In the Studio - The Best of Stevie Ray Vaughan

Part One

Hosts: Tommy Shannon, Chris Layton, Buddy Guy, Joe Nick Patoski.
Originally aired week of June 21, 1993

Segment One

Redbeard: Hi and welcome to "In The Studio". I'm Redbeard, with the stories behind the greatest rock and roll albums in history. This week we go in the studio for part one of a two-part bittersweet story of the best from Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble.

[Sound bites of "Pride & Joy," and "Cold Shot," in the background]

Chris Layton: Yeah, Stevie, in playing with him there was a thing about him that was very, very simple. It's like, if it, if it felt good, then it was good. It was a very "trust your instincts" band. Spontaneous... didn't matter if there were some little minor performance mistakes, if the if the spirit was there and there was fire and the feeling was good, then it was happenin'.

("Change It" sound bite)

Tommy Shannon: Hi. This is Tommy Shannon.

Chris Layton: And I'm Chris Layton in the studio for the best of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, Part 1.

RB: Struggle. Fame. Despair. Near death. Recovery. Triumph. and finally, tragedy. All of these are elements in the story of Stevie Ray Vaughan. But through it all, there was the music. Stevie Vaughan grew up with his big brother Jimmie in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas Texas. Stevie idolized his big brother's way with the guitar and dropped out of high school to follow his brother to Austin's growing club scene. There, Stevie could actually could see and hear many of the blues greats whose records he played endlessly as a child. These bluesmen had discovered an enthusiastic club owner in Clifford Antone, and an audience that appreciated them. It was the perfect atmosphere for the young, skinny Stevie Vaughan to apply for apprenticeship. He was payin' dues and playin' the blues nightly. And nobody bothered to check his I.D. for legal age. Stevie Vaughan's guitar playing was an all-access pass that could never be revoked. Double Trouble drummer Chris Layton remembers vividly the sound that would change his life.

CL: First time I heard Stevie play, and I didn't meet him that night, but the first time I heard him play was at a place called Soap Creek Saloon in Austin, Texas. Drove up, got out of my car, and I could hear the band playing but I heard this . . . this piercing guitar as if it was like outside and not even coming from inside, it was just it was like drilling right through the walls of the building and I thought "Wow, who is this guy?" and it was Stevie. He's playing and I thought he's remarkable, it was just, he was.

RB: Double Trouble bass player, Tommy Shannon finds it fateful how he came to know Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Tommy Shannon: It was really kind of ironic the way I met him. Before I met him, I was playing with Johnny Winter and we broke up, and I flew back to Dallas and this club called The Fog was our old hangout. That's where I met Johnny Winter. And uh, I went in one night and Stevie was playing, he's about fourteen, fifteen years old and there's all these big people around him you know and he just looked up to `em. A lot of `em kinda treated him like a pest, you know, later on he said he remembered I was the only one that was nice to him, but uh, he was incredible. I mean I knew even though he was just a little kid that he had a special gift, I knew that.

RB: Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble's big break came with a chance booking without any record contract at the prestigious 1982 Montreaux Jazz Festival at Lake Geneva, Switzerland, where audience members David Bowie and Jackson Browne were so impressed, that Bowie hired Stevie Vaughan as featured guitarist for Bowie's "Let's Dance" album, while Jackson Browne invited Double Trouble to use his recording studio in L.A. Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton recall their humble beginnings recording with Stevie Ray Vaughan.

TS: We went to L.A. and ah, see we did three days right?

CL: Yeah, as it turned out is what it really kind of amounted to.

TS: Yeah, the second day we did two songs. And the last day we did eight.

CL: What we did was we actually mounted like what was like a two week tour with that being the objective. To do shows and make a little bit of money and end up in L.A. and be able to record. But Jackson gave us the studio time, in fact, "Texas Flood" is actually recorded on like pre-production recordings of "Lawyers in Love." Over the top of just used tape, so he threw that in too.

