Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “Blues Legends,” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Stephen “StevieRay Vaughan (October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990) was an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer, best known as the guitarist and frontman of the blues rock band Double Trouble.

A preeminent bluesman, award-winning guitarist and singer Stevie Ray Vaughan earned critical and commercial success during the 1980s.

Born on October 3, 1954 in Dallas, Texas, Stevie Ray Vaughan played guitar as a child and became lead singer for the Texas band Double Trouble, which led to work with David Bowie and Jackson Browne. Vaughan had hit albums with his band before the 1989 release of In Step, for which he earned a Grammy. He also recorded with his brother Jimmy. Vaughan died in a late night helicopter crash on August 27, 1990, at 35.

Early Career

Musician Stevie Ray Vaughn was born on October 3, 1954, in Dallas, Texas. Vaughan was at the forefront of a blues resurgence in the 1980s, bringing rock fans into the fold with a powerful, driving style of play that earned him comparisons with some of his heroes such as Jimi Hendrix, Otis Rush and Muddy Waters. His four main studio albums were critical and commercial successes, rising high on the music charts and paving the way to sold-out stadium shows across the country.

Inspired by his older brother Jimmie’s guitar playing, Stevie picked up his first guitar at the age of 10, a plastic Sears toy that he loved to strum. With an exceptional ear, (Stevie never learned to read sheet music) Stevie taught himself to play the blues by the time he’d reached high school, testing his stage skills at a Dallas club any chance he could.

Well into his junior year, Vaughan had already played with several garage bands. But lacking any kind of academic drive, Stevie struggled to stay in school. Following a brief enrollment at an alternative arts program sponsored by Southern Methodist University, Stevie dropped out of school, moved to Austin and concentrated on making a living as a musician. To make ends meet, Vaughan collected soda and beer bottles for money and couch-surfed at various friends’ houses. The rest of the time he was playing music, jumping in-and-out of various bands that had semi-regular gigs in the Austin area.

In 1975, Vaughan and a few others formed Triple Threat. After some reshuffling, the group was renamed Double Trouble, inspired by an Otis Rush song. With Vaughan on lead vocals, the group developed a strong fan base throughout Texas. Eventually their popularity spread outside the Lone Star State. In 1982, the group caught the attention of Mick Jagger, who invited them to play at a private party in New York City. That same year, Double Trouble performed at the Montreux Blues & Jazz Festival in Switzerland.

Big Break

While there, Vaughan’s musical abilities caught the attention of David Bowie, who asked the musician to play on his upcoming album, Let’s Dance. With some commercial viability behind them, Vaughan and his bandmates were signed to a record deal with Epic, where they were put in the capable hands of legendary musician and producer, John Hammond, Sr.

The resulting record, Texas Flood, did not disappoint, reaching No. 38 on the charts and catching the notice of rock stations across the country. For his part, Stevie was voted Best New Talent and Best Electric Blues Guitarist in a 1983 reader’s poll by Guitar Player Magazine. Double Trouble set off on a successful tour, and then recorded a second album, Couldn’t Stand the Weather, which climbed to No. 31 on the charts and went gold in 1985.

More records (the live album, Live Alive and then another studio collection, Soul to Soul) and more success followed. There were Grammy nominations and, in 1984, the unprecedented recognition of Vaughan by the National Blues Foundation Awards, which named him Entertainer of the Year and Blues Instrumentalist of the Year. He became the first white musician ever to receive both honors.

Mainstream Success

But Vaughan’s personal life was spiraling downward. His relationship with his wife, Lenora Darlene Bailey, whom he’d married in 1979, fell apart. He battled drug and alcohol problems. Finally, following a collapse while on tour in Europe in 1986, the guitarist checked himself into rehab.

For the next year, Vaughan largely stayed away from the high-powered music scene that had dominated his life over the last half decade. But in 1988, he and Double Trouble started performing again and making plans for another album. In June 1989, the group released their fourth studio album, In Step. The recording featured Vaughan’s driving guitar style, as well as several songs such as “Wall of Denial” and “Tight Rope,” which touched on the struggles he’d gone through in his personal life. The release reached No. 33 on the charts, and garnered the group a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Recording.

Vaughan was as much a fan of blues history as he was a part of it. He owned Hendrix’s “wah-wah,” as well as a small army of classic Stratocaster electric guitars that had colorful names like Red, Yellow and National Steel. His favorite—and the one he used more than any other—was a 59 Strat he called “Number One.”

In the spring of 1990, Vaughan and his brother stepped into the studio to begin work on an album that was scheduled to be released that autumn. The record, Family Style, made its debut that October, but Stevie never lived to see it.

