For Eric Gales, one of his most profound and formative experiences as a young blues guitarist was having the chance to play with Stevie Ray Vaughan when he was just 15 years old.
While Gales was cutting demos for his first record, The Eric Gales Band, at Memphis, Tennessee's Ardent Studios in the early '90s, Vaughan was recording tracks for the Vaughan Brothers' Family Style album at the same facility.
The two were bound to collide, but Gales was unaware that he was in fact already known – and admired – by the legendary bluesman.
“I told him my name was Eric Gales and he said, ‘I'm very aware of who you are because the industry has been buzzing about you!’” Gales recalls in a new interview with MusicRadar.
“So we sat down and played, and he said to me, ‘Dude, you are an awesome player!’ I was 15 years old at the time. It was really intense, man. There were two acoustic guitars and we just had fun playing Riviera Paradise [from Vaughan's 1989 album, In Step] together.”
As Gales explains, he didn't take the opportunity to ask Vaughan any technical questions. Such questioning would have been wasted time, as he says he'd been “studying the dude note-for-note way before that meeting”, adding that “it all came full circle that day”.
“It wasn’t about asking a whole lot of questions,” Gales says. “I was just in awe of one of my heroes as we played together and he was nice enough to say ‘Yo, you got it!’ when we finished.”
But perhaps the most unforgettable moment of the meeting came when Gales asked Vaughan for an autograph, only for Vaughan to ask for one right back.
“Right at the end I asked him to sign an autograph for me and he said, ‘Only if you sign one for me first!’” Gales continues. “Through the years, I lost it. I don't know where that piece of paper is but I will never forget it.
“That was such a surreal meeting. I've always counted him, Robin Trower and Eric Johnson as my biggest influences. So whenever I run across these people, it blows my mind.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Gales speaks of his admiration of anyone who picks up an electric guitar to play blues.
“It takes guts and fortitude to even attempt the blues,” he says. “That's worth a trophy before you even get any further in my eyes. I salute everyone who is not shy – whether they're on a stage or performing online – they're putting their foot forward and trying to create something. My advice is just go for it. You won't know what might happen until you try!”
Eric Gales released his latest album, Crown, earlier this year. Produced by fellow blues wizard Joe Bonamassa, the record plays host to an abundance of knockout six-string licks, most notably in a searing duel between Gales and JoBo titled I Want My Crown.