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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

August 27, 1990

Before I go ahead with today's Tuesday Timeline, I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to finally talk about long-buried issues that I have had all this time, and for offering support in the current situation that I am in.

It was really hard for me to come to terms with everything...and it makes me sad to conclude that at this time, there is nothing more that I can do except pick myself up, dust myself off, and continue living my life with people who actually want to be a part of it. I will not allow myself to be treated like an afterthought any longer.

I guess the hardest part about this is admitting everything and putting it out in the open. As I explained yesterday, this was the most candid that I have ever been in this blog. It wasn't my intention to purposely hurt anybody with my comments – more like a way to try and process everything that happened, and trying to understand why I'm suddenly public enemy number one to those who are supposed to be closest to me. I don't understand the reasoning behind it, and as long as I live, I honestly don't think that I will ever understand it.

The only thing that has been made crystal clear is that maybe this is the time in which I need to start giving myself a little bit of TLC...and I don't mean that group who had several top 10 singles between 1992 and 2000 either.

I'm tired of having relationships with people who only stick around when they want something and then once I give it to them they disappear into the night until the next time they need something. I'm at the point right now where I will not put up with it any longer. I need people in my life who will be there as friends in any type of weather...not just fair weather. And maybe that means that I have to make some serious decisions over who I spend my time with. Time is so precious. Why waste it on those who don't matter?

In fact, I'm just going to leave you with one thought, courtesy of a long-time reader and friend of the blog. “Family doesn't have to just include those who are blood-related.”

I think that's something that I really need to hold on to as I proceed with the rest of my life. And while there is always the possibility that things will eventually blow over...I can't guarantee it. So, that's why I need to do the only thing I can do and just start focusing on what I want out of life, and to stop living for other people.

And now, the events of August 27.

410 – The sacking of Rome by the Visigoths ends after three days

1776 – British forces under the command of General William Howe defeats Americans under General George Washington in the Battle of Long Island

1813 – Emperor Napoleon I defeats a larger force of Austrians, Prussians, and Russians at the Battle of Dresden

1832 – Black Hawk, leader of the Sauk tribe, surrenders to U.S. Authorities, which ends the Black Hawk War

1859 – Petroleum is discovered in the community of Titusville, Pennsylvania which leads to the discovery of the world's first commercially successful oil well

1916 – Romania declares war against Austria-Hungary

1927 – Five women from Canada file a petition to the Supreme Court of Canada asking
“Does the word persons in Section 24 of the British North American Act, 1867, include female persons?”

1928 – The Kellogg-Briand Pact outlawing war is signed by the first fifteen nations to do so

1962 – The Mariner 2 unmanned space mission is launched into Venus by NASA

1964 – Hollywood film and television legend Gracie Allen dies of a heart attack at the age of 69

1967 – Brian Epstein, discoverer of The Beatles dies of a drug overdose at just 32 years of age

1971 – African nation Chad severs its diplomatic ties with Egypt following the failure of an attempted coup in the nation

1993 – Japan's Rainbow Bridge (connecting Tokyo's Shibaura to the island of Odaiba) is completed

2000 – Moscow's Ostankino Tower catches on fire, killing three people

2003 – Mars makes its closest approach to the planet Earth in nearly sixty thousand years

2008 – Australian actor Mark Priestley dies at the age of 32 after leaping from the window of his hotel room

And, celebrating a birthday this twenty-seventh day of August are Tommy Sands, Harrison Page, Daryl Dragon, Tuesday Weld, G.W. Bailey, Barbara Bach, Charles Fleischer, Paul “Pee-Wee” Reubens, Alex Lifeson, Downtown Julie Brown, Yolanda Adams, Robert Bogue, Cesar Millan, Chandra Wilson, Tony Kanal (No Doubt), Jimmy Pop, Jonny Moseley, Sarah Chalke, Aaron Paul, Kyle Lowder, Demetria McKinney, and Alexa Vega.

So, the date is August 27. But what year will we be visiting this time around?

How about we go back in time twenty-three years to August 27, 1990?

I actually somewhat remember August 27, 1990. I was nine years old and was about to enter the fourth grade in school. In all likelihood, I was probably at the mall with my mom shopping for back to school supplies which included a neon coloured pencil case, a pair of UHU Glue Sticks, and Laurentian brand pencil crayons (which sadly are now a defunct brand). And it was also the day before my parents celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, which was kind of cool. The plaque that they received from the mayor of our city at the time celebrating the milestone still hangs on their wall today. Hard to believe that in a couple of years, they will be celebrating anniversary number fifty! That makes me (and them) feel real old now!

