My interview with Stevie Ray Vaughan the month before his death



By Steve Newton

On the honker from Montreal, Stevie Ray Vaughan is a tad disoriented. It’s 7:30 p.m. his time, but he’s still rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “I just woke up,” he explains. “Hope I’m not late. I looked at my watch and realized that I didn’t get a wake-up call.”

No problem, Stevie—everybody knows that blues-rockers need their sleep, especially if they’ve got a cross-country tour with Joe Cocker to rest up for. Vaughan and Cocker have been flip-flopping on a double-bill, the same one that brings them to the Pacific Coliseum this Sunday (July 22). They’ve been taking turns closing the show; this particular night it’s Stevie’s turn to shut things down in Montreal. But wouldn’t he rather close the show every night?”

“Well…today I’d rather close,” laughs Vaughan, ever the diplomat. “I like alternating, I really do. It just takes the pressure away. There’s not a big ego deal, you know, everybody gets treated the same. Plus every other night you don’t have to follow anybody!”

Vaughan admits that, if you’ve gotta open for somebody, it might as well be a rock veteran of Cocker’s stature.

“I’d never seen him live before, but I’ve always liked what he does. And we have a lot of the same influences—I’m a Ray Charles fan too! I just like the way he treats a lot of songs. I’m getting a chance to know him a lot better on this tour.”

At the age of 35, Vaughan has managed to meet—and play with—a lot of big names since storming onto the music scene in ’83 with the debut Texas Flood LP. He lived out a childhood fantasy when he co-produced and played on several tracks of pioneering guitar hero Lonnie Mack’s ’85 album, Strike Like Lightning. And he got to play a couple of times with Muddy Waters before that legend of the blues passed on. As a matter of fact, Vaughan is at a loss to think of someone that he hasn’t been able to jam with yet.

“I’ve been really lucky,” he claims, “gettin’ to jam with most the people I’ve listened to. So I don’t know…that’s a toughie. I guess Little Milton—I’ve never got to play with him before. He’s killer.”

But it hasn’t been all older bluesmen that Vaughan has managed to cross Strats with, though. When he played the Orpheum a couple of years back, he was joined by local hero Colin James, who Vaughan had previously taken under his wing and invited to tour with his band, Double Trouble.

“He’s a great musician and singer,” lauds Vaughan. “We really liked the guy himself, and saw the spirit that he had. Shoot, anybody would take him in!”

Vaughan says that he heard an advance cassette of James’s new album, Sudden Stop, a few months ago, but hasn’t had much time lately to check out any other up-and-comers on the blues horizon.

“I really haven’t had time to look up!” chuckles Vaughan. “Lately I’ve been paying a lot of attention to this record that I’m workin’ on with my brother, tryin’ to finish that up.”

The album in question is the yet-untitled release by Stevie and Jimmy Vaughan, former guitarist for the Fabulous Thunderbirds. The LP, which is expected to be out in September, should be quite the treat for fans of reckless blues guitar. A live appearance by the two bros would be even better.

“We’ve thrown the idea of touring around,” says Vaughan, “and we probably will do some dates. But Jimmy left the Thunderbirds about a month ago so he could take a break from the road, so if we decide not to do’em for a while, I would understand that.

“And I wouldn’t mind havin’ a little break myself,” he adds. “I’m not planning on quittin’ anything, I would just like to have a few months to take a look and see what I want to write about. Sometimes that makes me feel better, when I stop and take the time to be a person, instead of just a robot that’s on the road.”

Vaughan says he’s in no rush to get another Double Trouble album out; in concert he’s still favouring tunes from last year’s In Step album. As well as originals like the flat-out “House Is Rockin'” and jazz-inflected “Riviera Paradise”, the LP features a number of tunes from the ’60s. There’s Willie Dixon’s “Let Me Love You Baby” from ’61, Howlin’ Wolf’s “Love me Darlin'” from ’64, and Buddy Guy’s “Leave My Girl Alone” from ’65. Those were good years for the blues, Vaughan figures.

“I like that era of blues a lot, and I just happened to catch those songs along the line. It seems like, for some reason, around that time people stopped listening. What I think it was, was that the record companies, not long afterwards, decided to make more money with something…else.”

In Step was dedicated to the memory of John Hammond—the elderly chap with the massive grin pictured laughing it up with Stevie and his band on the back cover of Texas Flood. Hammond got Double Trouble its first record deal, and was executive producer of the band’s first three albums. His keen sense for pure talent has brought some of the world’s greatest recording artists into the public eye.

“I really respect the man,” says Vaughan with a solemn tone. “I respect him for what he did for us, but I respect him as much—and probably a lot more—for what he did for music in general, the kind of person he was…I mean he came up with all kinds of people: Bessie Smith, Billy Holiday, Charlie Christian, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Springsteen—you can go on and on.”

Above the liner note acknowledgement of Hammond as “a true hero” is another, more mysterious message: “Thank God that the elevator is still broken!”

“That has to do with somethin’ that keeps some of us alive,” says Vaughan. “It’s got to do with the program that I’m in that helps keep me sober—a ‘use the step’ program. It’s kind of an inside joke.”

Vaughan’s previous cocaine habit was no laughing matter, however—for a while there it looked like he might follow his mentor Hendrix into drug-induced oblivion. But he says he’s been true to the program for nearly four years now, and that he’s been taking life “one day at a time” since then. He certainly sounds like he’s enjoying life, hearty bursts of laughter punctuating most of his conversation. And he says that he doesn’t have much trouble getting inspired to perform these days, even without the stimulants.

