Meeting Stevie, ala Hunter S Thompson

First shot of Stevie Ray Vaughan, backstage at Fitzgerald'sSomething I wrote a little while back about my first encounter with Stevie Ray Vaughan at Fitzgerald’s in Houston. Truly a life changing experience. The memories will come flying back tonight when I see Ian Moore at the Old Polish Hall.Stevie Ray Vaughan, 3/25/1983

I first saw him at a soundcheck and I was blown away:
WE WERE SOMEWHERE NEAR THE STAGE WHEN THE MUSIC BEGAN TO TAKE HOLD……(March 25, 1983) I’d been sent with two writers in tow by a local free new wave paper to photograph the guitar phenom who was about to become David Bowie’s right hand man and leave Oak Cliff behind for good. This small, unassuming Texan stood up there with his battered Strat and his beautiful, huge hands and let loose a flurry of chords that flew around us and enveloped us in–in-disbelief? Shock? It was the second coming of Hendrix, Muddy Waters, and something so unique and alive there was nothing to compare it to. And this was a sound check? He was playing for us, for his bandmates Whipper and Tommy and his man Cutter, he was playing for himself, he was playing for a ride on the train to glory, he was playing because he just couldn’t hold back from the sheer need to wring and wrench those sounds out of his hands, his heart, and his soul. I was in heaven: I’d dreamt of capturing Hendrix on film but I was several years shy of that goal. Here was a man who made me forget I couldn’t be Jim Marshall, that my Leicas had been denied their shot at immortality. This music man would fill that classic 35mm frame with a talent enormous enough to match any headcutter who ever filled a club with his riffs and his voice–he and his instruments voices–and sear that sound onto the film and into our brains with an unmatchable intensity. The desire to raise my photography and my (as Ansel Adams would call it) fluency with my instrument near his level was almost unbearable. It was truly the turning point in my work–that special moment when everything becomes clear and sharp and intuitive–and it was because of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Time stood still for me–the first video Stevie made for MTV scared the bejesus out of me–did his hands really move that fast? Through the rangefinder his motions slowed to 1/30 of a second-an attainable photo, on TV it looked unimaginable that any camera could catch a fragment of his action. Something about him, his playing, the way he gave made that possible for me. Through some wonderful gift, and the size of his spirit, I hear him still. And this, this first witnessing of the sound that shot right through us-this was just a sound check?


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