Sadly, August 27, 1990 was a day that was very tragic in the world of music history. That was the day that the world lost a talented blues guitarist and singer in a devastating helicopter accident.

Hours before the crash occurred, this performer and his band had just finished performing at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin, and their next destination was Chicago, Illinois.  The helicopters - four of them - were waiting for him and his band members and the helicopters took off as scheduled despite the fact that the visibility wasn't exactly the greatest.  According to witnesses who were there at the time, the conditions were foggy and hazy.  Certainly not the most ideal conditions to go up in the air with a helicopter.

And yet the helicopters took off as planned, and the pilots were instructed to fly over a hill that was over a thousand feet in altitude (during the winter months, it was used for skiing).

The helicopters departed just before one in the morning on August 27, 1990 from an elevation of approximately 850 feet.  The pilot, Jeff Brown, was instructed to pilot the helicopter to Meigs Field.

They never made it.

The helicopter smashed into the side of the mountain, killing everybody on board.  It wasn't until four-thirty in the morning until Civil Air Patrol was notified of the accident, and it took another three hours before they could reach the site of the crash.  The bodies of everybody on board were nearly impossible to identify.  Believe it or not, it took musician Eric Clapton, and Jimmie Vaughan to identify the body of Jimmie's brother...a man who he had just recorded an album with earlier that year.

In addition to Jeff Brown, the other victims of the crash were Bobby Brooks, Nigel Browne, Colin Smythe...

...and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

The death of Stevie Ray Vaughan was a tragic shock to his fans and family members.  He died at just thirty-five years old at a time in which his music was at its peak.  He was the founder of his band, "Double Trouble", and together, he made beautiful music that blended soulful blues with rock music, and his skill with a guitar was almost legendary.

It should not have ended this way.

Stevie Ray Vaughan was born on October 3, 1954 in Dallas, Texas.  He was the second son of "Big Jim" and Martha Vaughan, a younger brother for Jimmie, who was born three years earlier in 1951.  And, it became clear at an early age that Stevie Ray Vaughan was destined to become a musical genius.  After trying his hand playing the saxophone and drums, Stevie Ray Vaughan received his very first guitar on October 3, 1961 - his seventh birthday.

Mind you, it wasn't your typical guitar.  It was a toy guitar that came from Sears.  But still, it was good enough for Vaughan, who taught himself how to play the songs "Wine, Wine, Wine" and "Thunderbird" - two songs by The Nightbirds.  Ironically enough, Vaughan had absolutely no interest in doing any formal training.  Instead, he learned how to play guitar through a more kinesthetic/auditory approach.  Listening to his brother's records by Muddy Waters and B.B. King, he managed to learn and duplicate the guitar chords and solos that he heard from the album.  He would later purchase an album by Lonnie Mack, which also helped him perfect his craft, as did Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze".  Even though his childhood was not exactly the most pleasant (his father was a violent drunk, and he had very few friends), he found a way to get through it through music.

In 1965, when Vaughan was just ten, he founded his first band, "The Chantones", and his first public performance was held that June at a talent show.  But even though Vaughan liked performing, his parents didn't quite support his career aspirations, and he ended up taking on a job as a dishwasher where he made seventy cents an hour.  He would later quit that job following a near mishap with a barrel of hot grease, and would make the decision to focus on music full time.

After dropping out of high school when he was sixteen, Stevie Ray followed his older brother to Austin, Texas on the final day of 1971, and began engrossing himself with the music scene there.  During the 1970s, he was a party of several bands.  He was a member of Krackerjack (formerly known as Bluebird), Marc Benno and the Nightcrawlers, Paul Ray and the Cobras, and Triple Threat Revue.

And it was at the tail end of the 1970s that Vaughan would form the line-up of his most successful band - Double Trouble.  The group had a revolving door of musicians coming and going, but one could argue that the band line-up that most people would consider to be the most recognizable was that of Vaughan, drummer Chris Layton, bassist Tommy Shannon, and keyboardist Reese Wynans.

As the seventies morphed into the eighties, Double Trouble started off slowly.  They meticulously started building a fan base, and by 1983 they were starting to get the attention of various record producers and singers.

Including David Bowie.

I'm not sure if you all knew this or not, but Stevie Ray Vaughan was a huge part of David Bowie's 1983 album "Let's Dance".  He played lead guitar on several of the album's singles including the title track, which you can hear below.

This song reached the top of the charts in May 1983, might I add.  A huge achievement for Stevie Ray Vaughan, even though all he did on the single was play that awesome guitar solo midway through the song.  Vaughan was even asked to go on tour with David Bowie to promote the album, but on the urging of Vaughan's management team, he declined.

