vaughan, hosted by John Sebastian from the Lovin' Spoonful, on Rock Stars.


[Music "Love Struck Baby"]

Announcer: From the album, "Texas Flood", that's Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble with "Love Struck Baby". Hi, I'm Ben Manilla, and welcome to the Stevie Ray Vaughan edition of Rock Stars. Now, here's your host, the former leader of the Lovin' Spoonful, singer/songwriter John Sebastian

John Sebastian: At a time when guitar is the most popular instrument on the horizon, and lead guitarists flower like weeds every year, it is a singular pleasure to be able to introduce a guitarist with this degree of authenticity and dedication--it's a pleasure to welcome you, Stevie Ray Vaughan, to Rock Stars.

Stevie Ray Vaughan: Well, thank you.

JS: I first became aware of you, in about, I guess, 1983 when I heard Let's Dance...

SRV: Yeah?

JS: ...and I said 'Jeez, they got Albert King or something to play with David Bowie!'

SRV: That was, uh, that was kind of my intention. [both laugh] I was looking to see where Albert King licks would fit. They'd seem to fit everywhere I'd tried them before, and it just seemed like it was a perfect thing, you know? [laughs]

JS: It really was quite a piece of work.

SRV: Well, it was fun to do, and I was, I got to be around Nile Rogers and David and everybody in the studio for about three days for that session there. It really was a lot of fun, it was no hassles at all. It was just a real big experience for me, you know?

JS: What was your experience in the studio up until then? I mean, had you been--I mean, obviously you played well already-- had you been working as an accompanist or with Double Trouble already, or with...?

SRV: Yeah, I was already with Double Trouble--I had gone through, oh, a number of bands in the Dallas or Texas area, and had only so far actually only made a single with one band, and, oh, something when I was in high school, you know, one cut or something on a school record, but that was my studio experience up 'til then.

[Music "Modern Love"]

JS: I always thought 'Man, what a cool move not to go with Bowie.'

SRV: Well, I'll tell you the truth, I wanted to play with my band, and that was really what that amounted to. I wanted to play with my band, and I could see that I was going to not be able to do that. Originally, we were going to be on the tour...that didn't work out...I wanted to be with my band and I did.

JS: Nothing personal...

SRV: No, no.

JS: I wanted to talk a little bit about the new "In Step" album. First of all, sort of a third cousin of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" this tune "This House Is Rockin'"...

SRV: [laughs] Yeah. That was written actually, mainly...that was one of the songs that Doyle Bramhall had pretty much started and it just needed to be finished up. When we went into this project to write together, I had some songs that had been started, but I couldn't quite finish by myself, and he had the same. And, I love the way Doyle writes--he writes real simply, and to the point. Sometimes it's got to say something--really get something out, sometimes, it's uh, it's just for fun--and that was one of the fun ones, you know.

JS: It has that falling off a log quality that's in a lot of good blues.

SRV: [laughs] Yeah.

JS: It doesn't sound like much work went into it, but it comes off sounding right.

SRV: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. The main work probably was the guitar tech because we kept changing necks on the guitar so I could get a cross-breed between a Stratocaster and a Telecaster. [laughs]

JS: On that particular tune?

SRV: Yeah. Actually, this was a uh, the body of a Hendrix prototype that had Tele pickups in a Strat body, and we had taken the Tele neck off of another guitar and stuck it on. It wasn't the same size neck as needed to be for the guitar, but we made it work anyway.

JS: So you're sort of a part-time guitar tech as well?

SRV: [laughs] A guitar surgeon or something, I don't know.... malpractice! [laughs]

[Music "The House Is Rockin'"]

Announcer: On Rock Stars, the lead-off track from the new Stevie Ray Vaughan album, "In Step", that's "The House Is Rockin'". Before that, it was Stevie Ray playing lead guitar with David Bowie on "Modern Love". That's off "Let's Dance", a record produced by Nile Rogers, and Nile will be producing the next Stevie Ray Vaughan project, a collaboration with his brother Jimmie, lead guitarist of the Fabulous Thunderbirds. And we'll hear about Stevie's relationship with his older brother and why they spell their name V-a-u-g-h-a-n, when Rock Stars continues.


