Back in April 1983, David Bowie hit Number One on the charts with “Let’s Dance,” featuring his new guitarist, Stevie Ray Vaughan. It was Bowie’s first single to reach number one on both sides of the Atlantic, and it helped give prominence to the prodigious talents of the young and then-unknown SRV.
Stevie was slated to hit the road with Bowie to promote the Let’s Dance album in May, but he faced a difficult decision. His debut album, Texas Flood, recorded with his band Double Trouble, was about to come out. The Bowie tour would keep him on the road for a year, preventing him from promoting the disc.
Bowie’s management came up with a simple solution: let Stevie and Double Trouble open select dates on the tour.
That sounded fine to Stevie, who signed on to the tour, confident that he could support Bowie while helping to promote his own band’s efforts. But shortly before the tour began, Bowie’s management reneged on the deal. Not only would they not allow Double Trouble to open for Bowie but Stevie couldn’t give interviews about his album while on tour for Bowie.
In the end, Stevie never got to decide whether or not to stay with Bowie or leave. Chesley Millikin, his manager, did it for him. Moments before Stevie boarded Bowie’s tour bus, the tour manager pulled his gear and bags off the vehicle. The bus took off without him, leaving him on the sidewalk with no idea what to do next.
Millikin’s decision was clearly the right one. With his new freedom, Stevie put his attention fully on promoting Texas Flood and turned the loss into a huge gain.
And it certainly didn’t hurt his reputation that he’d told a star like David Bowie to take a hike.
SRV talks briefly about Bowie in this rare clip from a 1986 interview on a New Zealand TV show. It starts at the 1:20 mark, and SRV doesn’t hold back, saying that promises of Double Trouble opening for Bowie “was just a lotta bullshit.”