Friday marks the 20th anniversary of the helicopter crash that claimed the life of blues guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Vaughan had just finished a transcendent show before 30,000 fans at Alpine Valley Music Theater. After closing the night with a jam session featuring his older brother, Jimmie, Eric Clapton, Robert Cray and Buddy Guy, Vaughan boarded a helicopter bound for Chicago shortly after 1 a.m. and it crashed into a ski hill seconds after takeoff, killing everyone aboard.
Vaughan was 35, recently sober and near the top of his performing power when he died.
To commemorate the anniversary of his passing, Sony's Legacy Recordings, has reissued his platinum-selling 1984 sophomore CD "Couldn't Stand the Weather."
Recorded in January 1984 at the Power Station in New York, "Couldn't Stand the Weather" featured a title track that generated heavy play on MTV, which was hugely influential at the time, and helped pushed the record to No. 31 on the Billboard charts.
A radio-friendly hit "Cold Shot," and cover of the Jimi Hendrix classic "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" won the classic rock audience, while tracks like the Robert Geddins' composition, "Tin Pan Alley," the opening instrumental "Scuttle Buttin'" and "Stang's Swang" won over the blues aficionados.
The double disc reissue includes remasterings of the eight original songs Vaughan and bandmates Tommy Shannon (bass) and drummer Chris "Whipper" Layton put on the CD, along with the Hendrix cover, and 11 outtakes from the studio sessions, three of which -- "The Sky is Crying," "Boot Hill" and Stang's Swang" -- were previously unreleased.
"We felt something different was going on when we made the album," Shannon said in a recent interview with Gibson.com. "I thought we were going in a new direction with 'Voodoo Child (Slight Return)' and some other more arranged songs that we thought had some crossover potential, instead of just 12-bar blues and jams.
"Heck, the first time we played 'Voodoo Child' together it was on stage. We just decided to do it one night, and so we did, with no rehearsal or anything. We never rehearsed. We just added songs as we went along and played 'em out ... for 'Couldn't Stand the Weather,' we had the great John Hammond in the studio producing us, and that was really an honor. He never interfered with what we were trying to do. He just wanted to get the best performances we had in us. He helped us get good sounds and then would listen and tell us what takes were the best, and he was always right.
"We were kinda warming up in the studio and played 'Tin Pan Alley' with the tape rolling. I looked out into the control room and John was reading The New York Times. I thought, ‘He's not even listening to us.' As the song ended, he folded up the paper, pushed the talkback button and said, 'That's the best you're going to play that.' We said, ‘Aw, we're just warming up. We can do that better.' But he was right, and that's the version on the album.
"'Voodoo Child,' though, was really the key tune. Before that we stuck mostly to blues, but that song crossed us over to the rock 'n' roll crowd. They weren't exactly sure what our music was, but they loved it. It was just the way we were playing blues, which was a little bit different, with the attitude, energy and the volume of rock 'n' roll."
In addition to an essay by Guitar World editor Andy Aledort, the set also includes 13 songs from a blistering show Aug. 17, 1984 in Montreal. It was live shows, though, that helped Vaughan and his bandmates win fans with nearly constant touring.
Vaughan made a memorable appearance at Summerfest in the 1980s and the tour with Clapton and Cray drew throngs of guitar worshipping fans to Alpine Valley. Though Clapton was the headliner and main draw, many who attended the gigs considered Vaughan to be the show-stopper.
Legendary rock photographer Robert Knight attended what proved to be Vaughan's final show. Knight, whose career is chronicled in an upcoming documentary entitled "Rock Prophecies," said photographing that show was one of the more memorable experiences of his life.
"The press went nuts the next day," Knight said. "I was getting calls from all these people I didn't know who wanted those final photos. But I was so distraught I just wanted nothing to do with that. I didn't want them running those photos next to a picture of a squashed helicopter."
Knight refused to sell the photos for years, but eventually released them. The record companies have packaged plenty of Vaughan's music in posthumous packages, but "Couldn't Stand the Weather" is a solid pickup for die-hard fans and a pretty good starting point for those just diving into Vaughan's catalog.
Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at OnMilwaukee.com. Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.