Death and Legacy

On August 26, 1990, Vaughan and Double Trouble played a big show in East Troy, Wisconsin, that featured Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray and Jimmie Vaughan. Just after midnight, Stevie hopped on a helicopter bound for Chicago. Contending with dense fog, the helicopter crashed into a hilly field just minutes after take-off, killing everyone on board. Vaughan was buried at Laurel Land Memorial Park in South Dallas. More than 1,500 people attended the musician’s memorial service.

In the years since, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s legend has only grown. Just a little more than a year after his death, Vaughan was recognized by Texas governor Ann Richards, who proclaimed October 3, 1991, “Stevie Ray Vaughan Day.”

In addition, fans have been treated to a number of tribute specials and posthumous albums, including an early live Double Trouble record and a special box set of rare recordings, live shows, and never-before-heard outtakes. In a demonstration of the power of Vaughan’s music, sales of these newer records have more than matched the records that came out during Stevie Ray Vaughan’s lifetime.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “The 27 Club Edition” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s and 70’s. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Robert Johnson, the legendary blues musician, died on August 16, 1938 at the young age of 27. The age and year of Johnson’s death makes him the earliest member of the unfortunate 27 club, a group of elite musicians that passed at the age of 27 that includes Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Kurt Cobain. So little is known for certain about the biography of Robert Johnson, including the circumstances of his death. Much of the story surrounding Johnson’s life is folklore, myth, and legend. As the magazine Mother Jones reported, testimony from Johnson’s friend and fellow musician David Honeyboy Edwards indicates that Johnson’s death was a murder. As Edwards tells the tale, Robert Johnson was poisoned by a possibly unwitting lover or her jealous husband. The poisoned glass of whiskey contained strychnine in it, and it took three agonizing days to kill him. This narrative about Johnson’s death has been disputed by others. Unfortunately, we’ll probably never know the real truth. Just like we’ll never know the exact truth about how Johnson had transformed from a young aspiring blues star with laughable guitar skills into a master of his instrumental craft.

There is lore about how Robert Johnson happened upon a stranger at a cross roads and sold his soul to become famous, perhaps only the Devil knows for sure.

What is documented for sure is the collection of amazing recordings that Robert Johnson made during his short lifetime. Cuts like “Cross Road Blues”, “Come on in My Kitchen”, and “Walking Blues’, are part of a canon of music that has inspired everyone from the likes of Eric Clapton to the Cowboy Junkies. But even those records have fallen into controversies. Whether or not the recordings we’ve heard are actually played at the right speed. The speculation is that the recordings were accidentally sped up, accounting for the uncanny high-pitched quality of Robert Johnson’s vocals. There is also controversy surrounding the existence of a couple of purported photographs of Johnson. It’s funny to imagine how different things would be now in the age of social media and 24/7 news updates and the existence of music blogs like this one. Not only would we know how Johnson’s recordings should sound, but also what kind of mustard he liked to eat on his sandwiches and where he likes to shop for guitar strings. In the age of social sharing and oversharing we’d know pretty much everything.

There’s something to be said for the abundance of information that we now know about our music, our celebrities, everything. Yet, the consequence of the ease of access to music news would probably have removed so much of the intrigue and mystery that surrounds both the life and death of Robert Johnson. The mysteries will probably never be solved and we’ll always want to know. But like other American legends, that intrigue keeps us interested and helps us keep the story of Robert Johnson alive and fresh.

Keeping the Blues Alive

Psychedelic Lunch

Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “ The Concert Critic”

On this date in history, 11/2/2019, Reggie’s Rock Club in Chicago hosted a superb triple bill show featuring John 5 And The Creatures, Jared James Nichols, and Reverend Jack. The Invasion Tour 2019 was packed with amazing performances and featured one big time surprise guest artist.

First things first…Reggie’s Rock Club is a really small, intimate and nicely set up place to witness live music, complete with top notch sound and lights. The visibility was excellent and contributed to the entire crowd being treated to that wonderful feeling of energy exchanged between performers and audience.

Reverend Jack started the night with an absolutely KILLER set of original bluesy Southern hard rock. These guys have so much potential to really break big. They are young, have great songs and energized stage presence, but most of all they have this singer named Eric Harmon, and he has one of the best set of pure rock vocal pipes I have heard in years. I knew before the first song was over that this guy has a special gift, and the fact that the lead guitarist and bassist add strong harmony vocal support just adds to the magic.

Near the end of their set, they played a cover of Midnight Rider by The Allman Brothers Band and made it a streamlined muscular slab of modern rock, complete with 3 part harmony a capella vocal intro…Bravo, guys! I expect them to do big things for a long time to come.

