Today in history: Stevie Ray Vaughan dies in helicopter crash

AUSTIN -- Twenty-four years ago today, Texas blues legend Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a helicopter crash.

According to the late musician's official website, Vaughan, a Dallas native, started playing guitar at age 7, then dropped out of high school at 17 to pursue a music career. Vaughan moved to Austin in the mid-1970s because, as some of his music friends say, the city was a Mecca for musicians. In the early 1980s, the band Vaughan played with became Double Trouble, popular among the Texas club circuit until the band caught David Bowie and Jackson Browne's attention.

Bowie asked Vaughan to play on Bowie's Let's Dance record, which became the artist's best-selling record. Vaughan's renowned debut album, Texas Flood, was released a few months after Let's Dance. Vaughan catapulted to success, and as his popularity grew, he brought the blues to a whole new audience and worldwide attention to Austin's music scene, making appearances on Austin City Limits in 1983 and 1989.

In the late summer of 1990, Vaughan and Double Trouble kicked off a headlining tour across the United States. Vaughan finished up an Aug. 26 gig in East Troy, Wisconsin with now-famous encore jam with Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, brother Jimmie Vaughan and Robert Cray.

In the foggy early morning hours after the show, Vaughan boarded a helicopter bound for Chicago, crashing into the side of a nearby ski slope just minutes after takeoff. Vaughan, only 35 years old at the time, was killed along with four others.

Vaughan's music has continued to live on, especially in the hearts and minds of Austin music lovers. Vaughan's early music career featured many performances at Austin's dive bars and music venues before he broke out nationally. Back then, Vaughan was known to his buddies as "Stevie," a great guitarist and a humble, approachable friend, even after he rose to national fame.

In 1993, the City of Austin unveiled an 8-foot-tall bronze Stevie Ray Vaughan statue at Auditorium Shores, becoming a popular stop for visiting musicians and tourists alike and immortalizing him in the city he called home for many years.

Vaughan was inducted into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame in April 2014. He won six Grammy Awards and 10 Austin Music Awards. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2014. Rolling Stone has ranked Vaughan among the greatest guitarists of all time.


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