Saturday, March 21, 2009

Featured Pipe Smoker: Stevie Ray Vaughan

Stephen Ray Vaughan (1954-1990)

Stevie Ray Vaughan was born in Dallas, Texas, and dropped out of high school to pursue a music career, moving to Austin. He became very well known--even famous--regionally and finally achieved national and international acclaim with the release of his debut album Texas Flood in 1983.

Vaughan fused the styles of a wide variety of guitartists--Albert King once called Stevie Ray his "godchild." He was influenced by other blues guitarists such as Muddy Waters and Otis Rush, by rock guitarists like Jimi Hendrix, and even some jazz influence via Kenny Burrell. The style Vaughan created was all his own. He also achieved his distinctive sound by using heavier than normal guitar strings and tuning them down a half step.

During the mid-80s, after serious health problems brought on by drug and alcohol addiction, he entered rehabilitation and afterwards remained clean for the rest of his life. Whether this meant he also gave up pipe smoking, I do not know. The above picture is from the Pori International Jazz Festival in Pori, Finland in 1985, probably during the same tour that his drug problems finally caught up with him. He's smoking a Peterson.

Stevie Ray Vaughan died when the helicopter he was riding in crashed in Wisconsin, killing him and four others (the pilot and some members of Eric Clapton's crew).

In 1991 Texas Governor Ann Richards declared his birthday, October 3, as "Stevie Ray Vaughan Day." There is an annual motorcycle ride and concert in central Texas that benefits the Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial Scholarship Fund.

There is a memorial statue to Vaughan on Town Lake in Austin, Texas.


  1. I got to go see him at La Semana allegre the year he passed away.

    He is one of the few artists that doesn't make me want to immediately turn the station.

  2. Late comment for your fine post about SRV and pipe smoking.

    About the photo. I was lucky to be there that day to witness that gig. I clearly remember him lighting up that Pete, though didn't smoke a pipe then myself.

    He (and Double Trouble) played a club gig later that same night that was brilliant. If he had any drug problems by that time, it certainly didn't show. The Finnish TV taped that show and there's now a 40 min. video of it floating around in teh internets. Lemme know if you want to see it.

    Now to read some of your more current pipe posts!

    Best regards,

  3. Jari: Thanks a lot for the extra information!