SRV on recording Riviera Paradise
Getting a lot of good feedback about the King Ray Vaughan clip I posted a while back. Thanks Some clip this! A rare moment, back when very few people knew anything of the phenomenon that would become Stevie Ray Vaughan. Thought I'd better knock it up one more time, just for good measure,
A huge thank you to the good people behind the In Session Series at William F. Cooke Productions, and thanks too to the poster. Genius!
I happened to come across this little ruby in the cyberdust just the other day, figured you guys might also be interested. This interview's a fine addition to the 'In Session' vid.
You'll find lots of insights into the guitar and great insights into the characters who inspired the music, but you'll also recognise that this is a genuinely wonderful testament to the rarified genius of Stevie Ray Vaughan. This is a revelation.
Praying Through The Guitar
Stevie Ray Vaughan interviewed by Larry Coryell
A wall of denial is fallin' down,
It's fallin' so hard down to the ground,
Never knew something so strong could be washed away by tears,
But this wall of denial was built on fear.
This is the first verse of "Wall of Denial" by Stevie Ray Vaughan - a song - a blues song - about human revolution. The words are hauntingly close to me because eight years ago, when I had nearly died from another bout of battering myself with what I had initially thought to be creatively beneficent substances, I sat in a hospital in New Jersey crying my heart out over the possibility that I could never smoke another joint. I thought grass and all the other stuff that went along with it (not including crack, which came on the scene later) was a necessary part of life. As it turned out, for the type of person I am, it's a requisite for death.
We've all had our demons from the garden of white lies,
Dressed them amused them pullin' wool over our eyes,
Go so far as to love them to keep from letting them go,
All the while they were killin' us but we couldn't let it show.
Right on, Stevie! Honesty! I know exactly what you're talkin' about! That stuff became my boss, my lover, my guru, my main squeeze-it told me what to do, when to do it-it ran my life and ruined my life, destroyed my core and killed my music.
No matter what the trouble
We carry around inside,
We're never safe from the truth.
But in the truth we can survive,
When this wall of denial comes tumblin' down,
Down to the ground.
When you realize the truth about yourself and accept it by starting to change you create a new structure in your life. Inside of that structure you can establish a new kind of freedom that far surpasses the old, besotted concepts of so-called "liberation." You feel a lot better, too.
I felt a lot better after this talk with Stevie. What a wonderful man, a seeking spirit, a giant in his field the modern blues. Something funny though-when I arrived in his hotel room he said he liked my tune, "Put It Where You Want It" I thought he was referring to a title, "Park It Where You Want lt" that I had done years ago on a record called Standing Ovation. It turns out he did the whole interview under the assumption that I was Larry Carlton! Later that evening, at home, the phone rang and it was Stevie. He told me about the confusion. We both got a big laugh out of it. A day or two later he called from his Dallas home and pointed out to me that we had a couple of mutual friends in Texas. 'Oh yeah, I remember that guy, how's he doin'? He's in there now, eh? Well, gimme his address and I'll drop him a line and encourage him. I'll be glad to let him know that there's life-positive, Vibrant true-tempered life-after 'denial."'
CORYELL: I would like to know when you first started getting into music, who your early influences were... if you can stand answering a question like that.
VAUGHAN: No problem. I was born in South Dallas on October 3rd, '54. As far as I can remember I got my first guitar on my birthday in '61. It was a Roy Rogers made out of masonite with the little stencils on it. It wouldn't tune, so we took half the strings off and made it into a bass. I kinda played bass behind my brother Jimmie. He started playing first. He got a guitar and the first day he made up three songs. And I saw that. Part of it I'm sure was being a little brother and watching big brother play and going, "Wow, me too!" But it was a real inspiration to see somebody pick up something and just floor it And I saw how hard he worked at it how much fun he was having doing it and how good he was. Within a couple of years he was the hottest guitar player around. He was in a band called the Swinging Pendulums first then the Penetrations, and then the Chessmen. They changed the name to Texas, then changed it to the Storm. And in between all these things he was backing up people like Freddie King.
CORYELL: Did you ever do anything like that?