[Both laugh]

I guess if you look deep enough, you'll find "Lawyers in Love" underneath "Texas Flood."


"Pride & Joy" is played.

RB: Yeah. From Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble's debut, 1983's "Texas Flood," that's "Pride & Joy." Their music, rough, hewn and soulful was in high contrast with the highly synthesized keyboard-heavy modern rock of bands such as the Eurythmics, and culturally it was a planet away from other chart toppers such as England's The Police and Australia's Men at Work. Stevie Vaughan's high-profile licks on Bowie's comeback album and Double Trouble's "Texas Flood," were a calling card that many noticed. Here's legendary blues guitarist and singer, Buddy Guy.

Buddy Guy: Well first of all, when you're a guitar player, those things come to you, we almost like like prize fighters you know . . . you hear about this this this whatever ah weight division you're in, you hear about this guy comin' before you get to him you know (laughs) so ah yeah I heard about him with the David Bowie, and uh, naturally you know I had been goin' down into Austin around Antone's and that's why he went in there and started making

Segment Two

RB: Welcome back to "In the Studio," focusing on the best of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble Part 1. I'm Redbeard. "Couldn't Stand the Weather," Stevie's second album with Double Trouble, sold more than a million copies and catapulted the trio into headlining gigs and non-stop bookings. His guitar-playing style had several physical components that facilitated his abilities. Stevie Vaughan had massive forearms and long bony fingers which he used to massage blistering licks from the heaviest steel guitar strings and thickest frets available. I asked Austin-based writer, Joe Nick Patoski, co-author of the biography Stevie Ray Vaughan: Caught in the Crossfire, how Stevie could coax music out of grinding so much metal.

Joe Nick Patoski: His contemporaries would have had blood all over their fingertips and in fact Stevie had on numerous occasions torn up his fingers in such a way that he rather than ah go to a lighter gauge string he just whipped out some crazy glue, put them on any cuts or or torn callouses on his finger and got back out there and played. I think that those physical abilities to to handle something that tough, made his playing sound tougher.

RB: Prior to recording Double Trouble's third album, Stevie Vaughan lost a dear friend suddenly. It wouldn't be the only warning sign amidst all of the success. Here is Chris Layton, followed by Tommy Shannon of Double Trouble.

Chris Layton: Charley Wirz had Charley's Guitar Shop in in Dallas and Stevie had known him for quite a long time and he's just a great guy. Come one of the real people and it was just a great vibe and Stevie always liked to go in there, Charley have some kind of cool guitar say "hey, check this out, why don't you go take it and play it for awhile" and he might not ever ask for it back, or Stevie give it back to him, or he's keep it for a year or or whatever the case might be, he was just this great guy who was a real supporter of the band and real down home kinda guy and um, when he died it it hurt Stevie a lot, cause he felt like he had lost um just one of those people that there weren't a lot of people like him in the world.

Tommy Shannon: He wrote one song for Charley, "Life Without You," they were real tight. I remember ah that Charley had this old fifty-seven P-Bass you know that just meant beautiful bass that he didn't want to sell and somehow, Stevie talked him out of it ah and Stevie carved "Soul to Soul" on the bass and gave it to me. You know, I keep that bass at home in a anvil case in a closet at the very back.

"Life Without You" is played.

RB: Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble's "LIfe Without You" from the third album, "Soul to Soul." It was on this album that the trio experimented with the Texas keyboard player.

TS: Ah, his name is Reese Wynans. The idea, he came in, he was just going like to do two or three songs with us and um Stevie had got real excited over his playin', decided to have him play on more songs and so it was Stevie's idea, he wanted Reese to join the band.

CL: We kinda reached the point where I think I think that we went into make "Soul to Soul" that maybe more so than any other studio record, we were probably less prepared to make that.

TS: Yeah.

