At the very least, Cliffites have a small bone to pick with the folks in Austin.
The Texas capital city claims the legendary Stevie Ray Vaughan as their “favorite adopted son”. There is, however, one small problem. No one in Oak Cliff signed the adoption papers.
Granted, Stevie Ray played more in Austin as an older teen and early 20-something than at any other place on the planet. However, Dallas — Oak Cliff — was his home, where he got his start, where he experimented with style, where he always returned. Cliffites continue to claim him as our hometown treasure.
That will never change.
Stephen Ray Vaughan was born at Methodist hospital on Oct. 3, 1954, and attended Lenora Kirk Hall Elementary School, L. V. Stockard Junior High and Justin F. Kimball High School. The blues legend, singer, songwriter, composer and six-time Grammy winner was a product of his working class Oak Cliff community, learning to play the acoustic guitar while sitting in his bedroom inside his family’s modest home at 2557 Glenfield.
Then, along with older brother Jimmie, Stevie became obsessed with the amplified sounds of the electronic guitar.
Stevie played at the Cockrell Hill Jamboree, at the Rocket Skating Palace, at Candy’s Flare (inside the Red Bird National Guard Armory) and at Kimball High School events, Oak Cliff Country Club, and then various clubs and stages around Dallas. He even auditioned for the Kimball Knight Beats jazz band, but didn’t make the cut. He couldn’t read music.
During Christmas break of his ’72 high school senior year, the then “Steve” Vaughan made the life-altering decision to forgo graduation and move to Austin, to pursue his music career and join the others who had done the same. Traveling there most weekends anyway, Austin provided the atmosphere and habitat for this young musician to develop further — without parents, teachers, rules or curfews.
Learning, growing, experimenting, and developing his own style, he blossomed into a true guitar wizard.
In 1982, after being the first unsigned and unrecorded artists to ever play at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival, Stevie Ray Vaughan and his band, Double Trouble, began their ascent up the entertainment ladder. Announced as the 1984 W.C. Handy Award winner (now renamed the Blues Music Award) for both Blues Instrumentalist and Blues Entertainer of the Year — in the latter, he was the first non African-American artist to garner the title. In 2003, he was named, posthumously, as No. 7 on Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.
Granted, Jimi Hendrix, who tops the list, was amazing, but SRV fans might challenge the magazine on its No. 7 choice. Our vote for Stevie might be at least No. 2.
Whenever on hiatus, or on tour in the tri-state area, Stevie made frequent trips back to Oak Cliff, sometimes spending holidays with his family. When he returned from drug and alcohol rehab in 1986, the world famous musician made a bold decision: He moved in with his widowed mother, Martha — back to his Oak Cliff childhood home. When he purchased the first home of his own, he chose a Dallas condo, to go along with another address in New York City where his girlfriend worked as a model.
Stevie was comfortable in Oak Cliff and Dallas, and, when not on tour or recording or in NYC, he navigated Dallas’ streets, attempting to live a relatively normal life, maintaining his sobriety. On the last Thanksgiving before his untimely death, one Cliffite told me he passed Stevie in the aisle of the Hampton-Illinois Minyard grocery store, assumably making a last-minute purchase for his mother — picking up a missing ingredient for the family Thanksgiving dinner held at the Glenfield home.
In most ways, Stevie remained a hometown boy, even mowing his mother’s lawn on occasion when he visited and always being kind to old friends. Stopping by unannounced at the 1988 Oak Cliff Reunion, held at Dallas’ Longhorn Ballroom, the crowd was electrified with his surprise performance when he hopped on stage, grabbed a secretly prepared guitar, and joined the other musicians. It brought down the house!
Born in Oak Cliff, Stevie was also laid to rest in Oak Cliff. Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Wonder, Jackson Browne and Dr. John were among the celebrities participating in the funeral service. Stevie was buried at Laurel Land Cemetery on Aug. 30, 1990, after his tragic death in a Wisconsin helicopter crash three days earlier.
With the death of Stevie’s father in 1986 and his mother in 2009, three of the four family members are now together in the cemetery’s Vaughan Estate, where Stevie’s sizable bronze grave marker is continually adorned with guitar picks, flowers and other mementos left by adoring fans. Oak Cliff’s beloved music legend and American success story, Stevie Ray Vaughan, is now permanently home.
Rest in peace, sweet son.