The Greatest Guitar Hero, Jimi Hendrix still remains one of the most influential forces in rock music. Pulling unprecedented sounds out of his Fender Strat, Hendrix challenged musicians and guitarists to explore a wild new world of tones and textures, dazzling and confounding guitar greats like Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton, who still speak of Hendrix with a hushed reverence. Other players before him might have experimented with feedback and excessive distortion, Hendrix turned those practices into an art fashion. He was the first player to use the whammy bar as an instrument unto itself, making his Stratocaster talk, scream and howl. Read more
Many guitar players tend to make a certain face when they hear the word “Squier”. It’s the same face you make when someone says “telemarketing job” or “infomercials”. Forever destined to be the Yugo of the music world, the good folks overseas who make Squier guitars for Fender have pushed out a new model that is already changing the minds of those who put their hands on it: The new Squier Bullet Strat HH. Read more
Ah, the classic Gibson vs Fender debate. This dispute has become so famous and so controversial that nearly all guitarists are forced to segregate themselves and declare their allegiances. But why form such specific, exclusive factions, driving a wedge between the guitar playing community? For good reason, as it turns out the two companies build different guitars for different purposes, making it perfectly reasonable that some players only pick a Fender while others are firm Gibson men (and women). But which is best for the player who has yet to pledge themselves to one brand? Read on and find out. Read more
Two of the most revered guitar players in the blues/rock universe are Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Both men helped define the sounds of their respective eras and are icons of the instrument and are most likely responsible for launching more guitar-playing careers (both real and air) than any post-Beatle guitarist outside of Eddie Van Halen. Today, however, your humble man of letters here at Gear-Vault has been given the difficult task of pitting Jimi and SRV in a head-to-head battle for musical supremacy, which is truly no easy task. In the flyover, both man share many similar qualities, from their explosions into public consciousness to their preference for Fender Stratocasters to their untimely deaths. When examined more closely, however, there are some major differences between the two that just might give one the edge over the other. Want to watch the fur fly? Keep reading. Read more
During the late Sixties and early Seventies, it seems like everything related to music was literally huge: amp stacks, stack heel platform shoes, rock star mustaches and hairstyles, crotch padding and, especially, effect pedals. Stomp boxes were the size of shoe boxes, and the average pedal board was so big that it took two roadies to haul one from the back of a Chevy van to the stage of the Cow Palace or Winter land. Of course, that all changed later in the decade as microchips replaced the transistors and cherry bomb-sized components in primitive effect circuits, and soon after, the size of the average pedal shrunk significantly.
Fender’s latest Classic Series pedal reissues bring back in their full glory four of the company’s big-honkin’ stomp boxes from the Golden Era of effects: the sensibly named Volume, Volume-Tone, Fuzz-Wah and Read more
The introduction of Fender amplifiers almost coincided with the company’s electric guitars in the mid 1940s. The earliest venture into the amp market by Fender was marked by the production of what they named the “Tweed Amps” which had an output ranging from three to seventy five watts. However, these amplifiers had an inbuilt Read more
It’s an old cliché, but there really is safety in numbers. This holds true in many aspects of life, but is especially true in the world of musical instruments. Trends may come and go, but the instruments that the majority of players choose to play usually are the best at doing their job. Read more
To understand what made Stevie tick, to get the whole story of the man behind the music, we have to turn to his closest confidants, the people who knew him best and miss him most. Given the opportunity to tell Stevie’s tale and open up, revealing things they’d never revealed before.
At a young age, Stevie remembers a western swing band called Texas Playboys, they hung out at his house all the time. “They were a lot of character hanging around” Stevie continues ”They would do some playing and liked to get drunk.” Every once in awhile his dad would yell [affects heavy rural Texas accent], “Hey Jim, Steve, come out here and show them what you can do!”. We can all imagine little Stevie and Jimmie Vaughan performing some music with the Roy Rogers roping a cow guitar.
Stevie got his first guitar when he was just seven years of age given to him by Michael Quinn. It was a Roy Rogers guitar with the picture of a cowboy roping a cow. Stevie also had a blanket that matched his Roy Rogers guitar.
