As band mates and best friends, Tommy Shannon and Stevie Ray Vaughan went on the road, roomed together and kicked drugs together, all while reinventing Texas blues as two-thirds of the group Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble.
Nearly 20 years after Vaughan's death in a helicopter crash on Aug. 27, 1990, he is being celebrated with today's release of the band's remastered and expanded second album, Couldn't Stand the Weather: Legacy Edition (Epic/Legacy).
Shannon, the band's bassist, recalled the genius of the legendary blues guitarist.
"The music took us, as much as us taking the music forward," he said from his Austin home. "It came natural."
Double Trouble, which included drummer Chris Layton, was an incredibly tight trio.
"We were really passionate about the music," Shannon said. "We were kind of like family."
The band played an aggressive, rocked-out vision of the blues. Shannon, now 63, called it a "no excuses" style of making music.
The two-CD Legacy Edition includes a photo booklet, liner notes and an unreleased live concert from August 1984, recorded at the Spectrum in Montreal.
In life, Vaughan was a quiet, humble man. In death, the blues prodigy (Vaughan created buzz as a teenager with Paul Ray & the Cobras) became one of the most imitated of rock gods.
He'd be honored by all the attention, Shannon said. But he'd also have a message for young guitarists: "He'd probably tell the guitar players to develop their own style."
Shannon first played with Vaughan, then 15, in the bands Blackbird and Krackerjack.
Years later, while on the road, they listened to old blues and George Jones. "Stevie and I loved George Jones," he recalled. "Sometimes, after a show, we'd get on the bus and put on George Jones and just listen. We were open to other kinds of music."
Shannon recounted Vaughan's obsession with Jimi Hendrix. Couldn't Stand the Weather includes studio and live versions of Hendrix's Voodoo Child (Slight Return) and Little Wing.
"Hendrix is still the best rock-blues guitar player that ever lived," Shannon says. "It's almost like he came from outer space. Stevie was really drawn to his music, and he learned a lot from Hendrix. Hendrix was light-years ahead of everybody."
Vaughan nailed him.
"People that can't play Hendrix shouldn't try it. It's almost like a sacred thing. If you're going to do a Hendrix song and do it bad, you shouldn't be playing it."
The band struggled on the bar scene for a long time. "A lot of labels wouldn't sign us because they didn't think blues would sell. It was (producer) John Hammond (who believed)."
Originally issued in May 1984, Couldn't Stand the Weather was the group's first album to be certified gold and the first to go platinum.
Despite their success, Shannon and Vaughan eventually "hit rock bottom real hard." Both were addicted to cocaine and booze for years.
"We both got clean and sober on the same day: Oct. 13, 1986," he says. "It was just a choice, did we want to live or die? If we'd gone on another six months, we would have died."
Shannon speaks with pride about helping to create the sound that is the rockin' Texas blues.
"We just approached blues like we did rock 'n' roll, and it became power blues. We came out with Texas Flood just blarin,' aggressive, just tearin' people's heads off. Had Stevie lived, I can't imagine how much better we would have gotten," said Shannon, who considers In Step (1989), the band's best album.
"We were clean and sober then."
Stevie Ray Vaughan would have turned 56 this October.
Their last conversation (after that final gig with Eric Clapton and Robert Cray at Alpine Valley in East Roy, Wis.) was a trifle.
Vaughan was in the dressing room sewing a commemorative patch onto a jacket.
"I said, 'I'll see you back at the room.' He said, 'OK, I'll call you.' And that was it." By HECTOR SALDAÑA MUSIC WRITER