CL: And having done two records, even though I wanted to, even though I always wanted to try to figure how can we make a better record than "Couldn't Stand the Weather" or "Texas Flood" and do it as a trio, and I think at the time Stevie was ev like and we were all exhausted, the work had gotten to us, we'd worked a lot when we got in there we realized how exhausted we were and then but here we were mak trying to make a record. And Stevie, had just prior to that had had talked about " well maybe we should like broaden the sound" or do something ah a little bit different, add another another texture to the music.

RB: After albums in L.A., and New York City, the "Soul to Soul" album was recorded in Stevie Vaughan's home town of Dallas. But strangely, Stevie stayed in a hotel for months that it took to record. I wondered aloud to Tommy Shannon, why Stevie hadn't stayed with his parents.

TS: And Stevie's frame of mind at that time, I don't think that woulda worked out at all, cause ah, our addiction was gettin' worse and worse, so I don't think he'd feel real comfortable around his parents.

CL: Yeah, it was pretty serious, (clears throat) at the time, he had a pretty serious drug and and drinking problem, it was a pretty indulgent record, it caused a lot of problems. We ended up spending a lot of time playing ping-pong and just kinda hangin' around and doin' drugs and drinking and then we'd go play for awhile and then we you know something if we hit a snag, it was kinda discouraging, we might go back to play ping-pong for a coupla three hours or and so it was, it was a dark period, it it was. Even in the bright spots in when what the record ended up being, it was a pretty dark period. It was the most extensive ping-pong I've ever played.

"Lookin' Out the Window" is played.

"Look at Little Sister" is played.

RB: Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, great rock and rhythm and blues from the album "Soul to Soul," that's "Lookin' Out the Window," and Look at Little Sister." I'm Redbeard. Next, we'll find out about the Blue Devil's, and that's not an opening act. As we return to the best of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, "In the Studio."

Segment Three

RB: Welcome back to "In the Studio for The Best of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, Part 1." I'm Redbeard. Everybody's heard of "the blues." But did you ever wonder where the term for this emotional, often painful always soulful music originated? The blues is short for blue devils, the personification of temptation that would come late round midnight to haunt a person's mind and try to steal their soul. And regardless of the many awards and continued money coming in, make no mistake about it, by summer of '86, Stevie Vaughan and Tommy Shannon of Double Trouble, had the blues. I asked Tommy why Double Trouble didn't take some time off of their hectic touring and recording schedule.

Tommy Shannon: Ah, for one thing, it goes back to us being real high all the time, you know, we really didn't care for any time off and everything's getting better like you're seeing the awards come in and it seemed like we were going uphill and everything seemed like it was working.

Chris Layton: We also developed this, I guess you could call it the machinery you know, we had an organization and and Stevie was always great about this equality and treatment of everybody. There's like there was always bills to be paid and we were making more and more money, there were more and more bills to be paid and it was kinda like these things like how do you slow the machine down, how do you just bring it to a stop? And I think we were so wound up in everything that we were doing it become so fast-paced and so tight as far as everything happening day after day that the thought of like stopping was like how do you just stop this train that's almost really out of control at that point? And so we just, we just kept on going.

TS: And I was running neck to neck with Stevie, I mean we were both way way out there um, I think I saw it comin' before he did, you know I knew that we were both getting ready to hit a brick wall and I remem I remember him and I talking about it you know, I think it was in Dallas and um we I remember we we both started crying and we both got down on the floor on our knees and prayed you know to help for help cause we knew we were in real deep trouble and um we got up did some more cocaine, took some more drinks.

"Change It" is played.

RB: That's called "Change It" and that comes from the "Soul to Soul" album from Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble. Plans for a huge international tour and a live album were now added to the burden. Original manager Chesley Milliken was replaced. Maybe now, Stevie Vaughan can take a break. Stevie Ray Vaughan biographer Joe Nick Patoski.

