For once, the title is really an apt description of content-the book uses Vaughan as a framework to explore southern roadhouse guitar players, from the early roots of Charlie Christian to contemporary players now coming up.
There's a long history of southwestern homeboy guitar wranglers and the book
touches briefly on luminaries like Christian, T-Bone Walker, Peewee Crayton, Johnny Guitar Watson and Gatemouth Brown-giving capsule biographies and career synopses of each. While these guys were the early architects of the blues guitar sound, author Gregory narrows in on the men who had more direct influence on both Jimmie and Stevie Vaughan-Freddie King and Albert Collins are probably the best known-both had successful careers playing the white psychedelic ballrooms after down-home beginnings. Gregory also notes the emergence of younger white players like Johnny Winter and Z Z Top, whose brand of blues based rock set the style for several years to come.
The main body of the book is a career biography of Stevie Ray, with personal details only mentioned briefly (there already are at least a couple other life stories kicking around on book shelves). The books value is that not only does it detail Vaughn's career moves, listing various bands, but it also gives info on Vaughn's cohorts and sidemen-placing them all in the context of the area and the times. In other words, it's an overview of the whole southwest scene. Naturally that includes the Fabulous Thunderbirds,
brother Jimmies band, as well as others like Doug Sahm and Luann Barton.
There's info on various management moves, including the Double Trouble's audition for the Rolling Stones label (the implication is that they were turned down because somebody feared the competition), details on why Vaughan turned down the one year on-tour offer with David Bowie (it involved Vaughn' s wife as much as his reluctance to split with his bandmates Tommy Shannon and John Turner). The narration describes how Vaughan recorded his debut album at Jackson Browne's studio, John Hammond came on as after-the-fact producer and soon his career was on his way.
The book covers the various albums and tours as well his addiction meltdowns, his subsequent rehab and death in a helicopter crash. There's also a section on his guitar sound-pointing out that part of his wide and deep tone was due to his use of strings some 70% thicker than usual --stating also he tuned to Eb instead of E. The book concludes with a legacy section, covering various players following in his footsteps, with a
comprehensive discography section covering everybody included.
This is not an exhaustive Stevie Ray story, rather its a look at how all the various pieces and players came together. A bit more like an expanded and well-researched magazine article than an in-depth book, still, it's a readable record of a vital and influential musical arena.
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