A Focused Stevie Ray Vaughan Comes Clean in 1988 Guitar World Interview
When we interviewed Stevie Ray Vaughan for the September 1988 issue of Guitar World, SRV was drug- and alcohol-free -- totally ready to play the blues.
"Sure, it affected my playing, ‘Course, to my ears a lot of times it was, 'Boy, don't that sound good?' And there were some great notes that came out, but they were not always necessarily by my doing. It was kind of like I was getting carried through something. I just wasn't in control. Nobody was. We were all exhausted. You could hear it on the tapes of the stuff we had to cull through for the Live Alive album. Some of those European gigs were okay; some of them sounded like half-dead people.
And part of the deal was that this kind of behavior is so accepted in this industry. It's the classic line of "Gollee, he sure is screwed up, but he sure can play good." And I found out that if I stayed loaded all the time, my ego got patted on the back and I didn't have to worry about things that I should be thinking about. It was a lot more comfortable to run from responsibilities. There were a lot of things I was running from, and one of them was me. I was a thirty-three-year-old with a six-year-old kid inside of me, scared and wondering where love is.”
We talk of Charlie Parker, Jimi Hendrix, Jaco Pastorius -- all musical geniuses who drowned their fears and sorrows and anger in drugs and drink. Stevie Ray might have been added to that list.
"I didn't have the nuts to do it all the way," he confesses. And I had a lot of help and support from people, so I was able to see my problem. I came to realize that the alcohol problem, the drug problem and the fear were all symptoms of an underlying problem that's called lack of love. Once you really become an addict or an alcoholic, the drink and drugs just take the place of people you care about and those people who care about you. You forget how to love, you reject love. You become consumed by fear.
"I was walking around trying to act cool, like I had no fear at all. You know ... 'Scared of what?' And that's why I stayed scared. I was scared that somebody would find out that I was scared. And now I'm finally realizing that fear is the opposite of love."
Now when he sings 'Ain't Gone 'N' Give Up On Love" in concert, the song has new, deeper meaning for him. And when he comes to the next verse "Love's not gonna give up on me," he's quick to add ... "or you!" He's seen the light and he's spreading the message, reaching out to those hordes of guitar freaks and blues lovers who have loyally followed him and admired him through all the good times and bad scrapes.
"The music, to me, has become really important. All along, there have been good reasons to play -- I like it, a lot of other people like it, it's fun. But beyond that, it can help us out in all kinds of ways. Music really is a way to reach out and hold onto each other in a healthy way. I'm finding that out now. It's helped me to open up more and take a chance on loving people, instead of just isolating and suspecting everybody that I run into.”
A smile breaks across his somber face as he adds, "There's just a lot more reasons to live now. I can't blame the music for what I got into. I had just kind of misplaced what was really going on with my life. There were a lot of mistakes made, and now I can try and learn from those. It took all the crap I went through to come out on this side, and now I can try to make amends wherever I can. I've been sober now for eighteen months and six days, counting today I'm discovering that it's really a wonderful world out there; I just have to open my eyes to it.
During his month-long stay in the treatment facility, Stevie Ray was able to slow down, take stock of himself and begin building a new, healthier perspective on life. The battle is far from over, as he explains.
"To show you how crazy this disease of alcoholism is, on the way to the treatment center I borrowed ten dollars from my mother. I told her I was going to buy some duty-free cigarettes, but instead, I went straight to the bar and spent all the money as quick as I could on double shots of Crown, 'cause I realized that I had never been on a plane sober before.
"Here I had just come out of the clinic in London, had gotten some information about what was wrong with me, learned all about what the problem was and how to deal with it, and still fell right back into that old thinking. I mean, I was on my way to go into a treatment facility, and had a quick thought of, 'Wow, I've never done this straight before. 'That's the type of thinking that we alcoholics have to defend against for the rest of our lives, though we take it one day at a time. Take care of today -- that’s the idea."
While in the Marietta treatment facility, Stevie Ray got some visits from special friends who had been pulling for him all along. "I had tremendous amounts of support," he sighs. "I still do, from other people in the band, the road crew, my mother, my girlfriend, other people who were in the program themselves. A lot of people wrote, called and gave support, cause they had gone through things like this. Those people saved my life, and now every day that I live, it never fails; somewhere along the line, in the course of a day, I get reminded about those people."
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