St. Martin’s Press 2019
Demystification of the saint reveals a vulnerable soul behind the blues blast and three-letter acronym.
This may seem unjust yet, while Stevie’s tragic fate helped perpetuate his legend, in the space between it and his music, which remains ever relevant, Vaughan as a person somehow disappeared, having turned into a latter-day symbol of blues – a blemish-free saint-esque figure who lived like he played: flying high and taking everything to the limit. It’s the perception those who knew him are very much aware of – and are eager to reveal the real SRV, the man behind the myth. “When you see a blazing meteor, you don’t argue with it,” says one of them on the pages of “Texas Flood” – a labor of love for Alan Paul and Andy Aledort, two “Guitar World” journalists – but, blinding as Stevie still is, nuances of Vaughan’s life can’t be overlooked for it’s such details that informed his tunes and mastery, so a book detailing his brief existence, the rise and the fall, has been long overdue.
It’s a story of a – literally – deadly dedication, an account of life often hanging by a thread yet saved by the grace of sounds that were the very essence of SRV, as told by the long cast of associates which includes Stevie’s brother Jimmie and other family members, friends and business movers, luminaries like Dr. John and Nile Rogers, and less glorified players of whom most important are Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon, Vaughan partners in DOUBLE TROUBLE – all of them listed in the beginning of this tome for convenient reference. Weaving a free-flowing narrative out of quotes from about a hundred interviews and keeping their own text – a sort of connective tissue – to a minimum, the authors cover the minutiae, if not every minute, of Stevie’s short stint on Earth. The reader will learn when Vaughan’s middle name began to appear on concert posters, where did he obtain his signature hat, and whom he got the titular song from, but even with a warts-and-all approach there’s not a lot of anecdotes to help perceive the guitarist as an outstanding character, as opposed to slave to the fretboard, so each one that’s there is precious.
Endearing himself to the ever-irascible Albert King by having a musical face-off with the elder statesman, paying his crew an equal share with the ensemble members because money couldn’t stand in the way of comaraderie and respect, sending for food to be delivered from Austin to NYC to give David Bowie a taste of the South: it’s moments like these that testify to SRV’s uniqueness and explain why everyone loved him. He might be unpleasant, too, and there’s an episode of Vaughan banishing a fellow singer from their band when her performance didn’t live up to his standards – in Stevie’s view, music couldn’t ever suffer even though people could – but then, he would demand just as much from himself, and when drink and drugs started to affect his delivery, Vaughan became a teetotaler. More so, by enrolling in a 12-step program, Stevie helped others to get clean, and it’s no coincidence his voice is heard the loudest when evoking that period.
The conversations with SRV one of the authors had a chance to have are used here rather sparingly because they would distort the perspective – and the perspective is as captivating as Vaughan’s music is. The only fragments when the account may seem boring would be those related to Stevie’s gear – yet that’s part of Aledort and Paul’s job description, so there’s a breakdown of his set-ups instead of discography attached to the book, creating a minor gripe about an otherwise gripping volume. Stripping Stevie of the legend, it’s also fleshes out his myth because a person has to become real to be truly adored, and this is where “Texas Flood” excels.