When blues guitarist and vocalist Stevie Ray Vaughan released Texas Flood in 1983, he introduced Texas blues to a much broader audience than it had previously known. His impact was great enough that even today, 21 years after his death, if you ask a music lover to name a Texas blues guitarist, he or she will probably reply, “Stevie Ray Vaughan.”
But, like many great musicians, Vaughan was not sui generis. He synthesized his unique style by combining a huge number of influences from Albert King and Johnny “Guitar” Watson to Lonnie Mack and Kenny Burrell. That being the case, here’s a list of five Texas bluesmen (out of many) who, in addition to creating their own great legacies, paved the way for Vaughan to create a great legacy of his own.
Blues guitarist and vocalist Sam “Lightnin'” Hopkins (1912-1982) was born, lived and died in Texas. He recorded a lot of songs in his life (estimated between 800 and 1,000) and often played electric guitar, as opposed to the majority of country blues artists, who performed unplugged. The New York Times obituary for Hopkins called him “perhaps the greatest single influence on rock guitar players.” He certainly influenced Stevie Ray Vaughan. A little more than a minute into this song, Lightnin’ says, “Play it boy,” and pops his low E-string a couple times, getting a little distortion out of his amplifier. It’s easy to imagine a young Stevie Ray Vaughan hearing this recording and thinking, “Now, that’s what I’m talkin’ about.”