Stevie Ray Vaughan Discusses Fame, Hendrix and His New Album, 'Soul To Soul,' in 1985 Guitar World Interview
"Then we were working with Albert King, and he came up to me, and he said, 'Man, we got to sit down and have a little heart-to-heart. You sit down like that with Albert King and you grow.'"
And Vaughan remembered something that came from Johnny Winter, who'd preceded him down the long path, the first white Texas blues guitar hero.
"He said something to me when the first record was doing so well," he recalled. "It made me feel a lot of respect for what we did, for the music. He said that he wanted me to know that people like Muddy Waters and the cats who started it all really had respect for what we're doing because it made people respect them. We're not taking credit for the music. We're trying to give it back."
A few weeks later, when I talked to Vaughan again, he elaborated on his relationship with Albert King. It was almost midnight, a warm Dallas spring night, and we were driving across the northwest part of the city looking for hamburgers while rough mixes of the new album played on the tape deck.
"Albert calls me his godson," Vaughan said. "He'll look at you and talk to you, that's the thing. He's pleased with what we've done, and he explained some simple things-don't get high when you're working 'cause you're having too much fun and you don't see the people fuckin' you around. Have fun — that's great-but pay attention. That happened when things were happening so fast, and it was real important to hear that kind of stuff. He knows. He's been through it. You wake up one day back in the clubs without a whole lot to show for what you've been through.”
Sitting in the car, while a waitress brought trays of burgers and beer — an old Texas all-night drive-in, the only thing left open — Vaughan added that he planned to produce a new album for Albert King on the recently reactivated Blue Note label, and that they hoped to cut it in Austin. Talk turned back to Lonnie Mack.
"He's something between a daddy and a brother," Vaughan explained. "When he sees something that needs to be talked about, he'll talk. He understands. He's deep, real deep, and a warm kind of deep. He wanted to produce us a couple, three years ago, but it didn't happen then, of course, and things just worked out like they have. The way I look at it, we're just giving back to him what he did for all of us. It wasn't a case of me doing something for him-it was me getting a chance to work with him.
"You know," he added, "the way people come into your life when you need them, it's wonderful and it happens in so many ways. It's like having an angel. Somebody comes along and helps you get right."
So things are coming together. Vaughan, Shannon and Layton together, talking about the new record, could scarcely contain their excitement. A lot of people have wondered how far yet another Texas guitarslinger could carry the blues thing, and Vaughan has attempted to formulate an answer. He wanted to make a happy record, he said, full of buoyant moods. Shorter songs, less heavy breathing from the guitar, some new instrumental combinations. On Soul To Soul, you hear a lot of the Stevie Ray Vaughan trademarks, but it still has a good-time, uptown feel — a strong trace of R&B — that separates it from Vaughan's first two albums. The guitar showpieces are there, but it's clear that Vaughan set out to accomplish something different with this record.
"I'm real close to it, and so it's hard to get a good perspective on it," he said, "but there're a lot of rockin' songs and then some like we've never played before. There's definitely blues in it — not less blues than before — but it's a type of music we haven't really tried before, some different kinds of changes. There are a few other players here and there that people won't expect, some keyboards [ex-Delbert McClinton ivories-tinkler Reese Wynans has been added to Double Trouble. -ed.] some horns. But the moods are happier."
At that particular time, the band was working nightly at Dallas Sound Lab, a 48-track digitally capable facility in the Dallas Communications Complex at Las Colinas, just northwest of the city. They'd booked the studio in great 24-hour chunks of time, and had even recorded rehearsals, and Vaughan was finding those sorts of conditions pretty luxurious — one of the benefits of having two successful albums under his belt. It helped shape the character of the music on the new record.
"It's helping a lot," Vaughan explained, "because we've gotten to work on individual technique and things, so that we've come down to playing more like we wanted to play in the first place. To do that, we had to cut in the studio and sit down and listen to it. We've always been forced to work a lot faster than this before, and we play so many gigs on the road that we don't have the time to listen to ourselves as closely as we should all the time. You go and play for an hour and a half and then go to the next place, and you don't get a chance to catch what's changing in your music, what's working and what's not working. We love to play shows — don't misunderstand me on that-but it's hard to ask how did we improve, or did we? We have fun when we play, but the studio is a blessing that a lot of people forget about, maybe.”
He said that they were recording the album the "old way," live, in the same room together and without headphones. "I've got every amp I own in the studio and all going all out at once," Vaughan laughed. "They had to build a new monitor system for us." The studio, he explained, was set up like a stage, but with the amps aimed in such a way that the other players could hear what was coming out of them. Vaughan even played drums on one cut, but it was too slow, so the song was speeded up to raise its pitch a half-step.