Elsewhere on this page you’ll find a blog by Frank E. Lee that includes a nice video of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, who died 24 years ago today. I also have a few very clear memories of Stevie.
The first time I met Stevie I just barely knew who he was. XRT’s music director at the time, John Mrvos, had just seen him play at Chicagofest on Navy Pier, grabbed him after the show and brought him by the station for a drop-in. Most remarkable to me was that Stevie was more interested in talking up his brother Jimmy Vaughan’s latest project rather than his own. Next time I saw him was the same day Frank recalls seeing him at the Blues Stage at Chicagofest in the parking area around Soldier Field. By now he was much better known and was the headliner of that stage that day coming on right after Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. The first thing he did was apologize for being slotted after his idol, Buddy Guy. That was the kind of guy Stevie was and I have a story to back that up from every time I met him.
On August 26, 1990, I was at the World Music Theater in Tinley Park where we had a big XRT show starring Santana. I ran into Marty Salzman. He was Buddy Guy’s manager at the time and was at the show to invite Carlos Santana back downtown to drop by Legends and jam later that night. Meanwhile, Buddy was at Alpine Valley with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmy Vaughan, Eric Clapton and Robert Cray. That night after the show they all boarded helicopters for their return to Chicago at Meigs Field, maybe some of them would then head over to Legends for a jam.
I got a call in the early morning hours from Marty that there were three helicopters that had landed a Meigs Field but a fourth helicopter was at that time late enough that all were beginning to seriously worry. Before dawn we all knew that there had been a crash at Alpine Valley around 1:00 AM involving a helicopter, and we knew Stevie was on that copter. One year later to the day Buddy Guy released his comeback/breakthrough album, Damn Right I got the Blues with the final track, “Rememberin’ Stevie.”