One of the most talented and respected guitarists – of any generation – died on this day in 1990, tragically killed in a helicopter crash at just 36 years of age.
Here’s Stevie Ray Vaughan, performing ‘Crossfire’ on NBC’s Night Music, in 1989.
I’d like to remember all the gifted guitar players that have passed, especially the inspirational Les Paul, who died two weeks ago; another iconic giant, like Dr Robert Moog, whose inventions and innovations changed the course of music completely and to whom any music-maker or -lover owes a debt of gratitude.
As the 1988 Les Paul and Friends (David being one of them; his performance, you may recall, earned an enthusiastic “Boy, you played your butt off” from Les) tribute concert was so suitably labelled, ‘He Changed the Music’.
Ignore the eleven Number One singles and 36 gold discs (with his wife, Mary Ford) for just a moment. Les Paul didn’t just design what would become one of the world’s most famous and popular musical instruments, he considerably advanced developments in guitar effects and taping techniques. He is credited for inventing both the solid body electric guitar and the eight-track tape recorder. He pioneered multi-track recording, electronic echo and over-dubbing. All this without any formal training in either music or electronics.
Although I’m sure that everyone knows the famous tale by now, to repeat it, perhaps, is to pay compliment to the immense dedication Les Paul showed to his craft: after a near-fatal car crash in 1948, he insisted that doctors set his shattered right arm at a right angle so as to allow him to continue playing the guitar.
He would continue playing into his nineties.
Which guitarists do you remember with most fondness? For me, George Harrison and Syd Barrett stand out most of all, but there’s also Jimi Hendrix (obviously), Jerry Garcia, Marc Bolan, Frank Zappa, Joe Strummer, Buddy Holly, Muddy Waters, Carl Wilson, Brian Jones…