Thursday, December 20, 2007

Stevie Ray Vaughan, his clones and John Mayer

I am a fan of Stevie Ray Vaughan. I was working at Musicland in 1984 when he started to break out into the mainstream and was hooked when I heard "Texas Flood." Being a guitar player, I was drawn to his original revved-up blues rock and his interpretations of music by Otis Rush, Albert King, Jimi Hendrix, et al. During a time when most guitar players were using rack-mounted processors and effects that needed a degree in engineering to operate, here comes SRV with a battered pre-CBS Stratocaster, going through a few effects and into an old Marshall or Fender amp. There was nobody playing like that in 1984 who was in the music mainstream, although there were probably plenty of unknown guitarists playing in a similar style all across America. He was the first to break out in the MTV world who was different.

I was lucky enough to see SRV in concert in August 1989, during the In Step tour. It was an outside concert on Harriet Island in St. Paul. I may have been far away from the stage, but I still fell under the magic of his music.

Which leads me to this: since SRV’s death, there have been many clones come out, like Kenny Wayne Sheppard and Corey Stevens, and probably thousands of others around the world, all brandishing Sunburst strats and wearing a hat.

This leads to severe criticism on guitar forums all over the Internet. Are these musicians original? Are they just copies of SRV, who he himself proudly admitted that he took from the people before him, and made the songs his own?

I used to think these guys were silly to try to emulate SRV. Now I think it is great, because in today’s bland music scene, they are least trying to keep this kind of music alive. SRV is not around anymore to do it, so why not all those guitarists across the world? I see it all over – particularly on YouTube - with young kids, picking up a guitar and wanting to play like SRV. How cool is that? The fact the young kids, both boys and girls, are doing this kind of music instead of listening to Hannah Montana, that Spears lady and others, is a very good thing!

Onto John Mayer: I am always amazed at how much criticism is leveled at John Mayer for daring to sound like SRV. Here is a guy who loves to play guitar and is one of the new great, young guitar players with mainstream success, bringing SRV’s style of music back into light. And all these guys do is complain about how stupid Mayer looks when he plays, or that he found success playing AOR music before going into the blues with the John Mayer Trio. We, as guitar players, should appreciate any effort that a guy like Mayer makes to keep SRV’s (and others) brand of charged-up blues rock going.

It really does not matter to me that it has all been done before. I just like the music, and how it makes me feel. I miss Stevie Ray Vaughn. But his music and spirit is alive in all of us who like to play in his style, paly his songs and learn from what he did. I suppose it is the passing down from one generation to the next. Maybe someone out there will discover a new direction to take it.


Barbara (aka Layla) said...

You make a great point. I think some people like to complain about just about anything and look for people to put down. John Mayer, for some reason, makes a good target. I love watching John play and think the guy has loads of talent.

The Road Traveler said...

I think it all comes out to sour grapes. Sad, really. Why can't these people just enjoy the music and not be so critical? The Geat is getting out of control, although I think some are doing it for the fun of it.

k-dub said...

john mayer is an excellent guitarist and could probably destroy anyone who criticizes him... on top of his playing he is by far the best lyricist of our time. very few artists have meaning in their lyrics nowadays but johnny sings from the heart and has an excellent way with words

Cody said...

I agree with everything being said. The Trio is a great group and I cannot wait to hear more. To the critics, don't hate on Mayer because he is a good looking guy that has dated some of the most gorgeous women of the moment and is a great musician to boot. He is one of the best well rounded musicians I may know of. He can do it all, sing, play acoustic melodies and rhythms great or play strong leads on an overdriven strat. I mean really how many blues musicians could keep up with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Paul Simon, or Kanye West (WTF) like Mayer has.? Clapton, maybe?Also, when Mayer plays covers he always does it in his own way, never discrediting the original. I am not a religious follower of Mayer like I am Jimi and SRV but it seems that he covers more Jimi tunes, like bold as love or wait until tomorrow, just like SRV covered a lot of his stuff. It is a lineage of progression. Jimi influenced SRV and SRV influenced Mayer. If you truly love this music embrace Mayer as an ambassador so someday some kid will be turned on by Mayer and blow us all away in twenty years. Besides its the blues, like jazz, there are several standard tunes that everyone plays so get used to it.

-Keep an open mind, an open ear-

MG said...

I'm not sure how I came across this article but it was a good find.
I've recently stepped back into playing after rediscovering my interest in guitar and the music to go along with it.
Soon after, a friend of mine mentioned how John Mayer is a great guitarist and I was dumbfounded because all I had ever heard by him was, "Waiting On The World To Change".
After a bunch of research I realized there was much more to him than just the 'Continuum' album - John Mayer live is a whole new person.
I guess what I'm getting to is that John Mayer is the main-stream guitarist/writer of my era (I'm 25). His name will be beside every great player before him - which is a big statement to take in if you haven't done your homework.
Anyways, there's defiantly more Mayer to come.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.