Stevie Ray Vaughan, the guitarist who has had the greatest influence on me as a player, died 23 years ago today on August 27, 1990.
Basically, everything changed for the very young version of me the first time I saw him play live. It was March 1984 at Kean College in Union, New Jersey. After that night, I tore up, stomped on and burned the book on what I thought being a blues guitarist was all about — and started all over again.
For me, that same excitement about Vaughan lasted until about six or seven years ago, when I decided I wasn't letting enough new influences into my playing, wasn't giving other — you know, living — guitarists a chance to wow me or have that same, life-changing effect on me. Plus I started to feel weird telling people that my favorite guitarist was a guy who'd been dead for 17 years.
But I've been feeling a little guilty about that decision lately, and I've been intentionally going back for my daily doses of SRV's music, discovering things I might've missed as a spindly kid. It's been a bit like getting reacquainted with an old friend.
But as I re-evaluate Vaughan's work with a new (or is it old?) eye, one thing hasn't changed: my favorite favorite SRV performance. It is, and always has been, his live rendition of Buddy Guy's "Leave My Girl Alone" as performed at Austin City Limits in 1989.
As I used to say 20 years ago, it's got everything that was awesome about SRV: the intensity, the passion, the timing, the speed (Did I mention the intensity? Check out how he literally growls his way into the ridiculously awesome solo at 2:06). Check it out below.
Damian Fanelli is the online managing editor at Guitar World,.