VAUGHAN: Not near so much as Jimmie. Very few times. Jimmie would go on the road with them and it's obvious that he learned a whole lot by doing that and I missed some things. At the same time, it was also a blessing for me because I ended up having to look for my own thing. Not that I think Jimmie doesn't have his own thing. He's got his own thing as much as anybody He ever heard. He got a lot of insight into rhythm playing and relaxing and holding back and playing in the right places. He got a lot from it And a lot of mine is kind of florid-with guesswork.
CORYELL: Yeah, but you're such a virtuoso.
VAUGHAN: So is he.
CORYELL: I've heard him and he's good, but you have what an Itzhak Perlman, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Charlie Parker or Jimi Hendrix had. You're a virtuoso. You can get around on an instrument just about better than anyone. Were you aware that you had this thing or did it just develop in the course of your love for the instrument?
VAUGHAN: See, I'm still not aware of a lot of that. I'm just reaching for things that sound right to me. Sometimes I find them, sometimes I don't. What l do is what ever really feels most comfortable right then.
CORYELL: Was Jimmie your teacher?
VAUGHAN: At first, Jimmie was my teacher because I was around him a lot and really respected what he was doing. And records … sitting there listening to records and playing along with them, going to see people, watching them.
As soon as Jimmie would get the idea that "Oh, these people are just using these roots,' he would go and immediately bring home all the old records. He had this knack for finding the real deal. So we were listening to the Beatles and Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy and B.B. King and Albert King and Freddie King and Lightnin' Hopkins and Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery and all kinds of stuff at the same time. And also the Stones and the Bluesbreakers and the Yardbirds and the Who and Hendrix. The way I perceived it is it was all just good music. And since I heard them all within a few years of each other, I never really noticed that this one was before that one. I just saw it as, well, all these different people from all these different places are playing this related kind of music.
CORYELL: When I first heard Charlie Christian l said, "Oh, he plays like Barney Kessel. "And when I got older and was more interested in the chronology, I realized that Kessel got all this stuff from Christian. What was really funny in the '60s was that the white pop audiences got more of a kick out of seeing Mike Bloomfield playing like B.B. King than they did seeing B. B. King! When you're that age, you really don't care what came first. You just love the music and you're like a sponge absorbing all that stuff. Besides your brother Jimmie, was there any other musician who sat down and worked with you on the details of blues technique?
VAUGHAN: No. I would sit down and listen to something and if I couldn't find it on the neck yet I would learn how to find it singing it the best I could. Trying to find the sound with my lips and my mouth, doing some bastardized version of scat singing. Then I would learn how to make the sound with my fingers that I was making with my mouth. Now I seem to have lost that connection somehow.
CORYELL: How long were you in Austin?
VAUGHAN: Fifteen years.
CORYELL: '72 to '87.
VAUGHAN: Yeah, or '86, I guess. That was when I collapsed. We were on a tour in Europe. I saw it coming. I collapsed and had every kind of breakdown a person can have. And went and got some help and moved back to Dallas. Because by that time almost everybody I knew in Austin was who I got my stuff from, you know. Or hung out with because they had it. That's what happens with addiction of any kind; you just envelop yourself with that whole deal. I moved back to Dallas because it seemed like a new playground for me, even though I grew up there. And I wasn't surrounding myself with all the drugs or drinking or anything. I figured Id spent a lot of time running away from myself and my family and that was a great way to get back to that. My mother still lived in Dallas. l figured l could be close by her and learn to know her again. And it's really helped me. It was a real neat thing to tell her that I needed her and for that to work out.
CORYELL: I see a lot of what you're talking about in the lyrics of "Wall of Denial."
VAUGHAN: Yeah. I had a real good time being able to write those songs, being part of writing them. The person who wrote the songs along with me, Doyle Bramhall, and I go way back. Doyle was the drummer and singer for the Chessmen.
We would sit down and talk about where we were in life in general and what had gone on all this time and where we were at now. We would boil it down, and then we would write it down and see how it fit with the lyrics that one of us had put together already. It kind of capped off the ideas that we already had going, and in some cases changed the whole root of it. But really, with the songs we were trying to show spirit, strength, and hope.
CORYELL: The line about the truth, I've never heard it said like this and I really like it: "We're never safe from the truth but in the truth we can survive." I think a lot of people can relate to that.
VAUGHAN: That's something that I'm trying to learn. 'Cause it seems to me that I've spent a lot of years-and I'm sure a lot of people have-trying to hide from the truth.
