It was 25 years ago today that Stevie Ray Vaughan died. Though his life was cut short, the man played an incredible number of gigs in his time.
From 1982 forward, Stevie’s career took off quickly, and as a result there is no shortage of great audio and video material documenting his talents.
Selecting his 10 most historic performances was difficult, but after much viewing and debate, we chose the following. Take a look, and let us know if you have a favorite of your own that we didn’t pick.
Double Trouble at Montreux Jazz, July 17, 1982
SRV and Double Trouble—bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton—were unknown at the time, but they delivered a magical performance that helped them break through to a wider audience. Though the crowd was enthusiastic, the moment was ruined for Vaughan by a small group of blues purists who booed throughout the show.
“Little Wing,” Live at El Mocambo, July 20, 1983
Shot during Double Trouble’s tour for Texas Flood, this video comes from the excellent Live at the El Mocambo video, which includes interviews with drummer Chris Layton and bassist Tommy Shannon.
In Session, with Albert King, December 6, 1983
Recorded live for TV in Ontario, this session captures the two blues greats in excellent form. Prior to agreeing to do the show, King wasn’t familiar with Vaughan, not realizing that he’d once let him sit in during a gig in Texas. When he realized who Vaughan was, he agreed to the show.
SRV and Jeff Beck Play “Jeff’s Boogie,” Live in Hawaii, 1984
Stevie recalled of this show, “We rehearsed a couple of times and smoked cigarettes and went crazy and then went and played and just had a blast! [Beck] did this solo in Hawaii that night that was unbelievable. [He] got this big grin on his face and stuck his hand in his pocket and stood there for a while like, ‘You can put that one in the bank.’ It was amazing.”
“Wham!,” with Lonnie Mack, August 1986
Recorded at the Orpheum Theater on Beale Street, in Memphis, this features SRV and Double Trouble performing Mack’s hit “Wham!,” a song that was influential to Vaughan.
Performing “Pipeline” with Jimmie Vaughan, February 1987
The clip, which was shot aboard the S.S. Presidente in New Orleans, shows Stevie Ray and his big brother Jimmie playing a double-neck guitar—at the same time. After starting out with an upbeat jam, they shift into “Pipeline,” the Chantays’ 1962 surf-rock classic, at the 3:16 mark. They also switch necks along the way.
“Texas Flood,” with B.B. King and Albert Collins, April 22, 1988
Vaughan, King and fellow blues legend Albert Collins performed “Texas Flood” aboard the S.S. President as part of the 1988 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Following a fluid and extended solo by King, Vaughan ramps things up in his inimitable way.
SRV with Jimmie Vaughan and Carlos Santana, October 2, 1988
SRV and Double Trouble were touring when they met up with Carlos Santana in Costa Mesa, California, on October 2, 1988. The result was one magical night during which they joined Santana for his last three songs of the evening. The action starts at around the 14-minute mark of the first video below.
MTV Unplugged, January 1990
SRV played solo on a Guild 12-string acoustic for this appearance on MTV Unplugged. He opens with “Rude Mood” and carries on with “Pride and Joy” and “Testify.” The performances are incredible, and he is clearly at the top of his game.
Stevie’s Last Performance, Alpine Valley, August 26,1990
It was perhaps fitting that Stevie’s last performance was alongside other giants of the blues—Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy—as well as with his brother Jimmie and fellow bluesman Robert Cray. Stevie gave his all in this last-ever show.