Announcer: Welcome back to the Stevie Ray Vaughan edition of Rock Stars.

[Music "Look At Little Sister"]

John Sebastian: So, you kinda started, uh, playing as a result of I guess, partially inspired by your brother, Jim, right?

Stevie Ray Vaughan: Oh yeah.

JS: And for those who don't know that we're talking about Jim Vaughan, Jimmie Vaughan of the Fabulous Thunderbirds...

SRV: [smiling] Yeah.

JS: ...who, ah, I guess you started off playing bass for?

SRV: Yeah, ah, actually I had a guitar, I was given a guitar for my birthday, um, it was a genuine Masonite guitar, and [laughs] it had, uh, it wouldn't tune, so we took three of the strings off and lowered 'em down. That's how I started, and then I ended up getting, as Jimmie got--he progressed really fast--and as he got, uh, his next guitars, I would get the ones that he had left behind.

JS: Yeah. Well, I was having a conversation with a friend the other day, and I think it started as a result of listening to "Voodoo Chile" of yours. And he was saying "Boy, you know, isn't this exciting how this guy is so influenced by Jimi Hendrix", and I was saying "Well, I don't know if this guy is all that influenced by Jimi Hendrix or whether he and Jimi Hendrix just had the same heroes."

SRV: It's a lot of both.

JS: Let's name a few of these people, just because it's interesting.

SRV: Yeah, Albert Collins, Albert King, B. B. King, Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin, Wolf, uh, Muddy Waters, um, Guitar Slim, Johnny Copeland later on I guess, course Hendrix, Clapton, Beck, um, The Beatles, you know, Little Richard--everybody that was um, pullin' from rhythm & blues, blues, rock 'n' roll, old style rock 'n' roll, rockabilly, ah, and then a lot of my brother, because not only did he familiarize me with all this music, and all these people that play this music as well, but he was able to emulate a lot of their styles, but then, he was already developing his own. I've still never heard anybody play quite like Jimmie. So, as a result, I have to say Jimmie Vaughan is probably my biggest influence.

[Music "Tuff Enuff"]

JS: You and your brother recently did a project with Dylan, is that right?

SRV: Yeah. Yeah, that was was was...[laughs]

JS: Well, tell me about it, what was it? Sometimes, you know, these things come through on rock and roll headlines and you don't know whether it was any fun or not!

SRV: Yeah, it was was...we had thought we were gonna do one song. And, it turned into three or four, and we'll see what happens with 'em. It was a completely different style of recording than I've ever been involved with [laughs]...where you play the song for about half an hour...

JS: Uh huh.

SRV: ...[laughs] and then go from there. It was a lot of fun-- I'd met Bob Dylan a few times in the past, under varying circumstances...sometimes other people trying to push us together, and we were kinda looking at each other going "What is all this about?" [laughs] You know?

JS: Yes.

SRV: And sometimes, it was in a club setting or something, you know, where he was just trying to be....listening to the band. Everybody else was around him trying to protect him, and he just wanted to be a person. So, he'd remembered us meeting, as well, and I don't know, it was a lot of fun, it was a good thing for my brother and I to be able to do, 'cause we had not gone into the studio together for quite a while. And, uh, it gave us the chance to go and just see what happened uh, creatively with someone, and we both of course wanted to play on a record with Bob Dylan. We've always [laughs]....everybody does, I imagine!

JS: I wanted to ask you about the name "Vaughan"...

SRV: Yes?

JS: ....because the "a" in the name Vaughan is something unusual. I've never seen it spelled that way.