“You never can tell what kinda turns a gig’s gonna take, but I try to play the best that I possibly can every night. And besides, I would hate to get caught playing my last gig not trying, you know what I mean? If it was the last one it sure would be a drag if I didn’t try.”


To hear the full audio of my interviews with Stevie Ray from 1985 and 1990 subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on over 300 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

David Gogo, 1994
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1990
Greg Keelor of Blue Rodeo, 1992
Popa Chubby, 1995
Jerome Godboo of the Phantoms, 1990
Alain Caron of UZEB, 1985
Billy Sheehan of Mr. Big, 1989
Ty Tabor of King’s X, 2001
Mike Gordon of Phish, 1993
Paul Shaffer of David Letterman, 2022
John Cougar, 1983
Cy Curnin of the Fixx, 1984
James Young from Styx, 1986
Steve Morse of Deep Purple, 1998
Lenny Kravitz, 1998
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1998
Tinsley Ellis, 1992
Matt Minglewood, 1985
Mojo Nixon and Country Dick Montana of the Pleasure Barons, 1993
Bill Davis of Dash Rip Rock, 1992
Sue Foley, 1992
Tom Keifer of Cinderella, 1991
Terry Adams of NRBQ, 1997
Mark Hollis of Talk Talk, 1984
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 2010
Slash of Guns N’ Roses and Slash’s Snakepit, 1995
Peter Goalby of Uriah Heep, 1983
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Marc Storace of Krokus, 1983
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Buddy Cage of New Riders of the Purple Sage, 2006
Bill Elm of Friends of Dean Martinez, 1995
Simon Townshend, 1983
John Bush of Anthrax, 1993
Aldo Nova, 1983
Steven Adler from Guns N’ Roses, 2011
Mick Ronson, 1989
Tom Morello, 2011
Jakob Dylan of the Wallflowers, 1993
Colin Hay of Men at Work, 1983
Mark Kelly of Marillion, 1986
Luther Allison, 1995
Lee Rocker from the Stray Cats, 2007
J. Geils from the J. Geils Band, 2006
Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20, 1997
Jason Newsted of Newsted (and Metallica), 2013
Marshall Crenshaw, 2013
Dan Hartman, 1984
Sean Costello, 2006
Roger Hodgson from Supertramp, 1998
Tommy Stinson from the Replacements, 1993
Brian Blush of the Refreshments, 1997
Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, 2003
Craig Northey of Strippers Union, 2021
Melissa Etheridge, 1990
Joe Jackson, 2003
Pepper Keenan of Corrosion of Conformity, 2001
David Ellefson of Megadeth, 1992
David Lee Roth, 2003
Grant Walmsley of the Screaming Jets, 1991
John Popper of Blues Traveler, 1991
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 2012
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1993
Ellen McIlwaine, 2001
Derek Trucks of Tedeschi Trucks, 2012
J.D. Fortune of INXS, 2006
Fernando von Arb of Krokus, 1984
Gary Holt of Exodus, 1985
Dizzy Reed of Guns N’ Roses, 1992
Scott Ian of Anthrax, 2012
Gary Lee Conner of Screaming Trees, 1992
Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, 1985
David “Honeyboy” Edwards, 2003
Rudolf Schenker of Scorpions, 1992
Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, 2001
Jeff Keith of Tesla, 1988
Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton of Arc Angels, 1992
Marc Bonilla, 1992
Mike Smith of Sandbox (and Trailer Park Boys), 1996
Dewey Bunnell of America, 1983
Robert Randolph of the Family Band, 2003
Keith Strickland of the B-52s, 2008
David Johansen of the New York Dolls, 2005
Nathan Followill of Kings of Leon, 2003
Todd Kerns, 2016
Bill Payne of Little Feat, 2002
Robbin Crosby of Ratt, 1989
Tommy Shannon of SRV & Double Trouble, 1998
Alejandro Escovedo, 1997
Billy Duffy of the Cult, 1989
Dave Martone, 2020
Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, 2006
Joss Stone, 2012
Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, 2005
Jack Blades of Night Ranger, 1984
Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, 1992
Colin James, 1995
Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, 1998
Tom Cochrane of Red Rider, 1983
Ed Roland of Collective Soul, 1995
Taj Mahal, 2001
Tom Wilson of Junkhouse, 1995
Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, 2003
David Lindley, 2002
Marty Friedman of Megadeth, 1991
John Hiatt, 2010
Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover, 1985
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, 1984
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1996
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Roy Buchanan, 1988
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Edgar Winter, 2005
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joe Satriani, 1990
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, 1998
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
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Otis Rush, 1997
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Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Steve Howe of Yes, 2017
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Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
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Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Roy Buchanan, 1986
Gary Moore, 1984
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers, 1994
Derek Trucks, 1998
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
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Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001
…with hundreds more to come

4 thoughts on “My interview with Stevie Ray Vaughan the month before his death


  2. Being from Texas and a Blues Lover, I am catastrophically sad every day I pick up my strat,and every day I play a song in honor of my hero, Stevie Ray Vaughan, who tragically Died; but his spirit will continue to live inside all Blues Lovers Hearts Forever. Rest In Peace Stevie Ray Vaughan!

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