AUGUST 27, 2010 MARKS THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s death. Here are some words of wisdom from the man himself, as excerpted from GP interviews by Dan Forte (October 1984), and Matt Resnicoff and Joe Gore (February 1990).
ON HIS INFLUENCES
“I got a lot of the fast things I do from Lonnie Mack—just the ideas and the phrasing, like on “Scuttle Buttin’.” That’s dedicated to him. I got a lot of turnarounds from Freddie King.
ON HIS “BACKWARDS” WHAMMY BAR
“I noticed that when Otis Rush used a vibrato bar, he had it mounted on the top [by the bass strings], and he played upside-down. Hendrix had the guitar upside-down, as well, except he strung it regular. It seemed to me that the people who did that the best had it on top, so I moved mine. Sometimes, it does get in the way. I’ve had it tear my sleeve halfway off. It’s pretty tight, with four springs tightened all the way up.”
ON CHANNELING ALBERT KING FOR DAVID BOWIE’S LET’S DANCE ALBUM
“I wanted to see how many places Albert King’s stuff would fit. It always does. I love that man. When that album came out, Albert heard it, and said, ‘Yeah [sneering], I heard you doin’ all my sh*t on there. I’m gonna go up there and do some of yours’ [laughs].”
ON HIS STRINGS
I use a .013, a .015 or .016—depending on what shape my fingers are in—a .019 plain, and then .028, .038, .060 or .056. If I go down to a .018 on the G string, it feels like a rubber band to me. Sometimes, I literally pull the strings off. I can deaden a set of strings completely after one set, because I play them hard.”
ON RHYTHM & GROOVE
“This may be just the twisted way I see things, but it seems that rhythms used to come from things like trains, walking down the street, riding horses, and little simple engines. In this day and age, it’s more jets and conveyor belts, and there ain’t no rhythm there. People aren’t hearing it. The rhythm needs to breathe. Sometimes, the best way to get some punch out of something is to slow down right before you hit it. Kind of like a slingshot. Pow!”
ON PLAYING SOLOS
“I’m just trying to find the most tone I can get. Sometimes, I can find it, and sometimes I want to choke my amp. But then there are the nights when it doesn’t seem that I have anything to do with it. That’s the one you always play for. There have been nights when I start playing chord solos, and I don’t know any of the chords [laughs]. There have been nights when I completely lost it, and by the time it struck me, I wouldn’t even know what song I was playing anymore. Sometimes, it’s effortless, and sometimes it’s a struggle, but the chill bumps are worth it when you get ’em.”
“I don’t consider myself a guitar hero. I just have fun playing guitar.”