For someone who spent a mere seven years in the spotlight, Stevie Ray Vaughan left behind an impressive amount of recorded material.
He released four studio albums, a double live album and a Vaughan Brothers album (recorded with his big brother, Jimmie Vaughan), not to mention enough leftover live and studio material to fill several posthumous albums and a box set or two.
He even found time to perform on albums by several other artists—from Teena Marie to Stevie Wonder to Don Johnson to Lonnie Mack—pretty much always with fiery results.
With that in mind, here are Vaughan's top five guest appearances as a guest or session guitarist during his "famous" years, 1983 to 1990. We'll discuss his pre-fame session work in another story (maybe).
Just so the Vaughanophiles are clear, this list does not take into account Vaughan's 1983 Canadian TV studio appearance with Albert King—or anything recorded in a TV studio, a radio studio or a studio apartment.
It also doesn't include his 1987 recording of "Pipeline" with Dick Dale because that track is credited to the duo, so neither guitarist is the other's "guest."
5. A.C. Reed, "Miami Strut," from I'm in the Wrong Business! (1987)
A.C. Reed was a respected Chicago-based sideman who started his lengthy career in the Forties and worked with a host of big names, including Magic Sam, Son Seals, Albert Collins and Buddy Guy.
"Miami Strut" is a funky instrumental that features Vaughan playing a Strat through a Leslie cabinet, its revolving speaker providing an exceptionally "wet" sound. Note how he plays around Reed's catchy tenor sax riffs, making his guitar an integral part of the track. Vaughan's guitar solo starts around 1:22.
Because the album, which also features Bonnie Raitt, was released in 1987, it represents a lost period in Vaughan's discography, since Soul to Soul came out in 1985 and In Step came out in 1989.
WHILE YOU'RE AT IT: Check out "These Blues Is Killing Me" from the same album. Vaughan's guitar solo starts around 2:06. That's Reed on vocals.
4. Bennie Wallace, "All Night Dance," from Twilight Time (1985)
Here's Vaughan guesting with another sax player—this time Bennie Wallace (with Dr. John)—on another blues-based instrumental, a lengthy shuffle called "All Night Dance" from Wallace's now-out-of-print 1985 Twilight Time album. The song also was featured on the Bull Durham soundtrack album in 1988—and even that's out of print (Good luck finding it for less than $60 on Amazon Marketplace or eBay!).
Stevie's guitar solo starts around 3:24, and he really pours it on, dialing up his Soul to Soul sound and including several signature SRV motifs and bends.
Like a great songwriter who sometimes relegates jaw-dropping tunes to the cutting-room floor or non-album B-sides, Vaughan recorded this brilliant guitar solo one random day in his career—and then just moved on to the next gig, never really looking back.
3. Johnny Copeland, "Don't Stop by the Creek, Son," from Texas Twister (1984)
Texas blues guitarist and singer Johnny Copeland (father of blues singer Shemekia Copeland) invited Vaughan to play on two tracks on his Texas Twister album. On "Don't Stop by the Creek, Son," Copeland, a fine player in his own right, stepped aside to let Vaughan handle all the lead work.
Although Vaughan's Strat was mixed a little too low in the original vinyl mix (It had to compete with Copeland's acoustic guitar), "Creek" is a fun, engaging, upbeat track with a catchy melody and some nifty guitar work from start to finish.
It's worth noting that the original 1984 Black and Blues version of Texas Twister featured two tracks with Vaughan on guitar—"Don't Stop by the Creek, Son" and "When the Rain Stops Fallin'." However, when the album was reissued by Rounder Records in 1986, "When the Rain Stops Fallin'" was gone—and it's still gone. iTunes sells only the 1986 version of the album (opens in new tab)
2. Lonnie Mack, "If You Have to Know," from Strike Like Lightning (1985)
Serious Vaughan fans got a nice bonus in 1985: Alligator Records released Lonnie Mack's masterful Strike Like Lightning album, which was co-produced by Vaughan and Mack, one of SRV's many guitar idols (Check out Mack's classic 1964 album, The Wham of That Memphis Man! (opens in new tab)).
Vaughan plays on several songs on the album, but he actually plays and sings on "If You Have to Know," making it the closest thing to a straight-ahead bonus SRV track. Check it out below.
WHILE YOU'RE AT IT: From the same album, be sure to get a taste of "Oreo Cookie Blues," which features Vaughan on acoustic guitar, predating "Life By the Drop" and his Unplugged appearance by five years ...
... and don't forget "Double Whammy" (a new recording of Mack's early Sixties instrumental hit "Wham!" featuring Vaughan and Mack duking it out in E), "Hound Dog Man" and "Satisfy Suzie," which you can hear below.
1. David Bowie, "Cat People (Putting Out the Fire)," from Let's Dance (1983)
Come on, you knew something from David Bowie's Let's Dance album had to be No. 1 on this list.
Let's Dance served as the world's introduction to Vaughan, who, with Bowie, invented something new by adding Texas-style blues guitar to contemporary, dance-based pop music—raising eyebrows, expectations and bank accounts for all involved.
Vaughan plays lead guitar on several tracks, including two of the album's many mega-hits ("Let's Dance" and "China Girl"), but guitar-wise, the song that truly kicks collective ass is the less-famous "Cat People (Putting Out the Fire)." It's also got the album's healthiest serving of SRV; he solos in the middle, adds Albert King-style bends throughout and then solos near the end of the song.
Note that Bowie recorded two studio versions of this song in the early Eighties; be sure to seek out the Let's Dance version (not that there's anything wrong with the other one).
WHILE YOU'RE AT IT: It just feels wrong to leave out the album's title track—which millions of people can credit as the first time they heard Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Welcome to the bonus tunes! I don't think too many people get this far. Poor them ...
Here are two extra tunes that feature Vaughan as the guest guitarist, each interesting in its own way. Please note that we seriously wanted to include "Bumble Bee Blues" from Brian Slawson's 1988 album, Distant Drums, but it's not available on YouTube. You can always track down the CD on eBay for about $5.
Anyway, here we go:
Stevie Wonder, "Come Let Me Make Your Love Come Down," from Characters (1987)
While the Vaughan-heavy video below is promising, it's also misleading.
Sadly, the finished studio recording of this 1987 Stevie Wonder track features much less of Vaughan's playing, although he can be heard closer to the end of the song, going head to head with B.B. King. So make the most of this video!
Don Johnson, "Love Roulette," from Heartbeat (1986)
What's interesting about this one? First of all, Miami Vice star Don Johnson released an album in 1986. Second of all, he got Vaughan to play on it. Third of all, the album reached No. 17 on Billboard's Hot 100.
The album, Heartbeat, was a star-studded affair that also featured Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers Band, Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones, Dweezil Zappa and Willie Nelson. Johnson eventually recorded one more album, 1989's Let It Roll.
Vaughan's solo on "Love Roulette," which you can check out below, starts around 2:51.