“He completely floored me. I hadn’t been so gung-ho about a guitar player since Jeff Beck”: How David Bowie helped launch Stevie Ray Vaughan’s career – and why their joint tour was canceled at the last minute

American musician Stevie Ray Vaughan plays guitar as he performs onstage at the Fireside Bowl, Chicago, Illinois, February 17, 1984.
(Image credit: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

It’s crazy enough that, in the synth-happy early ’80s, Stevie Ray Vaughan had a top-20 hit with a Strat-fueled, 12-bar-blues shuffle called Pride and Joy. Even more bizarre is that, that same year, his raunchy Albert King–inspired bends graced a bona-fide mega-hit, David Bowie’s jittery Let’s Dance, which spent a solid three weeks at the top of the charts.

Let's Dance – and the album of the same name – is notable because it served as the world’s introduction to Vaughan’s dynamic fretwork. Vaughan met Bowie at the 1982 Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. After SRV's performance, Bowie was so impressed that he later said, “[He] completely floored me. I probably hadn't been so gung-ho about a guitar player since seeing Jeff Beck with his [pre-Yardbirds] band, the Tridents.“

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Damian Fanelli
Editor-in-Chief, Guitar World

Damian is Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine. In past lives, he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor. He's written liner notes for major-label releases, including Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'The Complete Epic Recordings Collection' (Sony Legacy) and has interviewed everyone from Yngwie Malmsteen to Kevin Bacon (with a few memorable Eric Clapton chats thrown into the mix). Damian, a former member of Brooklyn's The Gas House Gorillas, was the sole guitarist in Mister Neutron, a trio that toured the U.S. and released three albums. He now plays in two NYC-area bands.