Alan Paul and Andy Aledort – Texas Flood | Book Review

Alan Paul and Andy AledortTexas Flood: The Inside Story Of Stevie Ray Vaughan

St. Martin’s Press

343 Pages

Almost thirty years after his tragic death, the legacy of Stevie Ray Vaughan is still being explored nightly by guitar players on stages around the world. Just as Jimi Hendrix blew the minds of several generations of string benders, Vaughan synthesized the essence of Hendrix’s style, then added plenty of personal touches to create a new, exciting sound that vividly expressed Vaughan’s fervent passion for the music.

There are already five books available chronicling Vaughan’s career plus a multitude of books with guitar transcription to help guitarists unravel the magic of his artistry. What makes this latest volume unique is the style utilized by authors Alan Paul and Andy Aledort. Similar to his critically acclaimed book on the Allman Brothers Band, One Way Out, Paul lays out Vaughan’s life chronologically, using segments of interviews from family members, friends, and fellow musicians that were gathered over several decades. Aledort is a working guitarist with scores of instructional videos to his credit, as well as writing for publications like Guitar World.

From the start, the younger Vaughan brother idolized his brother Jimmie, leading him to start playing guitar. Jimmie also had the records that gave Stevie Ray a solid foundation to learn from, featuring Muddy Waters and Little Walter to Guitar Slim, T-Bone Walker, and Lightnin’ Hopkins. Vaughan was constantly playing or listening to music, with little time for anything else. For years he relied on the generosity of friends, as he had no place of his own. Jimmie left Dallas in 1970, moving to Austin, and his brother made the move two years later. After several bad band experiences, Stevie Ray became a member of a hot local band, Paul Ray and The Cobras, who packed the Soap Creek Saloon with 500-600 people every Tuesday night, with Vaughan standing out when he played an extended slow blues. Then he was part of the Triple Threat Revue with singer Lou Ann Barton and W.C. Clark on bass and vocals.

With five strong personalities in the group, that band did not last long. Clark left and the group changed their name to Double Trouble. Still living couch to couch, and deep into substance abuse, Vaughan was not the most focused band leader. Help arrived when a friend suggested that he give Chris Layton a try on drums. With some coaching from Clark, Layton found the grooves that appealed to Vaughan. As a quartet with Barton out front, the group did a stunning set at the 1979 San Francisco Blues Festival, their first major gig outside of Texas. But by the end of the year, Barton had left to join Roomful of Blues, leaving the band a trio. The final piece was added when Vaughan rescued Tommy Shannon from brick laying to take over on bass, a job he had previously held in Johnny Winter’s band.

From there, the authors lay out Vaughan’s rapid rise to fame through interview segments with many of the key people in Vaughan’s life. They delve into many of the stories that defined the band’s career, including getting rejected by Bruce Iglauer of Alligator Records for being too loud and rock-oriented, to his involvement with David Bowie’s platinum record, Let’s Dance, which served as Vaughan’s coming out party. Readers get an in-depth view of the events that transpired around plans for a world-wide Bowie tour as Vaughan’s first album, Texas Flood, was about to hit the market. Also included is a wealth of B&W and color photos documenting Vaughan’s story in vivid detail.

While many readers are probably familiar with Vaughan’s musical legacy, all but the most devoted fans will certainly gain a deeper understanding of his artistry after reading this book. The insights of family, band members, and close friends create vivid portraits of the guitarist at various points in his career while broadening the understanding of his musical genius. It is all there – the wife that constantly turned his world upside down, the two band mates who become close friends and integral parts of his musical vision, the nights when the music burned red hot, and other nights when the constant touring left him feeling beaten down and creatively drained.

By the time the band recorded their Live Alive double album, the wheels were coming off. Following a near fatal medical incident, Vaughan checks himself into a rehab facility to begin his climb back to the pinnacle he had once occupied. The final chapters chronicle his devotion to staying clean and sober, a focus that also elevate his playing to often stunning heights of virtuosity. He also teamed with brother Jimmie to fulfill the dream of making an album together, the Family Style record. And then he was gone…….

Stevie Ray Vaughan was a once-in-a-generation musician who redefined the music. Paul and Aledort have managed to capture the essence of his story, the magic in his six string excursions, and, in doing so, make us treasure even more deeply the gifts he left us. This biography comes highly recommended!

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