The Top Five Stevie Ray Vaughan Riffs of All Time

If Edward Van Halen rescued rock guitar, then Stevie Ray Vaughan was surely the savior of the blues. Vaughan’s bigger-than-life guitar style was forged from a vast melting pot of influences. His brother Jimmie Vaughan, Lonnie Mack, T-Bone Walker, Albert Collins, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Hubert Sumlin, B.B. King, Albert King, Freddie King, Guitar Slim, and Jimi Hendrix were among those key to the Dallas native’s development. When Vaughan and his band Double Trouble spearheaded the ’80s blues revival, they were quick to give credit where due. These well-deserved props rekindled the smoldering careers of Albert King, Buddy Guy, and Albert Collins, propelling these bluesmen to near-superstar status. In turn, their acceptance of Vaughan as one of their own fulfilled the guitarist’s lifelong dream to “take the color out of the blues.”
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SRV’s recording career lasted almost twice as long as that of his hero Jimi Hendrix, yet both guitarists experienced a similar meteoric rise to fame and glory that was cut off at its peak. Additionally, each left behind a relatively sparse recorded legacy. Vaughan’s total output during his lifetime was just four studio recordings (Texas Flood, Couldn’t Stand the Weather, Soul to Soul, and In Step), one live album (Live/Alive), a duo project with brother Jimmie (Family Style), appearances on David Bowie’s multi-platinum smash, Let’s Dance, and a few single cuts on various compilations and soundtracks. He also produced and performed on a pair of Lonnie Mack releases and recorded with Albert King. As with Hendrix, a string of posthumous releases followed Vaughan’s untimely death in 1990, including a boxed set, as well as recordings and videos from the 1982 and 1985 Montreaux Jazz Festivals, and a live Austin club date. But unlike Hendrix, these offer few hints to any future direction his music may have taken.

Squeezing the essence of Vaughan’s Strat-wrangling into just five slots was tough. With few exceptions, I’ve chosen to concentrate on complete song riffs as opposed to solo licks. This way, you’ll learn the framework for an entire song, or at least an entire chorus. To match the original recordings, you’ll need to tune down one half-step.