Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Happy 2011!

Stevie Ray Vaughan, Live Alive Tour 1987, on his famously beat-up '59 Strat
Stevie lays it down

My backstage pass

Carpe Diem! Seize the Day!

Recently, a good friend reminded me that life is short, and that it’s up to us to recognize miracles as they happen, and to participate, or not. In honor of the New Year and all its forthcoming opportunities and miracles, please allow me to reminisce:

I was reminded of a wedding I attended while living in Los Angeles in the mid-‘80s: Delaney Bramlett's wedding. Although Delaney has been dead now for 2 years, it seems like just yesterday. Music for the ceremony was provided by a young and spry Leon Russell, and singer Rita Coolidge. Several well-known musicians were in attendance, including my friend and blues harmonica great, John Juke Logan, and many of the cast of the TV show, Roseanne.

It was an inter-connected social web in L.A. back then. Bonnie Bramlett went on as a guest actor on Roseanne; my friend Juke played the now-famous harmonica line in the opening sequence of the Roseanne show. Around then Albert Collins was in town recording for Alligator Records. I met the executive producer of Alligator Records at a party, who invited me to meet Albert later on. At the time, I was working as a graphic designer for a small firm in Los Angeles, whose owner attended the same Musicians’ Alcoholics Anonymous as Stevie Ray Vaughan: we designed all of Stevie’s tour advertising and merchandise that year, even his Christmas card.

The Wiltern Theater was host to one of the greatest single displays of rock musicianship I’ve ever witnessed: Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble playing in front of 1,000 people in May 1987. Stevie was an absolute MONSTER on his beat up ’59 Strat, and, with tremendous authority, blew all our minds! Our design firm had the entire 10th row of the grand old vaudeville theater, and during intermission we went back stage to meet Stevie. We shook hands, and I was surprised at how small physically a person he was. I was wearing a backstage pass and was looking around for something he could autograph, and Stevie just took the Sharpie out of my hand with a smile and signed my backstage pass, right on my chest!

Around this time, Stevie was travelling so much, it’s a miracle he stopped over in L.A. to record, and even more of a miracle that I was in that place at that time. Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia:

After weeks of mixing the Live Alive album in Los Angeles, Vaughan and Double Trouble went on tour in Europe, where they were scheduled to play 28 shows. On September 26, the band shared the bill with ZZ Top at the Circus Krone Building in Munich where Stevie continued a downward spiral with drugs and alcohol. After spending two months in treatment, Vaughan and Shannon went back on the road with Double Trouble, playing their first sober show at the Towson Center in Maryland. They would often attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings while on the road. The tour took the band to Radio City Music Hall in New York City and Atlanta's Fox Theatre for a New Year's Eve show with Lonnie Mack. In January 1987, they played at the Fair Park Coliseum in Dallas, which was Vaughan's first sober performance in his hometown. The band appeared with The Fabulous Thunderbirds in New Orleans for a Mardi Gras television special on MTV.

In April, Vaughan made a guest appearance on a Cinemax television special called B.B. King & Friends: A Night of Red Hot Blues. Filmed at Los Angeles' Ebony Showcase Theatre in tribute to B.B. King, the special featured musicians Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Dr. John, and Albert King, as well as vocalists Etta James, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, and Billy Ocean.

Musicians such as Joe Bonamassa, John Mayer, Robert Randolph, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Colin James, Jonny Lang, Los Lonely Boys, Mike McCready, Eric Johnson, Orianthi, John Petrucci, and Doyle Bramhall II have cited Vaughan as an influence.

On August 27, 1990, after a sold out concert of 30,000 at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin, featuring an encore jam with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Jimmie Vaughan and Robert Cray, Stevie’s helicopter crashed, killing instantly everyone on board. Stevie was 35.

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