CORYELL: In the '60s, once everybody found out who was messing around with drugs, found out that the Stones did it, McCartney was taking acid, we said, "These guys are making millions of dollars off their music. They must be utilizing these mood-altering substances to enhance their creativity, so we better do it too!" Plus, in my case, I remember being told by so many people just a few years older than me, "You don't have any soul, you don't have any feeling. If you're gonna be a good player, you're gonna have to get strung out." Little did I realize that they were addicts and that I was enabling them to get high! A combination of that and the general notion that drugs were good for you really threw an entire generation into a self-destructive pattern
VAUGHAN: The only saving thing to me is that some of us had to go through those things to get to where we are now. So that possibly a lot of other people don't have to go through the same things. They can learn from our mistakes.
CORYELL: We'd better talk about David Bowie. Did David Bowie discover you in Texas? Was that the thing that made you famous?
VAUGHAN: There's a bunch of different factors that caused recognition to happen. And I can't say it was one of them. One of them was a lot of hard work by a lot of different people that opened doors for us. The people that I grew up listening to gave us all this music that was like a springboard. Then, I have to say this, when the Thunderbirds first got together, there were a lot of us doing just local club gigs in Austin and every once in a while going into Dallas or Houston or San Antonio and playing a little club with five or 10 people in it. And the Thunderbirds went "Hey, we ain't got no gigs anywhere. We don't have a record deal. We just have a good band. We're gonna get a van and we're gonna put our gear in it and we're gonna find some gigs.' And a lot of the rest of the bands around Austin went, 'Well, they got bars, man! If they can do that we can do that too." And everybody started really putting a lot of effort into it. The Thunderbirds went and they got a record deaI and that opened doors for people like myself to say, "Maybe there's a chance." Even though record companies were telling us that nobody wants to hear this crap. It gave us the reason to go, "Well, I don't believe that You put out a record and see what happens." Now in the meantime we'd gotten a video of us playing a flood benefit in Austin that was seen by the Stones. They got us a gig here in New York at the Danceteria for a private party for them. They were considering signing us to their label, and around the same time, Lou Ann Barton, who used to be with Double Trouble, had gotten a record deal with Jerry Wexler.
We had gone to see her at her record release party. Jerry Wexler was there. We played the next night. He stayed around to see us and got real interested. Between our manager and Jerry Wexler, they convinced the Montreux Jazz Festival to hire us, even though we didn't have a record deal. John Paul Hammond played the festival and recorded us along with a little bit of everybody else and brought that tape back to his father, John Hammond, who got real interested in us. And at the same festival David Bowie and Jackson Browne saw us. Jackson Browne offered us his studio free, to make a record. And while we were doing Texas Flood, David Bowie called and asked me to play on his record.
CORYELL: Certain solos stand out in pop music, like Eddie Van Halen's thing with Michael Jackson. And your solo on David Bowie's "China Girl", James Burton solo on an old Ricky Nelson record I don't know who played the solo on Connie Francis' "Lipstick on Your Collar". But he was a great musician
VAUGHAN: There was a record on Red Lightning out of England. It's a compilation album called Blues in D Natural and there's two songs, "Believe in a Woman" and "Boot Hill." The record says, "Sly Williams, California(?) 1958-59(?)" And then it says, "Sly Williams, guitar/vocals; sax/drums/piano/bass, unknown." [laughs] And you know, whoever it is playing guitar, if Hendrix didn't hear this guy, its hard to believe.
CORYELL: There's often unknown people who teach you the basics of music. My guy had this record called 'Come On' by Earl King, and he was crazy about the fact that the guitar soloist partially arpeggiated in the E minor chord. My guy went nuts because he would play the G natural and wouldn't bend the G natural towards the G sharp. He thought this was the greatest thing that ever happened And so every band in Seattle subsequently learned that song. And when I met Hendrix in New York in '66 or '67, I mentioned that 'cause we were talking about songs that were indigenous to Seattle. The next time I heard that song it was on the radio and Hendrix had recorded it. I don't know whether it was at my suggestion or not but I feel a strong connection from my unknown teacher - who's probably in a hospital somewhere in Spokane, Washington, dying of alcoholism - who was so adamant about teaching me the basics of blues. While I was listening to Wes Montgomery and John Coltrane and using that stuff as a foundation for what I wanted to do, he stayed right there in the earth part. Great virtuosity in that area of music which is roughly known as blues and rock'n'roll never really changes, 'cause the minute you go out of it you're into fusion or something else. Anyway, the David Bowie thing probably catapulted you into large-scale recognition. How did you feel about it?