SRV: Well, it's an English spelling, but it's...somewhere along the line, someone with the "a" in their name--the last "a"--had some kind of criminal deal going on, so they changed the spelling of it to try to hide that. And most of the family behind him agreed. [both laugh] A few of us went "What the heck?" you know? At least, that's how the story goes.

JS: I see.

[Music "Change It"]

Announcer You're listening to "Rock Stars." That's "Change It" featuring both Stevie Ray Vaughan and his brother, Jimmie Vaughan. That's from the Double Trouble album "Live Alive". In front of that, "Tuff Enuff" from Jimmie's band, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and the set started with Double Trouble, and "Look at Little Sister."

Up next--why Stevie Ray Vaughan decided to record the Jimi Hendrix song "Voodoo Chile," when Rock Stars with your host, John Sebastian returns.


Announcer: Welcome back to the Stevie Ray Vaughan edition of Rock Stars.

[Music "Pride and Joy"]

John Sebastian: Let's talk a little bit about Double Trouble... ummm...I know that, uh, I'd heard Tommy Shannon's name before, and somebody told me he's played with Johnny Winter.

Stevie Ray Vaughan: Yeah, he was with Johnny on, uh, first two or three, I believe, albums. In fact, he had met Johnny at a place called The Fog here in Dallas, and, uh, gone with him to play. And, the night we met, he had just left Johnny, and we met at The Fog [laughs]. And, I was about 14, playin' was an after- hours place. And, uh, Tommy was the only one in the band that would talk to me. Not too long--like I said--not too long after that, we ended up in the same band, and, uh, have pretty much been together ever since. There's been a few periods of time when he was with another band, or off doing something else, uh, but it's - as a rule, he's been the bass player in the bands that I've been in since. I really admire the man.

JS: Is he a contemporary of Johnny's, or is he your age?

SRV: He's a little older than I am, not much. He's just a real neat cat.

JS: And Chris Layton has been with you for a while now, as well.

SRV: Yeah...he had come around when I was in a band called The Cobras, in the 70's. I'd been playing...we were playing a club gig, and our drummer had, uh, he was trying to do a construction- working gig and play in a band at the same time, and he had fallen asleep [laughs] with his phone off the hook. Our sax player said "Hey, don't worry about roommate's a drummer." [both laugh] And, uh, Chris got up there and, uh, it wasn't long after that that we were playing together. And we've been together ever since, as well. It's more like family than it is working together, you know? And that's really the coolest part of this band...I think. We really enjoy playing together, and we make good music...but the camaraderie that's in there is really what keeps us together, I think.

[Music "Rude Mood"]

JS: Well now, could you tell us a little bit about what "Voodoo Chile" means to ya?

SRV: It's uh....

JS: Let's start with...I tell you what...let's start with Jimi Hendrix playing "Voodoo Chile."

SRV: To me, it's like Hendrix doin' uh...his own "Hoochie Coochie Man." I just really liked how it always sounded. And songs that I really like how they sound, I've found that I usually have a little easier time playing, because I really listen to them. We tried the song and it felt real good, so we just kept doin' it.

JS: Yeah...

SRV: That's how we pick songs in this band--if we like the song, we try it, and if it still sounds good after we've played it [laughs] know how that goes....

JS: Yeah...[laughs]

SRV: ...then we keep doing it. And if somewhere along the line, the song doesn't seem to sound like it has the same feeling or emotion, then we try to either work on it, or drop it for a while, to maybe pick it up later. But it's all has nothing to do with a formula with's got to do with whether we like it or not.

JS: And hopefully, especially with a good form like blues or any form, it will improve and something will change about it.

SRV: Uh huh....and every time we play it.

JS: That's the best of all possible worlds.

SRV: Now, there are times when I need to go and like, uh...just like take a refresher course on how the song goes...or where it comes from, I should say. Most of the time, if I try to play the song the same way twice, the first time will feel good, the second time feels like I'm copying myself...the third time it feels more so. So, I might as well learn how the song goes that time... 'cause there's a lot to the newness, and being right there, right now...what's goin' on, you know....