Joe Nick Patoski: By August of '86, Stevie had sought and and gotten new management in the form of Alex Hodges, Alex had a little more sympathetic ear than ah Chesley Milliken did and he felt more comfortable with him. And this seemed to be the beginning of a very strong relationship, Alex might afford them the time to take off on the road and relax but after looking over the books, Alex came to but one conclusion: Guys, we got to go out and keep working a little bit to get things back in balance.

RB: Then, tragedy struck at home. Big Jim Vaughan, Stevie's dad, died on August 27th, 1986 while Double Trouble was on tour. Certainly, now they would have to stop. Chris Layton:

CL: The night we'd buried Big Jim we got on a jet and flew to Montreal and we did a show that night and I thought how could we be doing this and because I remember when my father had died it was, it was tragic to me even though I mean I knew he was going to die, he'd been sick for awhile and but Stevie seemed like headstrong to like "We gotta I gotta keep working" I remember he said "This is what's, this is what'l get me through, this is what's good for me today." And so he dealt with it, he dealt with it pretty good, but I felt he was also kinda compartmentalizing it in saying "I'll take care of whatever is gonna come at me later."

RB: Author, Joe Nick Patoski

JNP: Taking stimulants was a means of of keeping the business going. He was running ragged, but the demands of the business were such that it was time for a new album, once the album comes out, time to go tour it, and there was just there was no time left to be Stevie Vaughan, the kid from Dallas, it was time to be Stevie Ray all the time.

RB: Within a month after the death of his father, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble finally hit bottom.

TS: He got where if he just had he could wake up in the morning and have one drink and just be real drunk and um, you know he's like he's real confused he wasn't centered at all.

CL: God, we were some real small little town in Germany, Stevie and I had been out on the street and he like kneeled down a couple of times to throw up and it was like blood and like part of his stomach and stuff coming out, I remember there were no bars, there were no drugs and there were no bars open and ah he's like "I kinda need a drink, I gotta have a drink" and they're telling us no that's you don't need that, he said "I know but I gotta have one," and anyhow he kinda regained himself and went back to the room, went back to the hotel and that's we were three of us were together and he'd kind of seemed to kind of come around.

TS: Out of nowhere, he just started shakin', he turned white and started sweatin' and we had to call an ambulance.

CL: I remember that too, I remember looking in-in his eyes it was almost like it was like the life went out of his eyes for a second, like, if you've ever seen a dead animal's eyes are like glazed over and there's you can tell there's no life. It's almost like you could see that there was almost some kind of movie or somethin', some special effect and then it kinda came back in and he said I -I -I need help. Then I knew that that that something had switched in him and he was ready to take care of his life and and something - God, some force had brought him back from the the edge - any longer and I don't think he would have been with us.

RB: When Stevie Vaughan sought help, it had been waiting all along. The challenge was one day at a time - one week - one month. A simple chip is awarded to each recovering alcoholic on each anniversary of sobriety. How important is that chip, symbolically? Just ask Tommy Shannon.

TS: Yeah, in the program Stevie and I belonged to, that's when Stevie hit his bottom you know, and they talk about that a lot. You know, you have to reach bottom, or you just can't take it anymore. And-and it was true for myself, I didn't have a physical breakdown, but it-it's kinda like when I saw that in Stevie, I knew the old way of doing things was gone for both of us. You know, we both checked ourselves in treatment centers the same day. He was in Georgia, and I was here in Austin. But the thing is there's really a (clears throat) a relief when you hit that bottom and you know it's kinda like you surrender to the fact well, it's gotta change, you know, I've gotta start a complete new way of life - or else die you know you have those two choices ("Life By the Drop" fades in). It's like each year you celebrate on the birthday and uh, I still pick him up a chip every year.

"Life By the Drop" continues.

RB: Written by Stevie Ray Vaughan's good friend, Doyle Bramhall, that is "Life By the Drop," from the Grammy award-winning Stevie Ray Vaughan album, "The Sky is Crying." I'll be back "In the Studio" after this.

In the Studio - The Best of Stevie Ray Vaughan

END Part 1