VAUGHAN: The only part that was hard to deal with was that we made the record and then there was to be a tour. But different business aspects of things really got in the way, and all the relationships ended up with the wrong people having to butt heads. And I was right in there. It ended up where friendships got sidelined and business crap got in the way. We recorded and we did rehearsals. And the whole thing blew apart two days before the tour was supposed to start. And I really didn't like the position that that put either the band or myself in. And I wanted to play with the band that I'm with, Double Trouble. They were gonna be on the tour and it wasn't working out and it ended up where I had to finally really look at it and given the situation... I wanted to play with my band anyway. No slight meant to anyone, but I'm in Double Trouble 'cause it's about my favorite band. And I'm still with this band because I still love this band, more than I ever have. We've grown more and more like a family. And it continues to grow stronger and stronger.
CORYELL: The singing that you do on In Step is great. There's one phrase that you sing where you go [sings] tonic, dominant seventh, fifth, fourth and then to the minor third ant then bend up. That's a hard one to sing.
VAUGHAN: It's real hard. I still don't have the pop between those notes like I would like. I listen to Bobby Bland or B.B., and Little Wilie John and Johnnie Taylor, on and on and on and on. And Wolf, of course. I don't get the chance to get home very often 'cause we're on the road a lot. I'll walk in the house and I'll look at my records. I'll just thumb through them and I don't even necessarily have to put them on at first. Just looking at the covers I can remember all the feelings. It's like, "Okay, I'm home, here's my books. And here's my roots." And then I'll put something on and it's like being rejuvenated. If my singing or my playing's improving it's because I'm growing and of course I'm gonna keep trying to get that to happen.
CORYELL: When you put the octave in Riviera Paradise,' the thing I notice that separates you from someone like Robert Cray - who I have tremendous respect for - is your ability to go beyond the boundaries of the structure that you set up. And to invoke the spirit of Wes Montgomery and the octaves were in tune and the phrasing was great. You did something on the interlude where maybe you're hitting the guitar or something, what is that strange thing?
VAUGHAN: That was me missing the chord. [laughter]
CORYELL: You don't have to divulge any secrets. That was great.
VAUGHAN: It's funny, I knew that we were going to play the song once and that's it. Why do it again? To me the song was a much-needed chance to turn the lights off in the studio and basically, I don't know any other way to put it pray through my guitar.
CORYELL: Ah. Man, that's an excellent way to put it.
VAUGHAN: And be able to express some of the things to some of the people that l don't know how to talk to right now about what l need to talk to them about say the things that I wish I could say, to become willing. Okay? And that's what I was doing. And its funny, everybody else was in a separate room. I was in an isolation booth so I could be with my amps. They were all in the big studio with a window. And I just turned the lights off in my room. They couldn't see me. The drummer was tuning his drums while we were playing. I had my back to the engineer and the producer, Jim Gaines. They were in the control room going completely nuts because the tape was about to run out. And it was funny because none of this ever crossed my mind. I just knew we were gonna play the song once and it was all gonna be just fine.
CORYELL: You mean to tell me that "Riviera Paradise" is one take?
CORYELL: Unbelievable. You get the best sound. It's never too harsh but it cuts through.
VAUGHAN: That's the point.
CORYELL: You think tuning down a halfstep helps with that?
VAUGHAN: I think it does. I do like to tune to E as well. I like to tune to D.
CORYELL: "Let Me Love You Baby." That's Willie Dixon.
VAUGHAN: See, I'd always known that song and "Leave My Girl Alone" as Buddy Guy songs. And when we tried to turn it in that way, the Library of Congress told us that it was a Willie Dixon song. They both claim that it's their song. The way I've always heard it it is a Buddy Guy song. Willie Dixon does one as well. I don't know if they're the same song. I don't t know. I respect them both, very much.
CORYELL: Did you play at the opening of Buddy Guy's new club in Chicago?