[Music "Voodoo Chile"--live version]

SRV: Hendrix, of course, is a big influence on me...uh, musically, and of my life--still is, always probably will be.

Announcer: You're listening to Rock Stars -- Stevie Ray Vaughan in conversation with John Sebastian. From the "Live Alive" CD, we heard "Voodoo Chile." Before that, an instrumental called "Rude Mood" -- also, "Pride and Joy", both off the album "Texas Flood".

Coming up in Hour Two, Stevie Ray Vaughan's struggle with addiction, when Rock Stars returns.


Stevie Ray Vaughan: My favorite way to do things is live. See, there's nights when I feel like I play better, and there's nights that I feel like I -- for a lack of a better way to say it -- I feel like the whitest guy that walks.

[Music "Willie the Wimp"--live version]

John Sebastian: Now, as I understand it, you spent the summer touring with Jeff Beck.

SRV: Uh huh.

JS: That is, two separate bands Jeff Beck with Terry Bozzio, and.....

SRV: Tony Hymas.

JS: Tony Hymas.

SRV: Yeah.

JS: And, uh, you guys would alternate every night, and was that?

SRV: It was a lot of was, uh...there were a lot of shows. And, since a few years ago, we've been...we've gotten used...or at least tried to take the pace of our touring and cut it back some. Um, because that was one of the reasons that I got out as far as I did with the "fake energy." On this tour, it was kind of rough for me, because it was at least five, usually six gigs a week...and a lot of travel, and I don't know whether the pressure was self-induced, or that pressure's really there when you do a tour that size. But, I felt a lot of was kind of a grueling thing. But overall, I had a lot of fun, and one of the most fun things was that I got to see Jeff Beck every night [laughs] you know? Every night.

JS: I heard you were seriously listening every night, too.

SRV: Sure! And by the way, I never have figured it out! [laughs] He would come out, and it might be the same songs, but that was about it! [laughs] He's always been an innovator, and will continue to be, lemme tell ya. There was, uh, something new, and very unexpected, often -- every night.

[Music "Superstition"--live version]

SRV: It is a lot of fun to play in larger places. I still don't necessarily have a favorite other than I know that when I play clubs, I play differently--I don't try to. However, I do like what comes out in clubs. For some reason, it seems like there's more time to feel it, before I play it.

Announcer: You're listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan in conversation with John Sebastian from the Lovin' Spoonful, here on Rock Stars. We heard two from the "Live Alive" collection "Superstition", and before that, "Willie The Wimp". Still to come, the tightrope ride of substance abuse, and how Stevie Ray Vaughan is fighting it. Next, on Rock Stars.


Announcer: And now, more of the Stevie Ray Vaughan edition of Rock Stars.

[Music: "Crossfire"]

John Sebastian: So, I'm interested in this guy, Doyle Bramhall. He wrote, uh, several of these tunes that seem to be, well, they're sort of some of the central, pivotal tunes on this record that are, in many cases, it sounds, fairly autobiographical.

Stevie Ray Vaughan: Yeah, we had to uh, -- sometimes we have to tell what's gone on in our lives so that we can say what we're tryin' to say, you know?

JS: Yeah, and get back to making jokes . . . [both laugh]

SRV: Yeah, uh, both of us had gone through some things -- quite a few changes in our lives -- and, uh, mine in particular was a lot of drug and alcohol abuse, and all the things that go along with it. And, these are -- a lot of these songs have to do with tryin' to get back to reality, you know? Being able to relate to each other -- people -- and, uh, and go on with life.

JS: Yeah, well I'm no stranger to this, ah, in this, there's this tune you and Bramhall wrote called "Tightrope" that's . . .

SRV: Yeah. [laughs]

JS: . . . third on this record, which is, uh, it's like a "mini cure" all in itself.

