(Almost) 30 Years Out: Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1979


Down in Texas, Juneteenth is a big deal.  It’s even a holiday for some — it celebrates the day back in 1865 when slaves in Texas first learned they had been emancipated by President Abraham Lincoln two years earlier.  So we celebrate, and in 1979 the way to do it was with a good old blues festival.

Everyone was listening to disco and punk at the time, and the blues had kind of gone underground.  You had Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker still going strong, but in blues strongholds like Chicago and Detroit.  Muddy played the first Juneteenth festival in Houston, in 1977, and John Lee was a headliner for this one.  Houston’s Lightnin’ Hopkins and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, from Orange, Texas, were local favorites and Professor Longhair was a good neighbor from New Orleans who came over a lot.  Big Mama Thornton was, well, big and always excellent.

But the act that made the biggest splash of the two-day festival was an Austin-based combo, Lou Ann Barton and Double Trouble.  Actually, it wasn’t the whole band people noticed, it was the guitar player — a slicked-down dude name o’ Stevie Ray.

The Fabulous Thunderbirds, featuring Stevie Ray’s brother Jimmie, were making a name for themselves and were favorites at this festival.  White boys usually didn’t play the blues this good, but the T-Birds flat-out rocked.  So we were eager to hear Lou Ann’s band, because they were cut from the same Austin cloth. 

As you can see from the program above, the band was scheduled to play the first day of the festival.  But my memory seems to be that they were added to the second day after tearing down Hermann Park’s outdoor stage the day before.

Lou Ann’s got a great voice, but man!  Stevie Ray ripped a few fiery solos and everyone just went whoa, this boy can PLAY.  And play he did — over his head, behind his head, with his tongue, and if I remember correctly (June + Blues + Beer = Memory Loss) he even played with his feet.  I went with this guy Glenn, who was transfixed.  We both walked up to the front of the amphitheater to get a good look at this guy who surely made a deal with the devil.

Dude was so hot that when the concert ended that night (about midnight) we made the 90-minute drive back to Beaumont and immediately woke up our buddy Randy, who had a radio shift that night.  I’m sure he really appreciated hearing two drunks raving about this wild guitar slinger at 2 in the morning.  This Stevie Ray Vaughan was a hellhound, and we knew everyone would hear about him sooner or later.  The blues were back, and Stevie Ray set them free.

MP3: My Baby’s Gone – Lou Ann Barton and Double Trouble (recorded live at Juneteenth Blues Festival, June 1979)

Stevie Ray Vaughan fan club website


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