“At Antone’s something quite vital took shape—the passing parade of legendary greats, the talented locals, and the communion between the two. Over time, this trinity formed up an Austin Sound for the blues.
Almost immediately upon contact between the two groups, an interaction took place that elevated this union to something greater than the sum of its parts. And although every player in the local blues community would benefit tremendously from such cultural alchemy, none would be so transformed by the experience as Stevie. None would take it as deeply to heart.
He had picked up and used the stylings of all the great blues guitarists, focusing on Dallas heroes such as T-Bone Walker, Freddie King, and especially Johnny “Guitar” Watson. He absorbed their riffs and phrasing like a sponge, torqued them to his bent, and set them loose among the frets and strings—living ghosts within his guitar. But it was the stylings of Albert King that would haunt his playing more than any of the others. Upon meeting Albert, Stevie was seized by the notion to play with the literally larger-than-life bluesman. He petitioned Clifford Antone to help make it so. Albert was very private, possessed of a stern demeanor, and had never been an easy man to approach—a perception that his six-foot-four, 250-pound frame continuously reiterated. Nevertheless, Clifford persuaded Albert to let the skinny white kid sit in, assuring him that the young bluesman was something other than ordinary. For Stevie, Albert King was the guy with the bona fides and a bender of notes like no other.
The white kid mounted the stage, and in short order the two blues guitarists were trading licks. Albert opened and lit up the stage with tones soaring from his Flying V. After the band smoothed the field, Stevie held forth. The force and confidence of his passages took Albert aback; the great man dropped his hands and then his jaw. Photographs taken at the time show him leaning forward, taking in completely SRV’s intricate note structures and sinuous phrasing. Albert King deliberately reached across and pulled the curtain over his beloved “Lucy,” as if he didn’t want the guitar to witness Stevie’s unanticipated playing.
It was an iconic moment within an iconic performance. Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan standing on the Antone’s stage that night incarnated the musical alchemy that would signature the club’s first venue. For me it changed everything that doing music art in Austin was all about. It was one of those magic moments that this town was capable of producing—a short but intimate passage of time that welded one to the music. It was, in fact, at this point that I decided to undertake to ‘draw’ the music…”