Sadly, I missed the opportunity to see Stevie Ray Vaughnperform live. Nevertheless, his indelible impression on my heart reduced me to tears when, on this day in 1990, I heard the news of his tragic death.
At the time, I’d seen scant few snippets of performance footage, but spent hours upon hours listening to Soul to Soul and In Step at volumes that let the neighbors in on my musical preferences. The mere idea that he could step in and tear up a stage with the likes of ZZ Top (Dallas’ Adolphus Hotel), as easily lay down tracks a la David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, or hold his own at Carnegie Hall all the while remaining true to his rocking blues roots speaks volumes about his musical ability.
To have watched Stevie Ray Vaughn play his Fender Stratocaster guitar was to have witnessed a pure connection between talent and God. I’ll say again that I never saw him play a live show, yet even today, watching a video of SRV performing still raises the hair on the back of my neck as I bear witness to an ethereal wave of light that bridges Divinity, Vaughn, and his guitar.
Few are as blessed as he with such a gift and his only served to increase my faith in a higher power. Maybe that’s why I cried when this celebrity died—because his absence left a gap between me and the intangible.
Ya know, back in the day, if we were bummed out, we’d just pop a tape in the VCR and watch a video of someone playing the blues (which for all the young ‘uns out there) is exactly like watching a video on YouTube except for a total inability to lock in to a specific spot in the broadcast, and it was clunkier and subject to eventually wearing out, or getting stepped on or misplaced under a couch cushion.
Today, we have 2-year-old Luca beltin’ out the blues in 2 year-eese or maybe Spanish. I’m not sure. Anyway, when you step on a Lego…you got the blues.
On September 10, 1970, blues legend B.B. King performed for over two thousand inmates in Chicago’s Cook County Jail, a place termed “a jungle” by both the Illinois Crime Commission and a group of reformers who investigated it.
The background of the impressive cover has a prisoner’s blue denim shirt, the album title stenciled in black paint with a superimposed photo of Mr. King performing, his back to a brick wall and barred windows.
The reverse side is a photo taken from above and behind Mr. King and his band as they perform to the audience of prisoners. The photo is overlaid with the story of Warden Winston E. Moore, and how it was when B.B. King performed there.
Perhaps most compelling of this cover is the history which in part says, “B.B. King—Cook County Jail is a story of two men, the man who “cleaned up the mess,” and a man who felt Cook County Jail was as important an engagement as Caesar’s Palace.”