December 11, 2012

IN RESPONSE TO MY TEN YEARS AFTER VIDEOS, reader Donald MacQueen writes: “In my salad days, I worked a few years as an usher at the Fillmore East in New York’s East Village. I saw a lot of guitarists, but the fastest by far was Alvin Lee. The only guy I’ve seen since who compares is the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.”

Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of great guitarists, but I remember the first time I saw Stevie Ray Vaughan. It was in Nashville, and he — still pretty unknown — was opening for BB King. It was like a force of nature on the stage, which is a cliche but that’s the only way I could describe it. He was opening for B.B. King, who was still very much on his game, but the Beeb waited a solid hour to come out, and when he did it still felt like the echoes from Stevie Ray’s set were reverberating around the hall.

Here’s my favorite Stevie Ray song. The thing is, there are a lot of fast guitarists. But it’s not just a matter of playing fast. It’s a question of playing the right notes fast.