Stevie Ray Vaughan
TOOLS OF THE TRADE: '59 Fender Strat with '62 neck "Number One," Fender Vibro-Verb, Super Reverb, Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer, Uni-vox Uni-Vibe, Vox wah
KEY ALBUMS: Texas Flood, Couldn't Stand the Weather, The Sky Is Crying
SIGNATURE SONGS: "Pride and Joy," "Texas Flood," "The Sky Is Crying," "Lenny"
HIDDEN GEM: "Telephone Song," "Rude Mood"
HALLMARK: Texas-sized tone and technique that every electric blues guitarist since has coveted
Just when the blues had sunk to its lowest point since its "birth," in the late '20s, along came a Texas tornado named Stevie Ray Vaughan, armed with tone as big as his home state and technique to match. Indeed it's fair to say that SRV singlehandedly revived the blues and, in the process, became the greatest electric blues guitarist to ever bend a string.
Like almost all blues guitarists since Robert Johnson and B.B. King, SRV's style was an amalgam of his heroes—Albert King, Lonnie Mack, and, of course, Jimi Hendrix, to name just a few. But no one had ever copped their licks and styles and made it their own like Stevie Ray did. Hallmarks of Stevie's electric style include frantic, multi-step bends à la Albert King; the jazzy leanings of T-Bone Walker; and the chord-melody influence of Hendrix. But what really put SRV in a class by himself was the attitude with which he played: no matter what song he was playing, he owned it. The only thing tentative about Stevie Ray Vaughan was his acceptance of being called a "guitar hero."
In addition to his remarkable technique and phrasing, Vaughan set a new standard for electric blues guitar tone. A huge part of SRV's thick sound was due to his use of heavy-gauge strings (typically .013s), tuned down a half step to E-flat. The key element to his overdriven tone was a pair of Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamers, which he ran through very loud Fender Vibro-Verbs and Super Reverbs. And, finally, it may be cliché to say, but the key to it all was the fire and passion with which Vaughan squeezed out every single note that he played.