VAUGHAN: Yeah, I did. It's a real challenge to go play with Buddy Guy because he's Buddy Guy and I love how he plays. He's not the technical player that some of the other ones are. He doesn't play as clean, but he plays from a place that I've never heard anybody play. A place inside. And as much as I respect B.B. King and Albert King for how perfectly they play, Buddy Guy's style is just as important to me. And as in tune and perfect as someone else might be, there are also times when nobody could dare get out of tune as cool as Buddy Guy. It makes it a whole new world. Not that he always plays out of tune, but when he gets out of tune, its wonderful!
CORYELL: When I saw B.B. King in LA he was really out of tune. But he sounded fantastic.
VAUGHAN: And the way he sings, that's where I really get into trouble with Buddy Guy. We'll go and play and egg each other on and play this and that until we turn into guitar players from Mars or something. And then he starts singing. He'll sing a couple of lines and stick the mike in front of nee and, of course, what are you gonna do? [laughter] On top of all that has laughin' at you. But we always end up playing a couple of hours. The same with Albert Collins. Same with Lonnie Mack. Lonnie Mack's another great big influence on me. Albert King.
CORYELL: Who has the best vibrato, do you think?
VAUGHAN: Oh, God.
CORYELL: That's not a fair question
VAUGHAN: That's not 'cause there's so many different kinds.
CORYELL: I loved Clapton's vibrato.
VAUGHAN: I did too. That's one thing that l practiced.
CORYELL: And then Hendrix was even more refined.
VAUGHAN: Yeah, Hendrix's touch was incredible to me. He was very much an influence on my whole life. I don't know why he died and I'm still alive, going through a lot of the same problems. I don't t see how his life was intentionally destructed. I don't know that he wasn't trying to stop the destruction. I may be wrong. Listening to his lyrics, it seems to me that he was reaching up.
CORYELL: In a very spiritual direction. Towards the end of his life Hendrix was gonna do some stuff with Miles and some other people. And everybody says that Hendrix would have become a jazz musician. Do you think so?
VAUGHAN: I think he would have done that, too. I don't see that he would have had to put an end to one side of him and play the other. Maybe for short periods of time. I think he would have ended up incorporating it all.
CORYELL: Do you feel any kind of responsibility to carry on the advancing spirit of his musical tradition?
VAUGHAN: I do. I'm not always sure what it is about my feeling of responsibility for that But I try to. And it has always been that way. It's got to do with all of the influences that I've had and that I see in other players and other musicians, other artists. That seems to be what inspired us all-and why leave them behind? It's not necessarily just hanging onto the past but it's using all that influence and all that energy and all that feeling to further things.
CORYELL: If Hendrix had survived his drug addiction he would have probably written a song like 'Wall of Denial' with a very humanistic, positive message. Because during the '60s when we were all out there, we had really impossible dreams. We were shooting for things that maybe weren't even there. And because so many of us were so heavily stimulated or sedated or anesthetized, life was pretty crazy. But there was still the desire to be very, for want of a better word cosmic. And that abstraction was reflected in his lyrics. And of course the last song on the Band of Gypsys album, where the amp is distorting so much that his guitar sounds like a synthesizer, was very abstract. And what I see in your playing and Jeff Beck and Johnny Winter is a lot less of that abstraction simply because it's not a valid area to go into at this point. With you and Johnny Winter; I really see a reflection of the culture that you grew up in. With Jeff Beck it's an expression of the culture that he admired. And of course in my own thing, because I love jazz, this is an expression of the culture that l admired. I was not of that culture. I was just another middle-class person. I grew up in a very bland area of the United States after I left Texas.
VAUGHAN: Jeff Beck and I will be touring together in November.
CORYELL: Unbelievable! I can't wait to see that!
VAUGHAN: I can't wait to do it I just talked to him earlier. The last time we played together it was my brother Jimmie and Jeff and me on guitar. We all met up in Hawaii to do this CBS convention. And we rehearsed a couple of times and smoked cigarettes and went crazy and then went and played! And just had a blast.
CORYELL: He can make that guitar talk. Whooo...
VAUGHAN: Yeah. He did this solo in Hawaii that night that was unbelievable. It actually took me watching it on videotape for about a month to really grasp what he played. And whether he's pulling our leg and he really knows what he's doing before he does it I don't know. It doesn't really matter. But he finished this solo and got this big grin on his face and stuck his hand in his pocket and stood there for a while like, "You can put that one in the bank." It was amazing.