Jimmie gave him his first guitar lesson. “Jimmie showed me a lot of stuff on guitar, but there was a time when Jimmie warned me, “if you ask me to show you anything again, I’ll kick your ass.” Well I did, and he did” –Stevie continued on “My brother Jimmie actually was one of the biggest influences on my playing. He really was the reason I started to play, watching him and seeing what could be done.”
Seventeen years after his death, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s influence only continues to grow. It can be heard in bar-rooms and arenas around the globe, in the playing of everyone from protégés like Kenny Wayne Shepherd to mentors like Buddy Guy to rockers like Mike McCready and Kirk Hammett. It can be seen in the popularity of vintage gear and straight-forward, ear-ringing tone, both of which were considered passé before Stevie proved there was plenty of influence in Fender Strats.
But perhaps the most telling evidence of Stevie’s continued relevance is that his music still speaks volumes to millions of listeners. Some voices are stilled by death, but his has grown only louder.
The first flash comes over the Associated Press wire at about 7 a.m. on Monday, August 27, 1990: “Copter crash in East Troy, Wisconsin. Five fatalities, including a musician.”
Keen-eyed staffers at the Austin American Statesman catch that item and begin putting two and two together. The AP updates its story every half hour with fresh details: The mysterious “musician” becomes “a member of Eric Clapton’s entourage”—and then, “a guitarist.” By 9:30, rumors spread that Stevie Ray Vaughan was aboard the doomed craft.
At 11:30, Clapton’s manager confirms the worst: Vaughan was indeed among the passengers in the five-seat helicopter, which slammed into a fog-shrouded hillside near southeastern Wisconsin’s Alpine Valley ski resort. Stevie Ray had boarded the aircraft after he and a stellar cast of guitarists that included Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, Jimmie Vaughan and Buddy Guy performed before a crowd of 25,000 at a blues show at the resort. The wildly successful show concluded with Vaughan, Clapton and the others taking part in an all-star finale/jam on Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago.” It was a short time after this triumph that Stevie Ray met his fate.
On Friday August 31, just a few days after the accident, more than 3,000 of the faithful gather at Laurel Land Memorial Park in Dallas, Texas, braving 100-degree heat to say farewell to Stevie Ray. Stevie Wonder, Bonnie Raitt and Billy Gibbons, among others, join the assembled mourners in an emotional chorus of “Amazing Grace.” Crowding the burial site are more than 150 floral arrangements that have been sent from around the world. Nearby stands a placard: “We will cherish what you have given us and weep for the music left unplayed.”
“Unfortunately, you never fully grasp someone’s greatness or importance until they’re gone” says B.B King. “And I think that’s true with Stevie. As the years go by and he’s not here, it just becomes more and more clear how special he was, and how much he’s missed.”
Missed so much that hungry fans eagerly await news of “lost” SRV tracks discovered in the vaults, crossing their fingers with the hope that a mother-load of unreleased material sits waiting to be unearthed and aired.
At least some of these prayers were answered on March 23, 1999 when Sony Legacy released Stevie’s four studio albums with Double Trouble (Texas Flood, Couldn’t Stand the Weather, Soul to Soul and In Step), each of them were updated with four bonus tracks recorded in the same time frame as the original. A new Greatest Hits, Volume Two was released back in 1999 as well and both are still hot sellers to this date.
Stevie Ray Vaughan is a portrait of an artist completely dedicated to his craft, and of a man who had wrestled with his demons and emerged victorious, with a new lease on life and rededicated passion for his life’s work. Stevie was undoubtedly making the finest music of his life when he died at age 35.
Stevie Ray Vaughan died, August 27, 1990, just a few moments after midnight in a helicopter crash after being in the air just a few seconds in East Troy, Wisconsin was just a short distance from his destination in Chicago and his new sweetheart Janna, Stevie’s former fiancé.
Every guitar player, at some point or another, aspires to own one of the top brand-name instruments on the market, whether made by Fender, Gibson, Gretsch, Paul Reed Smith or anyone else. In some ways, the guitar one plays becomes an identifying symbol; Stevie Ray Vaughn, for instance, was seldom seen with anything other than a Fender Stratocaster in his hands. Not many people could pick Peter Frampton out of a lineup today, but they know he played a Gibson Les Paul. Read more