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Stevie Ray Vaughan was less a guitarist than a force of nature, too large for any genre, and too loud for any venue. His amps were turned up to the max, his strings were so thick that they sliced the calluses off of his fingers, and he played so hard hard that he literally wore the wood off of his faithful guitar. He played Texas blues better than anyone ever did, and Texas blues has more than a healthy dollop of rock in it.

What you hear with Vaughan is effort.

Everyone tries to play Texas blues. But you can’t match the effort. Slap on all the effects you want, your guitar will just sound slovenly. That grit, that twang, those singing oblique string bends, those impossible runs won’t come around anymore.

(Vaughan played the notorious .13 strings, which they stopped making years ago. The only players I know of that used anything like that are Angus Young and Dada’s Michael Gurley. Strings this thick slice your fingers to ribbons, and put a lot of pressure on the connective tissue in your hands and forearms.)

Truth be told, in the beginning he was a faster, louder, Albert King. That isn’t an insult, as Albert King was/is magnificent. He had a relentless work effort, and the biggest hands anyone had seen since Gatemouth Brown. That was the guy that David Bowie heard and had to have. They paired (w/ Nile Rodgers) on the Let’s Dance album and tour before Vaughan moved on.

First he was the best player in Texas, and then he was the best player in blues, and then he started to expand into jazz, and it became apparent that there was no ceiling to what Stevie Ray Vaughan was going to be able to do.

And then in 1990, at the age of 35 he was gone.

He is the King of the Texas, and it looks like it will stay that way.

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