Next up was Jared James Nichols and his fiery blues based hard rock. Performing as a power trio, Nichols and company wasted no time in keeping the momentum going with tight playing and Nichols’ passionate vocals. His voice was a pleasant surprise for me, because I had only heard his guitar work prior to this show. I follow him on Instagram and knew he was a blazing lead guitar player, but his voice fit perfectly with his larger than life soloing. Nichols is a tall guy with a great head of hair that brings to mind the lion’s mane of Robert Plant in Zeppelin’s heyday, and between the hair and the animated faces he makes when he is soloing makes him super entertaining to watch.

At the midpoint of his set, Nichols brought out a young man named Peter to play a song and it was a beautiful thing to see the joy radiating from Peter’s face. He proved to be a pretty good player, too, trading leads with Jared James and receiving a thunderous ovation from the appreciative crowd. This simple gesture of kindness, coupled with his obvious talents gained Jared James Nichols a big fan (me), or possibly a whole room of them.

John 5 And The Creatures finished the night with a jaw dropping display of musical muscle, navigating through a dizzying myriad of styles including metal, country, bluegrass, funk, and even a little jazz.

John 5’s playing is breathtaking, full of precision, flash, and passion…and always emanating the man’s obvious love of the guitar featuring lots of Halloween themed stage props and a properly sinister light show.

The insanely tight trio kept the pace moving at a breakneck pace. Midway through their show John spoke to us in several humorous song introductions and proved himself to be the humble and likeable person that could give Dave Grohl a run for his money in the Nicest Guy In Rock Music Category.

To our delight, Charle Benante, the supernaturally gifted drummer from Anthrax was at the show and joined the guys on stage for a crusher of an improvised jam session.

John 5 delivered a fun filled medley of classic song intros featuring songs by Rush, Van Halen, Rage Against The Machine, Metallica, Kiss, Megadeth, White Zombie, Marilyn Manson, Motley Crue, Nirvana, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Queen, The Police, PanterA, and even The Knack (remember My Sharona? lol).

The band came out for an encore, and apparently had run out of songs, resorting to having to do one they hadn’t rehearsed (of course they nailed it!). I love shows like this one, with new discoveries and new venues.

I first saw John 5 back in 1999 when he was with Marilyn Manson, and have seen him many times with Rob Zombie, but it was incredibly satisfying to see him stretching his wings and demonstrating his full potential as a guitarist and band leader. I will definitely be back for more of all three of these bands if I get the chance.

On This Date in History

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Jim Croce: You Don’t Mess Around With Jim

Just thinking about Jim Croce brings back tons of memories of my childhood and my formative years of learning to play guitar.

Jim Croce released You Don’t Mess Around With Jim in 1972, so I would have been 10 years old at the time. I remember being fascinated with the title track, hearing it constantly on AM radio and buying the single. The tale of the pool hall hustler and the revenge of the man named Slim who was wronged just painted this vivid picture in my adolescent mind; very cinematic.

This was a trait of country music, but Jim Croce’s stuff was a hybrid of rock, folk, blues, and country and it was simply “feel good” music.

When I was learning to play guitar I had a teacher who had me pick up a songbook of Croce’s stuff and taught me to finger pick. This gave me an inside look at how these songs were composed and performed, and it carries a lot of wistful nostalgia with the memory.

This album contained so many great songs, like Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels), Rapid Roy (The Stock Car Boy), New York’s Not My Home, Photographs And Memories, Hard Time Losin’ Man, and the incredibly moving Time In A Bottle.

If you don’t like Jim Croce, I don’t know if we can even have a legitimate friendship!

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Steely Dan: Aja

Music at its best can act as a time machine, transporting us to special moments and places in our past history. Music can link us to places, people and events with a vivid mix of nostalgia and reality.

Steely Dan’s Aja (1977) always delivers me to gatherings that one of my best friends in the world would have back in our high school years.

My friend (brother) would invariably choose music from “The Dan” (particularly Aja) as the soundtrack to his parties, and Aja was perfection for this purpose.

It is almost as if the music that Donald Fagan and Walter Becker created together simply demanded a civilized and elegant gathering of kindred spirits.

Class, elegance, beauty, and a pervasive cool permeated this entire album: every note was in the proper place, and every song was an instant classic.

All these years later, Aja, and indeed Steely Dan’s entire catalog, retains an aura of excellence. I’m not even going to single out any of the 7 glorious songs on this album.

It is a work that demands to be taken in as an entire unit, and whether on vinyl, cassette, compact disc, or streamed, Aja remains a modern masterpiece…a seamless blend of pop, rock, jazz, smooth soul, and dedication to a superior vision.

