CLEVELAND — In a hotel lobby across the street from Cleveland’s Public Hall, where Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble will formally join the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 2015 induction class, the three musicians closest to Stevie took a few moments to reflect on the long journey to this day.
For older brother Jimmie Vaughan, the occasion is bittersweet. “It’s very emotional, but it’s also happy too,” he says. “We all loved my brother. He was a fabulous musician, we all know about him, and we hear his music and everything.
“But I think about what he didn’t get to have. What he didn’t get to have is what I’ve been able to get: a family, kids, friends and just a normal life. So that’s kind of sad, you know.”
For Double Trouble bassist Tommy Shannon, the induction happens to fall on his 69th birthday, which may be partly why he was looking back in wonder.
“It took me 50 years of playing to get here,” said Shannon, who compared the occasion to performing with Johnny Winter at Woodstock 46 years ago. “It’s definitely one of the greatest things I’ve ever done.”
Soft-spoken and disarmingly sincere, Shannon said that if Stevie were here, “I think he would have loved it. He was a very humble guy. I think he would be very thankful, and glad to be here.”
Double Trouble drummer Chris Layton has worked with many other great musicians since Stevie’s death, including Charlie Sexton and Doyle Bramhall II — the latter of whom will join Jimmie, Gary Clark Jr. and John Mayer in performance at the induction — and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, whose European tour Layton will rejoin in a couple of days. But he remembers playing with Stevie as unlike any other experience he’s ever had.
“He was the most in-the-moment committed person I’ve ever worked with,” Layton said. “That was actually the incredibly easy thing about it, and the challenge. It’s like when you jump on the bull, and the bull’s committed to throwing you off. But, man, it was exciting. He was so in there, and wrapped up in it, and it was just beautiful.”
Asked about the significance of Austin guitarist Clark Jr. helping to carry on Vaughan’s legacy, Layton said, “I think it’s vitally important. Because Stevie was the kind of person that, when he saw a little kid playing guitar or whatever, he’d say, ‘Hey, how do you like that?’ He just tried to be inspirational, because that’s how he was.”
Millions of next-generation guitar players can attest to that. One is Nate Mysza, 25, a Cleveland musician who was born six months before Vaughan’s August 1990 helicopter crash. On Saturday afternoon, he stood in front of “Butter,” the distinctive yellow guitar that Jimmie Vaughan personally brought to the Rock Hall this week for its museum exhibit on the 2015 inductees, and expressed his amazement.
“I’m not going to get to meet any of those guys,” Mysza said, “but I can’t even believe what I’m looking at now. I’m holding back tears. I’ve been playing the blues since I was 6 years old.”