Stephen Ray Vaughan (October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990) was an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer, best known as the guitarist and frontman of the blues rock band Double Trouble. Although his mainstream career only spanned seven years, he is considered to be one of the most iconic and influential musicians in the history of blues music.
Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Vaughan began playing guitar at age seven, initially inspired by his elder brother Jimmie Vaughan. In 1972, he dropped out of high school and moved to Austin, where he began to gain a following after playing gigs on the local club circuit. Vaughan formed the band Double Trouble in 1978 and established it as part of the Austin music scene, which soon became one of the most popular acts in Texas. He performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1982 where David Bowie saw him play and contacted him for a studio gig, resulting in Stevie playing his blues guitar on the album Let's Dance (1983) before being discovered by John Hammond, who interested major label Epic Records in signing them to a record deal. Within months, Vaughan achieved mainstream success with Double Trouble for the critically acclaimed debut album Texas Flood. With a series of successful network television appearances and extensive concert tours, he became the leading figure in the blues revival of the 1980s.
Playing his guitar behind his back or plucking the strings with his teeth like Jimi Hendrix did, he earned unprecendented stardom in Europe which later resulted in breakthroughs for guitar players like Robert Cray, Jeff Healey, Robben Ford and Walter Trout amongst others.
During the majority of his life, Vaughan struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. He also struggled with the personal and professional pressures of fame, and his marriage to Lenora "Lenny" Bailey. He successfully completed rehabilitation and began touring again with Double Trouble in November 1986. His fourth and final studio album In Step reached number 33 in the United States in 1989; it was one of Vaughan's most critically and commercially successful releases and included his only number-one hit "Crossfire". He became one of the world's most highly-demanded blues performers, and he headlined Madison Square Garden in 1989 and the Beale Street Music Festival in 1990.
On August 27, 1990, Vaughan and four others were killed in a helicopter crash in East Troy, Wisconsin after performing with Double Trouble at Alpine Valley Music Theatre. The pilot, Jeff Brown, was unqualified at the time of the crash, and an investigation concluded that the cause was pilot error. Vaughan's family later filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Omniflight Helicopters, which was settled out of court. Vaughan's music continued to achieve commercial success with several posthumous releases and has sold over 15 million albums in the United States alone. In 2003, David Fricke of Rolling Stone ranked him the seventh greatest guitarist of all time. Vaughan was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015, along with Double Trouble bandmates Chris Layton, Tommy Shannon, and Reese Wynans.