Aja is timeless, and it is a time machine that always takes me to lovely destinations.

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Joe Cocker: Mad Dogs & Englishmen

Mad Dogs & Englishmen (1970) by Joe Cocker, is a loose congregation of musicians thrown together to fulfill a contract obligation to Cocker’s record label at the time.

The resulting live album still became a classic on the sheer strength of Cocker’s amazing vocals and performance, combined with the talent of the all star band put together by Leon Russell.

Some of the prime cuts include Feelin’ Alright, Cry Me A River, The Letter, Let’s Go Get Stoned, Honky Tonk Women, She Came In Through The Bathroom Window, and Blue Medley.

Joe Cocker became a star at Woodstock the previous year, and Mad Dogs & Englishmen guaranteed the Scottish blues singer would be sticking around for a long time to come.

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Jeff Buckley: Grace

Jeff Buckley only made one album, Grace (1994), but what a record it was!

Initially it wasn’t a hit, but eventually Grace sold over 2 million copies.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one late to the party.

While the songs and the music are admittedly superb, the thing about Grace that is truly magical is Buckley’s voice.

He definitely had superhuman pipes, a voice for the ages. Perhaps his untimely death has enhanced that perception, but one only has to listen to songs like Hallelujah, Mojo Pin, Corpus Christi Carol, Lilac Wine, Last Goodbye, Grace, and Lover You Should’ve Come Over to experience that unearthly tone and wistful mystery that Buckley conjured throughout the album. Artists like Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Robert Plant, and Jimmy Page all held him in high regard, and that sounds like some pretty reliable praise.

https://youtu.be/A3adFWKE9JE

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

B.B. King: Live at The Regal

Live At The Regal (1965) by B.B. King, is regarded as one of the greatest blues albums ever recorded.

Preserved in the Library Of Congress in the National Recording Registry, Live At The Regal captures B.B. King in his absolute prime, singing in his unmistakable voice and playing his trusty Lucille with that golden touch that was his trademark.

B.B. could say more with one note than most guitarists could in an entire show.

His vibrato and phrasing were on another level of beauty, and he knew just where to place each note for maximum effect.

Live At The Regal features such King classics as How Blue Can You Get, Every Day I Have The Blues, Woke Up This Mornin’, Please Love Me, Sweet Little Angel, and It’s My Own Fault.

The band is exceptional, too…horn section included! B.B. King earned his title of “King Of The Blues” and if you have any doubts, just check out this legendary recording.

https://youtu.be/dNr_eIgP0tI

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Muddy Waters: Hard Again

Muddy Waters gets my personal vote for the best male vocals ever in blues music.

His “comeback” album Hard Again (1977) leads off with a version of Mannish Boy that sounds like it was recorded live in the studio, complete with producer Johnny Winter contributing guitar and his unmistakable roared “Yeah” as perfect punctuation for Muddy’s authoritative proclamations of his undisputed manliness.

Occasionally one will hear music that translates the joy and love that went into its creation directly to the listener’s soul.

Hard Again is such an album.

The pure enthusiasm that radiates from every syllable uttered by the blues legend is beyond dispute, and it is contagious to all the participating musicians.

Hard Again pops and sizzles in its fathomless and timeless grooves.

Indeed, as one perfectly named song states,

The Blues Had A Baby And They Named It Rock And Roll, Pt. 2…kind of says it all. Other classics include I Can’t Be Satisfied, Deep Down In Florida, Jealous Hearted Man, Cross Eyed Cat, and I Just Want To Be Loved, but it is the towering Mannish Boy that never fades in its glorious power, a testimony to the gigantic legacy of Muddy Waters.

https://youtu.be/bSfqNEvykv0

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

What can I say about Janis Joplin that hasn’t already been said? I love a lot of female vocalists across many diverse musical genres, but Janis is at the top of the mountain for me. Pinpointing why is kind of tricky, because it was a special combination of attributes. She had a voice that she was still learning to harness the full power of while recording Pearl, which was released after her death. There was certainly technique in her singing, but there was also character, fearlessness, vulnerability, reckless abandon, and a fragility that was tragic. You wanted to see her succeed, because she wasn’t supposed to. The odds were against her from the beginning, but she was special, and she found her voice and her people (even though it wasn’t enough to ultimately save her). I know I’m not alone in wondering what else she would have achieved, but I’m also so very thankful for what she left us. Pearl is a beauty of an album, filled with a woman who had triumphed on her own terms. Janis never got to fully realize all the love that people had for her. I wonder if it would have saved her if she had…

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind