Stevie Ray Vaughan Plays the Acoustic Guitar in Rare Footage, Letting Us See His Guitar Virtuosity in Its Purest Form

Ask accom­plished blues and south­ern rock gui­tarists who they lis­ten to and you’ll hear a num­ber of names come up: Duane All­man, Albert King, Bud­dy Guy… the list of gui­tarists’ gui­tarists could go on and on. One name you’ll hear from near­ly every­one: Ste­vie Ray Vaugh­an, the king of Texas blues, before whom even the very best play­ers stand in awe, a gui­tarist whose leg­end has only grown in stature since the music world lost him in a trag­ic, fatal heli­copter crash in 1990.

The most icon­ic gui­tarists get asso­ci­at­ed with their instru­ments of choice, and Vaugh­an is no excep­tion. The Fly­ing V defines the look and sound of Albert King; the cus­tom black Gib­son 335 (“Lucille”) that of B.B. King. And when we think of Vaugh­an, we may imme­di­ate­ly think of “Num­ber One,” the beat up Fend­er Stra­to­cast­er he loved so much he called it the “first wife.” One of a num­ber of Strats Vaugh­an played through­out his too-brief career, “Num­ber One” has become “a cen­ter­piece” at the Texas State His­to­ry Muse­um, and for very good rea­son.

Almost no gui­tarist before or since has ripped such raw emo­tion and sear­ing pow­er from an instru­ment, with the excep­tion per­haps of Vaughan’s hero, Jimi Hen­drix. Like Hen­drix, Vaugh­an is known entire­ly as an elec­tric gui­tarist, his tone so leg­endary it has inspired a cult fol­low­ing all its own. But give SRV, as his fans call him, an acoustic gui­tar and you’ll see right away why the most the dis­tinc­tive fea­ture of that myth­ic tone is how sparkling clean it is.

Vaugh­an need­ed no effects to pro­duce his mas­sive sound, though he used a few on occa­sion (most notably a clas­sic Vox wah ped­al that once belonged to Jimi). The tone, as old­er gui­tarists will for­ev­er tell aspir­ing new­bies, was in his fingers—in the dynam­ics of his pick­ing, his bends and slides, his inti­mate, force­ful engage­ment with the fret­board. In the rare acoustic ses­sions here, see just why Vaugh­an is so revered. Above watch him launch into a six-string 12-bar acoustic blues.

And just above, see Vaugh­an tear it up on a 12-string acoustic gui­tar in his MTV Unplugged appear­ance in 1990, the year of his death. Gui­tarists and seri­ous fans of the blues and coun­try gui­tar will often namecheck Dan­ny Gat­ton—the Wash­ing­ton, DC wun­derkind so incred­i­bly tal­ent­ed that he earned the nick­name “The Humbler”—as the great­est gui­tarist they’ve ever seen. It’s hard to argue with that assess­ment. But Vaugh­an wasn’t just an amaz­ing play­er, he was also a beau­ti­ful­ly under­stat­ed per­former. Here we have the unique oppor­tu­ni­ty to see his show­man­ship and skill stripped to their essence.

via Soci­ety of Rock

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jimi Hen­drix Plays the Delta Blues on a 12-String Acoustic Gui­tar in 1968, and Jams with His Blues Idols, Bud­dy Guy & B.B. King

B.B. King Changes Bro­ken Gui­tar String Mid-Song at Farm Aid, 1985 and Doesn’t Miss a Beat

Ste­vie Ray Vaughan’s Ver­sion of “Lit­tle Wing” Played on Tra­di­tion­al Kore­an Instru­ment, the Gayageum

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (3)
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  • Tim says:

    Nice piece Josh… and thanks for send­ing a few hun­dred eye­balls to my site!

  • JV says:

    That is one smooth tran­si­tion from SRV, and got­ta love BB King’s deci­sion to stick with Lucille. I agree with those who put Dan­ny Gat­ton at the top, though. He’s the Oscar Peter­son of gui­tar. No one was more tech­ni­cal­ly pro­fi­cient, and his feel was as good as any­one’s.

  • Brenda hostetler says:

    Your with my daugh­ter now and I’m thank­ful cousin you left such won­der­ful artistry to my heart I love gui­tar music your awsome ty tyty­ty­ty­ty­much love. 3174081538 mes­sages also to 3917 Alsace place Thank you Ste­vie ty cousin ty I ‘ll cher­ish every bit of you and oth­ers from this day for­ward to the best of my abil­i­ty tus again Ste­vie you oth­ers con­tact me soon hap­py hol­i­days indi­anapo­lis Indi­ana 46226 I’d have sang with you all too it was my dream you oak with me chum­mers fam­i­ly🌌

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