CORYELL: I love the way all you guys play but I hesitate to go to your gigs unless I'm sure I can be pretty far away from the actual source of the music. 'Cause it's really loud. Is that necessary? 'Cause I really believe in order to get a certain kind of sound you've gotta turn it up.
VAUGHAN: For me, that still seems to be the case. However, a lot of times now, I'm using a plexiglass shield in front of the loudest amps. Sometimes I use those JBL lenses that used to be on their P.A. cabinets. They're high-end diffusers, or something. Sometimes I use those on some of the speakers so that its not so blunt.
CORYELL: My friend Al DiMeola really has qualms about going out with another electric band; he's got tinnitus. Do you wear earplugs?
VAUGHAN: No, our keyboard player, Reese Wynans, does.
CORYELL: Let's talk about him! He's just fantastic.
VAUGHAN: Reese does one of the most amazing things that I've never seen and I cannot figure out how he does it. He's got a MIDI piano, with a pitch change on it. And a lot of times he'll change the piano keyboard to where he's playing a tune just like I am. And he'll leave his B3 and his other one tuned regular. And he'll be playing both of them at the same time a half step apart from each other! The first time I saw him do that we were playing overseas and the power was down, so his B3 was a half step slow. And he was playing all these runs, harmony runs, together in two different keys! He was just playing his ass off, but he was playing different; it was new ideas. And I said, "What's happening, man? Where'd all this come from all of a sudden?" And he went "Oh, you know, this was going on over here and this was going on over here and it was just kind of a new challenge. It was real fun!" [laughter] I went 'Wow!!"
CORYELL: You mentioned playing with two other guitarists and you were all in different keys; who was that?
VAUGHAN: Lonnie Mack, Albert Collins and me. Albert King tunes a little bit different too. He'll have you hit an E6 chord and he'll tune his little E to your B string fretted and then on down. I'm kinda slow sometimes; it took me a long time to figure out if you move your finger down three or four frets to the C sharp, it's the same thing. And if you tune there, these bends that he does are real easy.
CORYELL: He tunes his B string to what?
VAUGHAN: Hit an E6 chord. He tunes his little E to your B string fretted, which is a ...
CORYELL: C sharp.
VAUGHAN: Yeah. And then his B string to your G string. And then, of course, it's upside down. And that's another thing I practice a Iot. In fact a guitar makes more sense to me strung backwards.
CORYELL: Really? Do you ever perform that way?
VAUGHAN: Not very often. But I go through phases when I can play that way. And it makes more sense to me that way. The highs are on the top and the lows are on the bottom. And I can see patterns a lot easier. And I'm not so restricted to my usual patterns.
CORYELL: Your control of bending strings is so much better than just about anybody else that you can sound like a slide. You're able to bend the second string and sometimes the first string more than a minor third. I only ever saw Albert King...
VAUGHAN: That's where I got it.
CORYELL: ... bend a string up to a fifth and down to the tonic You understand these terms, right?
VAUGHAN: Kind of.
CORYELL: I hope you don't read music. I would be disappointed.
VAUGHAN: No, I don't. I tried to learn before and nobody would teach me.
VAUGHAN: That's what they said.
CORYELL: Don't. Maybe I'm wrong cause l'm kind of old-fashioned, but l think that you really are carrying the banner forward for blues. I think you really should keep that. If you get too academic then you're gonna get more into jazz, 'cause you're coming very close to jazz now. This 'Riviera Paradise' is really like a jazz piece. My son saw you at Radio City Music Hall and told me it was the best performance he'd ever seem.
VAUGHAN: That was right after a treatment It was a good feeling to know that I didn't need all the crap to keep going.
CORYELL: On the contrary, it actually ruins you. People who knew Charlie Parker say that at the end he couldn't play! He sounded terrible! I know for a fact that just about no musician can continue to play good on the staff. Not even the most inveterate ones. Not even the ones who make jokes about 'The reason l can play loaded is because I practice loaded.' Because it is a disease and first your values go, and then your mind goes, and then your body goes. A musician can be amoral if he chooses to be, but once his mind and his body stop working for him, then that muse, that magic spirit which permeates both the inner and outer worlds of the artist, is gonna turn on him .
VAUGHAN: Yeah, the obsession with the quick fix becomes not just a crutch, but everything to us. And then what really matters gets pushed out the window, And I don't like iL It's real obvious to me now and I'm glad that I went through what I did. I learned from it and I'm learning from it now, to this day. I would never have gotten here if I hadn't gone through it.
