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.
Jackson Browne is one of those people. He had initially met Stevie Ray in 1982 at the Montreux Festival in Switzerland, before the Texas bluesman had a record deal. Jackson was so knocked out by Stevie Ray's mighty blues prowess that he invited him and his band to use his home studio at no cost. They remained friendly through the success of Texas Flood ('83), Couldn't Stand The Weather ('84), Soul To Soul ('85) and Live Alive ('86). And when Stevie Ray finally crashed, his old pal Jackson was there with a helping hand.
Another visitor to the treatment facility was Eric Clapton, himself no stranger to the evils of self-abuse. Clapton had tried to talk to Stevie Ray about his drinking problem years before, but as Vaughan recalls, "Back then he could sense that I wasn't ready, so he didn't push it. See, you can try, you can let somebody know what's going on, but if they're not ready to quit, you can't make 'em quit. You just can't.
"They're gonna despise you for it. They'll resent the fact that you tried to tell them how to live their life. When a person's in that spot, it seems like those people really don't care at all. All they wanna do is take this away from you, so you get defensive. You turn on them. You try to act tough and you try to convince yourself that, 'Oh, they don't know what they're missing. ' And you die inside that way. You really want to say, 'I need help,' but you don't know how anymore."
Clapton met Stevie Ray a few years ago when both were on tour in Australia. "He was leaving the hotel and I went out to talk to him, hangover and the whole bit, you know? He was sober, of course, and was really calm the whole while I sat there downing two, three shots of Crown. And he just sort of wisely looked at me and said, 'Well, sometimes you gotta go through that, don'tcha?' He understood that if I had been ready to stop then and there, he would've gone on with the next part of it. But I wouldn't reach that point until I was literally falling off stages, about a couple years later."
Another person who had tried to set Stevie Ray straight along the way was Albert King, a hero and father figure to the young Texas bluesman.
"He's someone I've respected all my life, somebody I've looked up to musically and as a person. In fact, there have been several times when he said he was like my Daddy. I've always looked up to him that way He tried to talk to me on several occasions, but I never listened. Why? Because I was hooked, man. I had to learn for myself. I had to reach the bottom before I could see clearly
"But anyway, I remember this one time in particular ... we were doing a show together and he walked in backstage and said, 'We gonna have a heart-to-heart. I been watching you wrestle with that bottle three, four times already. I tell you what, man. I like to drink a little bit when I'm at home. But the gig ain't no time to get high.’
"He was trying to tell me to take care of business, to give myself a break, but I was doing my usual deal of trying to act like I had it all together, you know? 'Hey, ain’t nuthin' wrong, man. I'm leading the life,' and all that bullshit. I was trying not to see it, but I realize now that it 's like this: I don't drink because I have all these problems; I have all these problems because I drink. And I didn't get high because I had all these problems; I had all these problems because I got high. Now, I realize that nothing's so bad that getting drunk or getting high is gonna make it any better. Period.”
He smiles again, laughs out loud and adds, "Man, sobering up really screws up your drinking. And for that I'm real grateful."
Stevie's doing the stroll on "Pride and Joy," a little crowd-pleasing trick he may have picked up from fellow Texan and personal hero Albert Collins. He's beaming as he comps on his beat-up '59 Strat, raking the strings in smooth, circular motions to accentuate the shuffle groove. A white plume in his black Zorro hat flutters behind him as he stalks across the huge stage of Fort Lauderdale's Sunrise Music Theater.
On the slow blues of "Texas Flood," he digs for roots, dipping deeply into the Albert King bag, just as Jimi Hendrix did on "Red House" or on "Rainy Day, Dream Away" or on "Dolly Dagger" or a host of others. Then, on the crowd favorite, "Say What!," he stomps firmly yet strategically on the Vox wah-wah pedal in this answer to Jimi's "Still Raining, Still Dreaming."
On Howlin Wolf's "Tell Me," he reaches for some of the raunch of Hubert Sumlin or Lowell Fulson' or Jimmy Rogers. And on the slick blues of "Mary Had A Little Lamb," he pulls out those smooth, fleet-fingered licks that made Buddy Guy a guitar hero.
He pays tribute to Freddie King with the classic instrumental "Hideaway" before launching into his own hard-rockin' instrumental, "Scuttle Buttin'," stretching each tune to ten minutes or more with searing solos. His throat is hoarse this night, so he tries to save it as much as possible. Backstage before the show, he had a certified massage therapist work him over with a little shiatsu on the back of the neck, trying to loosen up those tight muscles and alleviate strain on the voice box.
"I've got an acupuncturist who does wonders for me," he says, "but he's back in New York and he won't travel, so I gotta do what I can on the road. "
After a rousing shuffle blues version of the Beatles' "Taxman," which the band just recorded for a full-length animated movie due out next summer, Stevie Ray introduces special guest Otis Rush. The Chicago bluesman, another hero of Vaughan's since his boyhood days in Austin, steps out onto the Sunrise stage, decked out in cowboy boots, cowboy hat, workshirt and jeans and toting his trusty righty Gibson stereo 345 (which he flips over and plays lefty, just like Albert King and Jimi Hendrix).
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