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In memory and mourning of Aug 27th 1990

Rick Kelly (2659)

Guitar Artists Forum · 8/27/2011 3:21 PM
My soul still hurts...

I post this every year somewhere around this date, I hope you like it.

Me and SRV

The Blues is a reaction in my soul to music, and Stevie triggered that reaction better than anyone else I have ever heard. (Clapton's "Have you heard?" on that first Bluesbreaker's record comes close") As a result, my goal as a guitar player is to invoke that same reaction in myself and the audience with every note I play. I fail often, but when I succeed, it justifies my existence.

Jimmy Vaughan does it from time to time. I heard one tone-laden, feedbackin', vibrato ridin', hit-your-soul-upside-da'head sustaining note Albert Collins let ring for what seemed an eternity that did it for me once. Joe Richardson does it. There's an old guy in Austin named Hosey.

There are also a couple of singers whose voices affect me the same way: Eva Cassidy and recently Joss Stone. Old Aretha', Janis, Joe Cocker, Otis Redding, Bonnie R., Susan T. etc. get close.

I liked the way Stevie played Albert King, Buddy Guy, Hendrix, better than they did. His mixture of tone and gruv on his tours after the "coke'n'whiskey" days was flawless during the 2 shows I had the pleasure of experiencing.

As far as those who say "you might as well listen to Hendrix or Albert King", I prefer the way Stevie played their tunes, and I like the tunes Stevie wrote or co-wrote even better. Go listen to some old recordings by all the Kings, Muddy, John Lee, Howlin' etc. and tell me some of their blues weren't "rocking". ;-) I think Stevie listened with his soul and heard what those guys were going for, and went to those places where they never quite made it.

If you like those other players better, that's great, but please don't try to tell me how Stevie just "coped" them. He took what they did and made it his own, gave their music a piece of his own soul, just like they did to the music before them.

In less than 10 years of recording, Stevie influenced his influences. You can hear it in their recordings and performance after they first heard Stevie, especially after he died. I could especially hear a change in B.B and Clapton, and even Albert King. I'm convinced that if Hendrix were still alive, Stevie would have caused him to abandon whatever psyco-delic-fusion music he would have been playing and return to his blues roots.

Stevie raised the bar. Stevie is the gold standard of electric blues. I bet if you read interviews by many of the same players mentioned here, you will find they said the same thing.

Albert King was known for walking in on shows of young (especially) white blues players, and complimenting them on how well they played his (Albert's)licks, and then proclaim something like "but you ain't Albert King, ... I am". He never did that to Stevie that I've heard.

I do appreciate the legacy and contribution of those other players. Stevie stood on their shoulders, but he saw and reached for something beyond what they did. They showed Stevie what road to take, but he burned up that highway and had to build a bigger one to cruise.

This is all my opinion of course. If yours is different, that's ok with me. Everybody knows us skinny bald white boys don't know diddley about the blues. ;-)

Time to testify


God sent Stevie to teach me about gruv and tone and save my musical soul.

I was a wanker, wannabe California-guitar-hero, modal shredder, 8 fingers on the frets etc. When I first heard Stevie it was an MTV video of Cold Shot I think. Sounded good, but didn't really impress me at the time. He was also in a Bowie video I think. Cool, another good blues player I thought.

About a year later I was installing car-stereos as a day job, and one of the sales guys gave me a copy of Texas Flood to use as a test tape. The first note knocked me cold. I've never been the same since.

I only got to see him twice. Once at a small outdoor venue, and once at a large indoor Coliseum with the Jeff Beck tour. Beck, a major influence of mine at one time, either had a rough time or lousy sound-guy that night, but Stevie was awesome.

Both concerts were touring In-Step, post cocaine'n'wiskey days. Stevie looked very happy and energized, full of life, and played like every note was his last.

I'm not awestruck by everything he did. Soul-to-soul was ok. I'm not a big Hendrix fan and don't care for Stevie's covers of those much, except for Little Wing, and the live CD was sub par for Stevie in my opinion, but still head-and-shoulders above many.

At my day-job they knew I was a guitar player, and one lady mentioned to me that she heard the news about some famous guitar player dying in a helicopter crash. I asked who, she said she didn't remember. I started naming names, and when I came to Eric Clapton, she said she thought they said something about him.

Sad, I thought. He really influenced and inspired me. I was gonna miss him.

When I got home and my wife told me it was Stevie, I almost fainted, and my eyes filled with tears. I was dumbfounded. My soul hurt. Thinking about it and writing about it here causes almost the same reaction.

Some players make me want to crank the stereo up and play air guitar. Some make me wanna' study, transcribe and learn what the heck they're doing. Some make me wanna' get up, dance, and shout "yeah". Some make me wanna' give up and never play guitar again, and then cause me to pick it back up with even more passion. Stevie consistently did all those things for me, over and over again, unlike any other musician.

I hear blues purist talk about how Stevie coped Albert King, or Hendrix, or whoever. Stevie didn't try to look like Albert, and didn't run out and buy a flying Vee, or play it upside down. I've seen young kids invest small fortunes in vintage strats, and sand them off, paint, to make it look like 1. Kind of' silly if you ask me, but Stevie has that effect on some people I guess. I do owna Strat, but not just cuz' Stevie played one a lot. Tone is in your fingers, but that's another subject....

In my opinion, Stevie took everything from his influences, and did it in a way that just sounded better to me by a magnitude of degrees (fancy phrase which means "a lot"). In his too-short stay with us he lived long enough to influence his influences. I can hear it in the post-SRV-encounter playing of B.B., Clapton, Albert Collins, Buddy Guy, and even Albert King. I think Stevie stood on the shoulders of all of them, reached further, took hold of more, and owned blues-guitar in a way than has not been matched since.

I'm not a big Hendrix fan, but I can listen to Stevie's Little Wing, and melt like I've heard it for the first time again, and again, and again. I love and respect all the greats, Kings Etc that went before and I still dig BB and Eric jamming together. But as far as I'm concerned, the tone, the gruv, it all came together perfectly in that skinny white boy from Texas, and it left us in a tragic flash.

My soul still hurts.

Peace Hope Love and Joy


edited for re-post Aug 27 2011
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Re: In memory and mourning of Aug 27th 1990

8/27/2011 3:38 PM

Chris Pinto (24466) wrote:


I'm a huge SRV fan!

I actually thought his version of Voodo Chile, was the best I've ever heard!

I loved his stuff from day-1, but when I first heard the song Riviera Paradise, I was completely floored! A totally different side of Stevie! That song was an incredible surprise.

Stevie was NOT a blues clone, and I agree with your statement. He kinda took the blues in a direction that maybe the original blues guys wanted to go. I like that theory! :)