CORYELL: If you had it to do over, you'd do it the same way?
VAUGHAN: I can't say... I don't know. I don't know.
CORYELL: What I'm hearing is because of the pain and the obstacles that you had to overcome you've regained a lot of strength.
VAUGHAN: Yeah. Yeah.
CORYELL: My son said after he saw you that he had never heard anything like that in his life. He said it was really loud and full of life. And you had a sign on the stage that said, 'DON'T MESS WITH TEXAS." You were playing two wah-wahs at the same tine. Now, how do you do that?
VAUGHAN: Sit on a stool. [laughter] Well, after a while, I got two wah-wahs and a piece of rack-mount and duct-taped it on top of both of the pedals. I found that you can stomp on one comer in the front and turn one of them on. Or stomp in the middle and turn both of them on. They actually boost each other and cancel certain things. So it's a real neat deal. Or you can have them separate and hold one in a certain place and work the other. Or you can work them both at the same time and just be listening, and leave it to chance, and see what comes through. But they tend to boost each other and some really neat overtones and things come out.
CORYELL: To a young guitarist who's just starting out who loves you and loves Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, who am I leaving out? Steve Morse, maybe...
VAUGHAN: How could we get them all in here? There's still a lot of the original guys, Hubert Sumlin, for example, and Buddy Guy and Albert Collins.
CORYELL: Hubert Sumlin did the solos on Howlin' Wolf records. His ability to bend strings!
VAUGHAN: Isn't he! He's one of those guys that kind of plays slide with no slide. He and Otis Rush [whistles] and ... Hubert Sumlin's one of the most original guys, one of he most original "styles" you know. But it's hard to say that in a way. 'Cause, like, look at Bo Diddley.
CORYELL: He can't play much.
VAUGHAN: But he sure can!
CORYELL: Not compared to what you guys do.
VAUGHAN: Well, it comes back down to what's important.
CORYELL: He's more of an entertainer .
VAUGHAN: But if you listen to what he's doing, it's so damn funky.
CORYELL: Oh, yeah. He's funky and he's original. But if l'm a young guitar player, I'm not gonna emulate Bo Diddley. Bo Diddley is not a strong soloist and most of the people who take up the instrument want to become soloists. That's just a fact of life. But the question I was getting to was, how important is your equipment? Cause when I was playing, especially when l was doing R&B gigs, I didn't care what kind of guitar I had; I didn't care what kind of amplifier I had My attitude was, well I can get a sound with any thing cause l love music so much! And I had a lot of problems. Guys would come up and say, "You played great but your sound wasn't so good."
VAUGHAN: You know, I go back and forth on that. Depending on what I'm trying to do, sometimes the most screwed-up guitar and screwed-up amp causes certain things to happen that would never happen if I had my perfect rig. And I'm always looking for a better sound. But I'll listen to old Howlin' Wolf or Muddy Waters records and I'll notice that for a lot of things, there's just no way to get that sound or that feeling through a great perfectly working amp.
CORYELL: Right Half the time there was a hole in the speaker...
VAUGHAN: Yeah! Yeah! Like on "Train Kept A Rollin"'... I talked to Paul Burlison about all that and he said what really happened was on the way to the studio he dropped his amp and it broke a tube. knd thacs why it sounded that way. And everybody thought he did all these tricks to his amp!
CORYELL: We used to take tubes out of our amps to get it to sound more funky. "If you take two out it really sounds funky!" [laughs]
VAUGHAN: I took straight pins and stuck holes in the speakers ...
CORYELL: You really confirm the tradition! Let's talk about "live" as opposed to "studio."
VAUGHAN: I do prefer live recording. I have had fun building a song. And it's funny, the ones that I've built on, in some ways, sound live to me as well. This is an example. The song "Empty Arms" on Soul To Soul. Myself and the bass player, Tommy Shannon, were in the studio just kind of messin' around, playing "I Pity the Fool" or something by Bobby Bland. I was just practicing playing drums. All we recorded a song's worth, and then I went back and decided to do "Empty Arms" that way. We had been doing it faster and in a different feel. I played drums, Tommy played bass and I went back and played a rhythm part. Then I played an organ part on my guitar through a Leslie, sang it, played the solo and then had the keyboard player play a piano part on it. We actually recorded the song in C and it was real slow and it didn't feel as good for the song. So we sped it up to D with a Varispeed. And I played part of the song in C and then I'd do parts in D. The whole song is all in different keys and everything and we'd just speed things up and slow them down to record things. But my solo and my guitar parts are all in D and I sang it in D. But just to find things we would go back and forth between the two, That was one of the songs that I really had fun doing that on. And it made me realize that there's something valid that I can use there as well. My favorite way to do things is live, with everybody playing at the same time. And only fixing things that really screw up what everybody else did right.
