Fire, Light, and Heavy Things
by Stevie Ray Vaughan
One of Americas foremost blues
based players, Stevie Ray Vaughan
has been a lifelong fan of Jimi Hendrix.
SEE THAT JIMI HENDRIX WAS A BLUES PLAYER; some people really do
see it. I dont know whether to call Hendrix a blues
player along with a lot of the originals.
He did play with a lot of those people, and he did a lot
of it during that heyday before he got famous. Its like
he was there at the peak and the tail end of something. He
was doing that stuff as it was going on. I hear not just the
newer stuff that everybody seems to think was really
different and a lot of it is but to my ears,
theres just as much of the old-style warmth. I hear it
in Red House. I hear it in just the way he
approaches things. Even though he was not ashamed of doing
some things different, I still hear the roots of the old
style. Not just roots but the whole attitude of it.
To me, hes like the Bo Diddley of a different
generation. If you were a kid and heard Bo Diddley for the
first time back when all that was going on, wouldnt you
think that was the wildest thing youve ever heard?
Im not saying that Jimi Hendrix was a Bo Diddley, but
he was that different. So were Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry.
Jimi just happened to have those influences as well.
The first time I ever heard Jimis name was when my
brother brought home a record of his. I guess it was around
67, and Jimmy had found it in a trash bin. He
recognized it because hed seen a short paragraph about
Jimi Hendrix in a magazine, and he knew he was supposed to be
something really happening. He put it on the record player,
and what could you do but say YEAH! (laughs). It really
knocked my socks off. It seemed that Jimmy would bring home
stuff, and it would be months before you would hear it
anywhere else. he would get into a certain style of music,
and he would bring home all these things by people who were
from the same school. So a lot of the different influences
that were on Jimi Hendrix, I heard those at the same time
Albert King and Lonnie Mack and Albert Collins and
I actually learned to play from Jimis records. I
remember getting my little stereo an Airline with the
cardboard satellite speakers and I would mike that up
with a Shure PA that I had in my bedroom. For some of my
first gigs, Id rent four separate reverbs, and
Ive have all this set up in my room. Of course, the
parents were at work. I would go in there and floorboard it,
dress up as cool as I could, and try to learn his stuff. It
all went together. I did the same with a lot of BB King
records. If somebody would have walked into the room, they
probably would have gone what are you doing?
(laughs) cause I wouldnt stop at one place,
Id go for every bit of it I could find. I remember
doing it a lot with Axis: Bold as Love, even
though I didnt have the phasing deals and Im sure
I didnt have a lot of the sounds. But some of them I
could find. Jimi had a Strat, and I would use a Telecaster
with some different pickups in it. I had rebuilt the guitar
myself there was some blood in it, you know and
I would go as far as I could to get as close as I could.
Jimi used a right handed guitar that was set up for a left
hander. I have guitars with necks set up that way, and there
is a difference in the string tension. However, the main
thing I noticed about it is the neck feels different because
its shaped backwards. Another thing thats a lot
different is where the wang-bar is on the top instead of on
the bottom. Whether I hold it with the same grip as if it was
in the other place or not, it still feels different to me at
the top. It seems more approachable.
When Jimi used a whammy during blues, he did it cool. I
think if somebody else would have thought about it first,
they wouldve done it, too. I dont think Jimi was
the first though, because of a record by Sly Williams. I
think Hendrix mustve heard this guy and gone my
God, I need to check this out! It sounds like something
Hendrix would do, except it was recorded in 58
.Its on Blues in D Natural", a compilation
album by Red Lightnin, and the number is 005. Its
an English import. The sides are called Boot Hill
and I Believe In a Woman by Sly Williams. Go get
you a copy and listen to it, and youll go
shit! Ive never heard anybody other than
Hendrix get this intensity and play as wild as this guy. And
he uses a wang-bar real radical. Its like the guys
teeth are sticking out of the record. Its unbelievable.
Every time I hear it, it seems impossible that Hendrix
didnt hear this guy. And some people think that it
might be Jimi playing the guitar.
A lot of what made Jimi distinctive was his touch and his
confidence. And his touch was not just felt in his playing,
but in his perspective on everything. He seemed to be
reaching up for more-not just more recognition, but more
giving. I may be wrong about it, but thats what I get
out of it. And he did that with his touch on the guitar, with
his sounds, and with his whole attitude.
Im trying to get as close to the natural old-style
sound as possible, and I think a lot of Jimis tones
were that way. He was just reaching for the best tone he
could find. Actually, I think a lot of his tones were just
thats the way he heard them. He didnt have to
worry about it, which is something I do a lot. Im a
Why is Jimi so popular today? I think a lot of people need
what he had to offer musically. There was a lot of honesty in
it. People are looking back because they miss something. A
lot of people tend to look somewhere else for something that
they want to fix them. His music is wonderful. Its full
of fire, its full of light, uplifting things and heavy
things. It can mean anything from one day to the next,
really. I think a lot of people miss what his music was doing
for them. And a lot of new people are coming around to going
Whats this? In very few instances has
anybody surpassed what he did. His music should be popular.
Its a damn shame that hes dead and gone and now
is when people are listening, but at the same time, Im
glad theyre listening.
Thanks to Brant Chapman