SRV: [laughs]

JS: It starts you off with the problems, you know, when you're doin' drugs, you're standing still, and it seems like everything's going by you . . .

SRV: Yeah.

JS: Then, uh, the second verse kinda moves into uh, not being able to see your own friends reaching out to help you.

SRV: Yeah.

JS: And it sounds like by the third verse, you were feelin' like you were lookin' at a friend again when you looked in the mirror.

SRV: Yeah, you gotta get to the solution, you know? Gotta go through the problem, gotta see what's goin' on, feel what's goin' on, give it up, and go.

JS: And this, uh, this, I take it from the sound of your voice remains a constant in your life.

SRV: [laughs] Oh yeah, it's a day by day thing, and it's finally starting -- at least I'm beginning to learn, ah, that the reason we have a lifetime to work this stuff out's 'cause that's what it takes, you know? [laughs]

JS: Yeah, yeah.

SRV: And that's okay, too.

[Music: "Tightrope"]

Announcer: That's a song called "Tightrope" -- Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble on Rock Stars. We also heard "Crossfire." Both songs are from the newest Double Trouble album, "In Step." Stevie Ray goes up against a "Wall of Denial" when we return to Rock Stars.


Announcer: And we're back, with more of Stevie Ray Vaughan on Rock Stars.

[Music: "Testify" in background]

Stevie Ray Vaughan: I can't read or write music, and the progressions just are, sometimes it's just -- I feel certain ways, so I go and pick my guitar up, and I have no idea how to play those chords, so I just start sticking my hands on the neck until I find what makes the sound that I feel like.

[Music: "Testify"]

John Sebastian: "Wall of Denial" is another tune that, uh, as soon as I saw the phrase, I said "Boy, this is somebody who has been through rehab" because one of the first things you learn is about your own denial.

SRV: Oh yeah. I'm still learnin' about it. [laughs] It ah, it runs deep. Actually, there'd been a few things that had come to mind or come -- however solutions come, you know. I can't take credit for 'em. They come to mind by whatever means it is, and they'd been written down on this piece of paper, or that piece of paper, you know. And, uh, I had this progression goin' on in my head, and started playing it, was actually talking on the phone to my manager, sayin' that I thought we were probably -- Doyle and I -- were probably gonna work on this progression next, and started mouthing the "bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah" and, ah, about that time, Doyle starts singing "Wall of Denial" . . .

JS: Wow.

SRV: . . . just the first line, and I said "I'll talk to you later, Alex" [laughs] and hung up the phone [both laugh] and went over there and we realized that we had, that here it comes, whether we like it or not, here comes the song, you know. And, ah, when it came time for the next, you know -- for the main body of the verses -- we pulled out these different pieces of paper that we both had, and uh, there it was -- we just, all we had to do was fit the pieces of the puzzle together. And, uh, made us feel really good. Made us feel really good. And, since then, learning more and more about what all that song can mean.

[Music: "Wall of Denial"]

Announcer: On Rock Stars, that's "Wall of Denial" from Stevie Ray Vaughan's new album, "In Step." And up top, the instrumental, "Testify" off the 1983 "Texas Flood" record.

Still to come, how not playing sometimes says more than playing, when singer/guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan returns on Rock Stars.


Announcer: And now, the conclusion of the Stevie Ray Vaughan edition of Rock Stars.

[Music: "Let Me Love You Baby"]

John Sebastian: Some of Willie Dixon's work appears on this record . . .

Stevie Ray Vaughan: Uh huh.

JS: . . . a tune called "Let Me Love You"

SRV: See, I've always known that song myself, I've always known that as a Buddy Guy song. When we went to clear the songs, that's when we were told that it wasn't a Buddy, but it was actually a -- copyrighted, anyway, -- with, under Willie Dixon.

JS: Well, now, how did you and your brother get to hear some of these guys? I mean, a lot of people don't know that Texas is quite the hot spot that it is, for uh, for blues . . .

