Double Trouble Doubles Success
Montreux Recordings Trace Ascent of Vaughan and BandBy Amy Meadows
When Stevie Ray Vaughan made his debut at the Montreux Jazz festival in 1982, he was booed off the stage by the Swiss audience. Vaughan and his band, Double Trouble, were a blues act from Austin, Texas. He returned nearly 3 years to the day, a triumphant success. The 1985 audience adored Vaughan, who by then had a few hits to his name. On the live album, he remarks that Montreux gave him his first boos and his first Grammy.
The double album Live at Montreux captures both of these performances. Even in 1982, Vaughan was a well-practiced and traveled guitarist. He had toured extensively on the southern blues circuit. By the time he died in a plane crash in 1990, Vaughan was acclaimed as one of the best blues guitarist in history. In the decade since then, no one has filled the void left by Vaughan in the blues world.
Although Vaughan was disliked by the 1982 audience, his performance was earnest and energetic; he displayed not only practice, but raw emotion and skill. Vaughan and Double Trouble showed an enormous range, from the silly “Give Me Back My Wig” (“Give me back my wig/honey, let your hair grow out”) to the subtle and sad “Texas Flood.”
The 1982 Montreux festival also proved to be a big break for Vaughan and the band. In the audience were David Bowie and Jackson Browne; Vaughan’s performance impressed Bowie so much that he invited Vaughan to play guitar on his record Let’s Dance, a departure for Vaughan, but a hugely successful one. Vaughan also played on Bowie’s tour to promote the album.
Jackson Browne allowed Vaughan and Double Trouble to use his studio, free of charge. This allowed the band to complete Texas Flood, an album that eventually won wide critical acclaim.
When Vaughan returned to the Montreux stage in 1985, he was a conquering hero. His performance in 1982 was strong, and the 1985 one was even stronger. His energy and vitality permeates all the songs, even the sad, slow blues numbers. The album begins with two upbeat, rock-like numbers, “Scuttle Buttin’” and “Say What!” He moves into the slow and sad traditional blues numbers with “Tin Pan Alley” (with Johnny Copeland) and “Ain’t Gone ‘N’ Give up on Love.”
On the 1985 disc, Vaughan has matured into a guitar virtuoso. By that time, he had several hits, including “Pride and Joy,” under his belt. The 1985 show is twice as long as the 1982 one, and his performance makes it clear that Vaughan enjoyed the reversal in attitude of his listeners.
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble are captured at the beginning of their careers on the Live at Montreux discs. The compilation is both a fascinating history for long-time fans, and a good introduction for new listeners.