CORYELL: What about length of solos live? Do you consciously try to keep them short if you know you're recording?
VAUGHAN: If I know I'm recording, I try to get to the point. It's hard for me to do. [laughs]
CORYELL: You have a lot to say. You're also able to pack a lot of information into one chorus when you have to.
VAUGHAN: Well, I'm still trying to learn what to leave out. And I wanna always at least keep in mind that it's not just "Go play a bunch of notes." It's what those notes say or what's said through those 12 notes that we use. I have to constantly remind myself that that's really all there is. all there is. In our scale, there's only 12 notes with whatever slides between. It's really a lot simpler than I choose to think it is.
CORYELL: Do you think you play better onstage?
VAUGHAN: Sometimes. I don't know. There's nights when I feel like I play better and there's nights when I feel I like, for lack of a better way to say it, the whitest guy that walks. What do you do? You keep trying.
CORYELL: Are you conscious about changing something about the performance onstage if you know it's being recorded?
VAUGHAN: Well, I'm playing it for that day. The way I like to look at it is if that's the last time I ever got to play, I better give it everything I've got. Because it sure would be a drag to look back and go, 'Well, blew that one…"
CORYELL: Your playing is great on this record: It's a real gift to have the essence of virtuosity inside you. But the urgency-God, I sound like a critic- [laughs] - the urgency in the playig on "Tightrope" and I think 'Wall of Denial" really blew my mind. You seem to dig down deep and pull out even a little bit more. And if you look at the words…
VAUGHAN: That's where it's coming from.
CORYELL: The emotional depth of the playing matches the lyrics.
VAUGHAN: It was real important to me on those songs especially, to try to make it a special deal, because of what the songs are about to me. It was real important to me to get as much emotion and as much feeling and as much urgency into those songs. It was real important to me that those songs stand out. I didn't want them just to be something with some preaching lyrics and kinda go by the wayside. Because what's going on in those songs, what they mean to me, is why I'm alive now. And it's a chance to share experience, strength and hope with everybody who's listening. And even those who aren't. Because I know I wouldn't listen for a long time. I couldn't. I didn't know how.
STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN loves his Strats and calls them by name. He's got a'59 that he calls "Number 1" with a left-handed neck and a left-handed tremolo bar. "Stevie's actually broken that tremolo bar right off," says guitar tech Rene Martinez. "He just hands it to me and I put another one on right there at the show." Then there's "Butterscotch." Actually there are two by that name-a '61 and a '62. And don't forget "Red," that's his '65. Stevie also plays "Charlie," custom-made by the late great Charlie Werz of Dallas. It's got Danelectro pickups and is called the E-flat model. Stevie tunes all his guitars down a half and uses big fat strings (.013 - .058). Effects include an old Ibanez Tube Screamer, a Vox Wah and an old Fuzzface built by Roger Meyer, Hendrix's effects man. Roger also provided an HFX - a kind of noise gate - and an Octavia - an octave divider that Stevie loves. When it comes to amps it's "whatever works." Stevie currently travels with two Fender Super Reverbs and two Fender Vibroverbs. He's also got a couple of Vibrotones a mutant Leslie speaker-type contraption built by Fender. Other amps include Howard Dumble Steel String Singers and Marshall Majors (a '60s vintage P.A. head).
TOMMY SHANNON plays an Austin custom-made bass called an A Bass and a custom from Dallas made by Zak Berry, a former compadre of Charlie Werz. It's called Zak's Axe. His amp is made by A.M.P. and goes through Hartke cabinets.
Drummer CHRIS LAYTON uses a Tama set with Sabian cymbals.
REESE WYNANS plays his faithful Hammond B3 with two Leslie speakers, a Roland digital piano and a Korg M1.