A Guitar, a Pick and a Shitload of Soul to Soul.
Stevie Ray Vaughan was notorious for playing hard and mean, bearing down low on his Fender Strat with hot wire style and a singular purpose: Spread the Electric Blues Gospel.
Big hands, heavy strings, all Blistering Texas Tone.
If you were a player, attending a Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble concert was the gauntlet thrown at your feet. The master class is in session and there will be a test. Watching one of the most passionate, talented electric guitarists to ever grace the planet was too much to take in. He was fierce. You either ran home to practice, or you quit on the spot.
Your choice. Either way, Stevie Ray would still be schooling the masses and scorching the Earth with an Electric Sermon so intense it was heavier than church.
Where’s the bar in this place?
On April 20th, 1988, I scored a small piece of the master’s tools.
Stevie was playing South Florida’s Sunrise Musical Theatre, a midsize venue with solid acoustics and good sight lines to the stage. We were only fifteen rows back, but it wasn’t close enough.
There were moments during the show where you had to catch your breath. Stevie was conjuring notes beyond the fretboard. Pulling shit out of the sky, at will.
The Texas shuffles, the extended jams, the firebrand solos and the Fender Strat Army lined up stage right. You got the feeling that Stevie could blow through the whole arsenal in one night, rendering his axes completely useless. A smoldering pile of metal and wood.
Stevie broke a string during one of the last songs, which may have been the Jimi Hendrix barn burner “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).”
He kept on playing.
By the end of the show, I had made my way to the front of the stage. No barriers, no fences. Wait until the ushers head for the doors, make your break.
Awestruck at the foot of the gods.
When Stevie left for the last time and the houselights finally went up, I scoured the stage and immediately saw a pick tucked under a sound wedge. It was either consciously discarded or fell to the floor in the heat of the battle. I grabbed it without fanfare, avoiding unwanted attention. Put it in the pocket, head for the parking lot.
I possessed the tool, the conduit. Everything that’s beautiful and good in the world flowed through this tiny piece of plastic. Stevie Ray’s Electric Blues Current.
Be careful what you touch.
It is said that Stevie used picks in an unconventional way, preferring the larger, rounder side for a heavier, broader attack. This explains the slight crack in the upper right hand corner and the wear around the pick’s top edge.
Stevie’s picks fetch big bucks on the rock memorabilia market. Some going as high as $1000 for an authentic used pick.
Post it on the Information Super Highway and let the bidding begin.
But why would I go and do a thing like that?
Photograph by Tracy Anne Hart, 1989
Video from El Mocambo, 1983
Stevie Ray Vaughan pick, collection of the Rock File