Monday, October 26, 2009

Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble: Superstition

Well, I am back from nearly a week’s hiatus working on a certification in Chicago and am ready to resume my blog entries on music. Because Halloween comes this Saturday, I thought I would create a theme along those lines and work it into my daily features.

Halloween was always one of my favorite holidays as usually meant getting a huge haul of candy. In the 1960s, Arlington Plan of North Versailles and nearby East McKeesport, Pennsylvania (my haunts) were known for the residents' generosity and an overwhelming abundance of "treats," lest those who did not give were "tricked." The tricks were called "tic-tacs" or being "tic-tacced." I am not sure of the etymological derivation of the term, but I recently heard a person from Pittsburgh area still speak of being "tic-tacced."

It was generally the older boys who pulled the worst pranks, such as soaping windows and the like - most of us played more harmless pranks in the days following Halloween, such as ringing a person's doorbell and running and hiding. The extension of these doorbell pranks were telephone pranks that, because of caller ID, are now obsolete. Since there was an abundance of "treats," rarely was there ever a reason for "tricks" to be played. Ah yes, the smell of pumpkin pie, the chill of the air, and the large Mars candy bars that were common in the days before the food industry began to use smaller packaging.

For today's Halloween feature, may I haunt you with a cover of Stevie Wonder’s 1972 hit “Superstition.” There are several respectable covers to Stevie’s song that hold up fairly well in comparison. Initially, I was going to choose the earliest cover of the song, which was recorded by Beck, Bogert, and Appice in 1973. This version teamed awesome British guitarist Jeff Beck with the rhythm section from Vanilla Fudge. While having its merits, it is a little heavy for a Monday – so I decided to pass on Jeff Beck and company. As an aside, Beck’s later performances of the song featured a talk-box, which was made famous by Peter Frampton on his "Frampton Comes Alive" album.

There is also the version by the Jonas Brothers. Although, it's a fairly decent rendition, I cannot see myself featuring the Jonas Brothers on this blog. Preferring, ahem, more mature musicians, I decided to feature Stevie Ray Vaughan’s recording that is accompanied by a very amusing video. You must continue watching the video even after the music ends for the surprise.

Stevie Ray Vaughan burst on the music scene in 1983 when he was given the opportunity to play lead guitar on David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” album. At the same time Bowie’s largest selling LP was receiving airplay, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble’s debut album, recorded at Jackson Browne’s studio, was being released on Epic Records. Producer John Hammond signed Stevie Ray to the CBS label.

Vaughan was in good company, as Mr. Hammond is credited with discovering Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Bruce Sprinsteen, and a host of others. In 1983, Guitar Player named Vaughan as “Best New Talent” and “Best Electric Blues Guitarist.” Additionally, GP named his debut LP as the “Best Guitar Album.” By 1984, Vaughan was the National Blues Awards’ “Entertainer of the Year” and “Instrumentalist of the Year.”

While "SRV" had an illustrious career, it was tragically cut short on August 27, 1990 when a helicopter in which he was a passenger crashed in East Troy, Wisconsin killing all five on board. The rock and blues world lost a guitar genius when Stevie passed; however, a bigger tragedy would have been never having the opportunity to hear his overwhelming talent in the first place. Rest in peace – rock on.

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