In my 35 years of interviewing musicians for the Georgia Straight, the guy I was probably most thrilled about talking to was blues-rocker Stevie Ray Vaughan. Man, when his debut album, Texas Flood, came out back in ’83 it just blew me away. I got to meet him in person once—when he signed my copy of that LP, and shook my hand with an unforgettably viselike grip—and two times after that I interviewed him on the phone.
The last time we talked was on July 11, 1990, which die-hard SRV fans realize was just six weeks before the helicopter he was riding in after a gig with Eric Clapton flew into a foggy ski hill in East Troy, Wisconsin.
When the interview happened Vaughan had been touring heavily behind his fourth studio album, the Grammy-winning In Step, the title of which referred to the 12-step program he’d used to keep drug abuse at bay. Hearty bursts of laughter punctuated most of his conversation, and, overworked or not, he seemed to be flying high on life itself. When asked about where he found the inspiration to play his ass off night after night, he offered a somewhat prophetic comment on his own mortality.
“You never can tell what kinda turns a gig’s gonna take,” he said, “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.”
I’ll bet you dollars to dingleberries that, on that fateful night in East Troy, Stevie tried.