SRV: Yeah, it's always -- there's always been a scene, so to speak, or at least a big blues audience, and a lot of, a whole lot of blues musicians from Texas. As well, like I said earlier, Jimmie was bringin' home a lot of, a lot of records by a lot of these people -- how he knew to tap into this, I don't really know. 'Cause he was, uh, when it first started, I guess he was probably 13 or 14 years old, and was already gettin' hip to these people.

JS: Wow.

SRV: I guess my first venture into that was Lonnie Mack.

JS: Uh huh.

SRV: I went and found me a Lonnie Mack, and ah, not long after that, Albert King. And, ah, I was hooked.

[Music: "Born Under A Bad Sign" - Albert King - in background]

JS: Yeah, I was gonna say, I was gonna ask you about how important -- and every guitarist should be asked this question -- how important was the Albert King "Born Under A Bad Sign" album?

SRV: I wouldn't, I wouldn't have known what to do without it. [laughs] Not only did I see Albert King on TV doing this stuff, and realize, if given the chance, this music goes over BIG! You know, and I'll never forget that one...'cause when I got signed, I was told that nobody wanted to hear this stuff, you know? And I said "Okay, let's try it!" [laughs]

[Music: "Mary Had A Little Lamb" - in background]

JS: Because it was a time when -- it's not that there wasn't interest in a lot of big, loud, flashy lead guitar, it just was a new kind of pop-style, ah, single string lead, it involved not playing the whole instrument . . .

SRV: Yeah. And it's always -- it's gonna be always important to me, trying to play that style, because a lot of my tendency is not to slow down. And, ah, that's something that I'm trying to learn and I probably will, hopefully I'll learn it one of these days, but it means a lot more to play one note that really says something than it does to play a million notes that don't ever get there.

[Music: "Ain't Gone 'N' Give Up On Love" - live version]

JS: On several of your albums, you have a characteristic hat that I see you wearing.

SRV: Yeah.

JS: Now, ah, and I also, having traveled a little bit through Texas, I know that different folds on hats have different significances . . . sometimes they, they tell you more about either what the guy does, or what part of Texas he's from. And I was wondering whether there's any particular significance or name to that type of fold on your hat?

SRV: The crown is called, just called a "high roller" crown, and it's a flat brim. Ah, it's just what I thought a hat oughta look like if I wore one. [laughs] However, actually, the first -- when I first got it, it reminded me -- for some reason, it reminded me of Hendrix's hat. [laughs] And that was, uh, the first reasoning [laughs] behind me wearing a hat, plus, I'm gettin' a little thin up there, so I kinda depend on those things these days. [laughs]

JS: So now, did you ever get a chance to actually, uh, meet Jimi Hendrix?

SRV: Never did. Never did. Lots of dreams. But, uh, for a period of time, I would have dreams that we would be showing each other stuff -- sometimes unloading semis in a driveway in suburban . . . uh, housing district, you know? Sometimes in some kind of wild-looking hall. But, one morning, I remember jumpin' up and trying to go play what we were playin' in there, and I realized that we were playing on the bottom of the strings [laughs] between the strings and the neck, and I went "Naw this couldn't be right...this couldn't...this isn't it!" [laughs]

JS: [laughs] This dream is gettin' too good!

SRV: [laughs] Yeah.

[Music: "Travis Walk"]

JS: Well, I sure appreciate you taking a little time here, and talkin' to us . . .

SRV: It's a pleasure, man.

JS: And, uh, thanks an awful lot for the good music, and keep that hat pulled down, and know that you're one of the people we look to for the future of this music we call "The Blues" but, ah, which is obviously fast growing into something bigger.

SRV: Well, I'll keep trying. I can't quit now.

JS: All right.

SRV: All right, man.

Announcer: Your host, John Sebastian, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Last track we heard was "Travis Walk" from the "In Step" album.