I am very careful when it comes to calling someone a hero, for so many who are considered a hero , often aren’t. However in this case I can say that SRV-Stevie Ray Vaughan was one of my heroes. The man who made playing guitar look cool again.
On August 26, 1990, Vaughan performed two shows with Eric Clapton at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin.
Some of the musicians boarded four Chicago-bound helicopters, which were waiting on a nearby golf course. Vaughan, along with three members of Eric Clapton’s entourage (agent Bobby Brooks, bodyguard Nigel Browne, and assistant tour manager Colin Smythe), boarded the third of the four helicopters—a Bell 206B Jet Ranger—flying to Meigs Field.
In Clapton: The Autobiography, Clapton explains that, contrary to rumors, his seat was not given to Vaughan, but three members of Clapton’s entourage were on board with Vaughan. According to a witness, there was haze and fog with patches of low clouds. The helicopter took off at about 12:50 am (CDT)on August 27 and, despite the conditions, turned left towards a 150-foot ski hill adjacent to the golf course. It collided with the hill approximately fifty feet from the summit.
All on board, including the pilot, Jeff Brown, were killed instantly.According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a veteran pilot for Alpine Valley suspected that Brown attempted to fly around the ski hill, but misjudged the location.The Civil Air Patrol was notified of the accident at 4:30 am, and located the crash site almost three hours later.
Clapton and Jimmie Vaughan were asked to identify the bodies. The Walworth County coroner conducted an autopsy and found that Vaughan suffered from multiple internal and skull injuries.Clapton issued a statement the next day, saying that the victims “were my companions, my associates and my friends. This is a tragic loss of some very special people. I will miss all of them very much.” A Coptic cross necklace, worn by Vaughan, was given to Jimmie Vaughan.
Vaughan’s memorial was held on August 30, 1990, at Laurel Land Cemetery in Dallas, where he was buried next to his father, and was preceded by a private chapel service for close friends and family. Reverend Barry Bailey of the United Methodist Church in Fort Worth, who was Vaughan’s AA sponsor, opened the service with personal thoughts: “We’re here to thank God for this man’s life. He was a genius, a superstar, a musician’s musician. He captured the hearts of thousands and thousands of people. I am thankful for the impact of this man’s influence on thousands of people in getting his own life together in the name of God.” Kim Wilson, Jeff Healey, David Bowie, Charlie Sexton, ZZ Top, Colin James, and Buddy Guy attended the event. Stevie Wonder, Jackson Browne, and Bonnie Raitt sang “Amazing Grace” at the event. Nile Rodgers gave a eulogy,while a member of the Nightcrawlers read chapters five and eleven from The Big Book, the foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous.In 1995, the Vaughan family received an undisclosed settlement for wrongful death.
Sadly Jeff Healey and David Bowie also have died since.
David Bowie and Stevie Ray Vaughan had collaborated on Bowie’s China Girl. The guitar solo is the genius of SRV.
I only heard the news late in the evening. I remember it as vividly as the time I heard the news about Elvis’s death. I had just finished an evening shift and went to my local pub for a drink. where I saw these big tattooed ,pierced bikers with tears in their eyes.
I asked “what happened?” and they replied in chorus”Stevie died” it was just so surreal.
Finishing up with my one of my favorite SRV tracks, taken from his last studio album “Family Style”