Stevie Ray Vaughan was the first blues artist I started listening to long before I found out he wasn’t “blues” enough for some listeners. I heard his “Pride & Joy” for the first time in Orlando on the radio on vacation years after he’d passed and I had a copy of Texas Flood by the time I got home. It wasn’t love at first listen as I was still firmly wed to my alternative rock phase and a little of the blues-based glam rock. To those ears at that time, Vaughan sounded purer than I was prepared to embrace. Time went on and I wound up working as an overnight DJ at a classic rock station that played Vaughan’s music alongside The Allman Brothers Band, Styx, Boston, The Stones, Doors, Zeppelin, and others. Something clicked for me in that context and I began listening to his music and declaring my admiration for him with evangelistic fervor.
Years later I began a more in-depth study of the blues and it was during this period I began to pick up on vibes of suspicion towards Vaughan and his mainstreaming of the music and his close proximity to Jimi Hendrix and rock and roll. Rather than laughing at such nonsense and having confidence in my own ears, I distanced myself from those CDs in my collection. I now realize I was being a moron. Vaughan was a prodigious talent and a gift from the heavens and his loss at such a young age and at a point in his life when he seemed to be ready to make his best work yet is beyond tragic.
Sony/Legacy is once again re-issuing his sophomore album Couldn’t Stand The Weather, this time in a two-CD deluxe format. My copy is on its way and I’m anxious to hear all the additional goodies that have been appended to the original eight-song album released in 1984. In anticipation of the “new” album I spent some time listening to those original tracks.
The song that stood out to me most the first time I heard this record was his blistering cover of Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return).” Now the song that stands out most to me is his cover of Guitar Slim’s “The Things (That) I Used To Do.” SRV’s version is the first I heard but everybody has done this one and I now have umpteen versions of it on my iPod. Among those who’ve done it: Albert Collins, Junior Parker, Muddy Waters, Jimi Hendrix, Freddie King, Chuck Berry, Big Joe Turner, G. Love and Special Sauce, Buddy Guy, and Luther Allison (Freddie, Muddy, and Chuck’s versions are brilliant and should be heard).
I marvel almost as much at Vaughan’s big, brash Texas voice as I do his exceptional guitar work and this is one of the songs where his voice stands out so much to me. I can picture him throwing his head back and hollering the titular phrase that begins the song. I’ve been known to restart the song after listening to only those opening seconds, just to hear that part.
I shake my head when I think that I nearly let nameless naysayers dissuade me and this song is a reminder: “the things that I used to do/I won’t do no more.”