As a teenager in Frederick Maryland, my Saturday afternoons were spent downtown at a used record store called the Music Trader. I would go down there to reunite myself with Monkees albums that I lost as a child, and to hear about this “mythical” band called The Amboy Dukes who featured my guitar hero at the time Ted Nugent. When the owner was in the shop, the musical faire would most often be the blues. The man knew all about it. I had an appreciation for it. Johnny Winter was the reason I learned my first guitar chord at 12. But I’d always looked at much of the blues from my peripheral vision, or hearing. Johnny Winter and Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac were my favorite blues musicians. Getting a job at a radio station in the late 1980’s would further my love for the blues, since the morning show were avid blues fans. While working there, I was given a copy of the latest Stevie Ray Vaughan release “In Step”. I remember getting this disc the same day that I picked up Joe Satriani’s Flying In A Blue Dream disc. Listening to music that night, I couldn’t help but to notice that the SRV disc was going to be the CD that I’d be listening to a lot of. While I enjoyed the Satriani album, “In Step” was made of timeless stuff. Not only that, this was an important album for Stevie. He was finally clean and sober. This album was SRV at his brightest and best. At that moment, I was a fan of Stevie’s. My appreciation for the blues, now reignited more than ever.
Stevie and I share a birthday of October 3. We both love Fender Stratocasters. That was where most of our similarities ended. I always felt a kinship with him, even though I am not qualified to carry his case. I was happy that he’d gotten his life back together and was making the best music of his life.
For most of my broadcast career, necessity has dictated that I work another job. One late August day, I was in a warehouse in Harrisburg getting ready to load up the work van to deliver auto parts to my route. The radio broke in to deliver the news that late the previous night in Wisconsin, a helicopter went down shortly after an Eric Clapton show, and that was all they knew. No names of passengers, some speculation that Eric may have been on board. No “real” information other than a downed helicopter. Soon, the news drifted in that Eric Clapton was OK, and a little while later the news about Stevie. He was dead. Right when things got better in his life, it was over.
I try not to remember the days that people died. I much rather think of them on their birthdays, and celebrate the way they lived, not mourn how they died. Stevie’s death is hard for me not to think of. His and John Lennon’s death were sudden, violent and tragic. I have to take pause.
Tonight I’m listening to Stevie. Missing him, and looking forward to our birthday when I’ll once again celebrate my life by celebrating his.