Eric Clapton’s Fascination for Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Guitar Playing

When you talk about legendary guitarists, it’s just a matter of time before you end up talking about Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Despite having different distinctive styles and backgrounds, Eric Clapton – often cited as one of the greatest guitarists of all time – has consistently expressed his fascination for Stevie Ray Vaughan, recognizing his unparalleled guitar playing.

By Chris HakkensCC BY-SA 2.0

During the TV special A Tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton delved into why he was so fascinated by Stevie Ray Vaughan. “I remember being fascinated by the fact that he never ever seemed to be lost in any way. It wasn’t ever that he took a breather or pause to think where he was gonna go next. It just flowed out of him.”

“And that doesn’t come just with virtuosity or practice or any of those. He seemed to be an open channel and it just flowed through him. He never ever seemed dry up.”

Stevie Ray Vaughan’s seemingly endless creativity was an extraordinary element of his playing. One Clapton could only admire. “When I play, I sometimes stop and think ‘What am I gonna do now?” I don’t want to repeat myself, so I’ll get caught up somehow, and you freeze. Most players do. And I never saw him do that.”

In the same interview, Eric Clapton shared what he felt when he heard Stevie Ray Vaughan for the first time. “I was in my car and I remember thinking ‘I have to find out before the day is over who that guitar player is’. That doesn’t happen to me very often. That I get that way about listening to music. I mean, about 3 or 4 times in my life I have felt that way, where I’ve stopped the car, pulled over, listened, and thought ‘I have to know now who that is.”

Given Clapton’s admiration for Stevie Ray Vaughan, it’s no surprise the guitar giants decided to co-headline a concert at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre with other blues artists like Buddy Guy and Robert Cray.

Sadly enough, the day of the concert – August 26, 1990 – took a tragic turn. After the concert, Stevie Ray Vaughan and three members of Clapton’s crew left the Theatre in a helicopter and were tragically killed in a crash.

“The worst thing for me was that Stevie Ray had been sober for three years and was at his peak,” Eric Clapton reflected on the tragic event in a Rolling Stone interview. “When he played that night, he had all of us standing mere with our jaws dropped. I mean, Robert Cray, Jimmie Vaughan (Stevie’s brother), and Buddy Guy were just watching in awe. There was no one better than him on this planet. Really unbelievable.”

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