Instead, he decided to focus on releasing material himself.  In June of 1983, Vaughan released his debut album with Double Trouble, "Texas Flood", which spawned the singles "Pride and Joy", and "Love Struck Baby".  Soon after, the band opened up for The Moody Blues, and landed a guest appearance on the television show "Austin City Limits", where he performed along with his brother's band, "The Fabulous Thunderbirds".  It would just be the first of many appearances by Vaughan.  Just have a look at one of Stevie's performances.

Their follow-up album, "Couldn't Stand The Weather" was accompanied by music videos that soon received a lot of airplay on MTV.  The band had also received a couple of Grammy nominations in 1984 for "Texas Flood".

However, there were some barriers that Stevie Ray Vaughan had to overcome over the years.  One was a serious case of stage fright.  He was incredibly nervous playing in front of large crowds, and many people noted that he would always be sweating a lot during performances, and that he had absolutely zero self-confidence on stage.  However, by the mid-1980s, he had seemingly found his groove.

And then there was Stevie's addiction to drugs and alcohol, which seemed to spin out of control right around the time that the band released their 1985 album "Soul to Soul".  His contract for performances always called for two-fifths Crown Royal and one-fifth Scotch.

He also developed a cocaine habit while Double Trouble toured.  It started off being a casual routine, but quickly developed into absolutely dependency.  At one point, Stevie's cocaine use was so out of control that he once dissolved some cocaine into a glass of alcohol and cause serious damage to his stomach lining.  The event that seemed to shock Stevie back to reality took place in Ludwigshafen, Germany, when he tried to get up and threw up over himself, realizing that he was covered with blood at the same time.

It was enough of a scare for Vaughan to quit drugs and alcohol altogether.  And after completing treatment in a rehabilitation centre, he would become one hundred per cent sober by 1987, and remained that way for the rest of his life.

In his last few years, Vaughan was determined to make up for all of the time he lost due to his addiction to drugs and alcohol.  Double Trouble returned to the recording studios to record the 1989 album, "In Step", which proved to be the band's best effort yet.  And this song was a huge part of that success.

ARTIST:  Stevie Ray Vaughan
SONG:  Crossfire
ALBUM:  In Step

Stevie's personal life was also thriving.  After his marriage broke-up, he began dating Janna Lapidus, a Russian-born model whom Stevie had met back in 1986.  She visited him while he was recovering from his drug abuse, and at the time of Stevie's death, they were still together.  He had also recorded an album with his brother Jimmie Vaughan entitled "Family Style", which was released a month after Stevie's death, in September 1990.  But perhaps the one thing that Stevie was most proud of was his new found sobriety.  He attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in January 1990, which has since been transcribed and posted on the Internet (you can hear a portion of it if you click HERE).  He continued to make healthy living a priority in his life, and I imagine that had he lived, we would have seen him do so much more with his life.

At the very least though, if there's any sort of consolation regarding his death, it is that he spent his last few days doing what he loved.  The day before his death, August 26, 1990, Double Trouble was on tour with Eric Clapton as his opening act, and one of the final moments of the August 26 show involved both Vaughan brothers, Clapton, Robert Cray, and Buddy Guy performing a jam-session to "Sweet Home Chicago".  And perhaps this excerpt from Double Trouble band member Chris Layton would best describe how Stevie Ray Vaughan was feeling just hours before that fatal helicopter ride.

"The conversation was actually very light; there was nothing heavy in it. It was just like, 'this is a great coupla nights and wasn't it great to be here,' and talked about the record that he and Jimmie just made, how they had a lot of fun and that was exciting. He was looking forward to that coming out and looking forward to us making another record. He was in great spirits. I mean, we just had two great nights and we talked about all kinds of stuff, talked about the son that my wife and I were getting ready to have–we didn't know it was a boy–but just anything and everything. We talked for, I guess, almost 30 minutes.
Then he got up and said, 'I'm gonna go back down to the dressing room for a minute.' I don't know, maybe five minutes or so later, he came back up and he had his jacket on, he had his bags. He was making this turn, and I said, 'Hey, what are you doin'?' And he said, 'I'm gonna go back to Chicago.' I said 'Well, now?' And he said, 'Yeah, I gotta get back. I want to call Janna,' his girlfriend, in New York. I thought, 'Jeez, you could actually call her anywhere and then call her later,' but he turned around and said, 'Call me when you get back. I love you,' and kinda gave me that wink of the eye he would do. And then he was gone. He just disappeared into the night."

Stevie Ray Vaughan

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