Stevie Ray Vaughan is from Texas, but he has a special spot for many of us here in the stateline. The summer of 1990 found SRV on tour with Eric Clapton and Robert Cray. What a great triple bill of blues! Clapton was touring on the strength of his best album in years Journeyman, Robert Cray was riding high on the success of his last few albums and Stevie 'effing' Ray Vaughan was part of it! They had two shows scheduled at Alpine Valley on August 25 and 26.

I was very happy when I scored a lawn seat for the first of the two shows. Me and my buddies arrived and got right up to the front of the lawn. Robert Cray strolled out on stage when there was still plenty of daylight to burn. He is an excellent player and played on Slowhand's version of "Before You Accuse Me" on Journeyman. During Cray's set, a few big jags started throwing sod. I was a scrawny twenty year old and these dude looked like college football players all 'roided up. True jerks. They threw sod until they hit the girlfriend of one of the giant dudes who were sitting in front of us. He threatened to break the sod tosser in half. That did the trick.

Next SRV came on and blew the house down. It was blistering, soulful and insanely good. He encored with the Hendrix classic "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)." I'm smiling as I type this and remember how the hair stood up on the back of my neck at the time. I was happy to see Stevie since I had missed him on the Fire Meets Fury tour the previous year with him and Jeff Beck.

As expected, Clapton came out and played a solid set of new songs and familiar classics. Afterwards, Clapton, SRV, Robert Cray and special guest Jeff Healey performed a scorching "Sunshine of Your Love." It went on for quite some time. Healey was blind, but that didn't stop him from standing up during his solo and going to that place that great musicians go to when they get lost in a jam. Eric eventually walked over and touched his shoulder, as if to say it was time to wrap it up.

The following night, the three on the bill were joined by Buddy Guy and Stevie's brother Jimmie. They broke out the Robert Johnson's "Sweet Home Chicago." I wish I was there for that. It's one of my favorite times. On a side note, when I moved to Colorado, I saw Koko Taylor a few weeks after I arrived. She played that song and it struck me very hard. Like she was singing it for me. I was very lucky to talk and hang a bit with Koko and some of her band afterwards. It's a very special memory.

Of course, we all know what happened after that all-star jam on August 26 ,1990. After the concert, SRV was itching to get  back to his Chicago hotel room, but there was no room on the helicopter. The story is similar to Buddy Holly's. A young Waylon Jennings was playing on that tour in 1959 and was due to be on the plane, but Buddy asked it he could have his seat. Waylon agreed and Buddy jokingly said he hoped the bus crashed. Waylon responded by saying he hoped his plane crashed. It haunted Waylon until he died in 2002.

The story goes that Jimmie Vaughan was due to be on that chopper, but SRV really wanted to get back to the hotel so Jimmie relented. The helicopter took off for Chicago after midnight and barely made it half a mile when it slammed into the side of a 300 foot hill in the foggy night. Nobody knew the crash occurred until the flight never arrived at the hotel later that morning.

Many people in the stateline were at that last show. Stevie Ray Vaughan was only thirty-five years old. He was also newly sober and seemed ready to take on the 90s head on. It was a very dark day for music.


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