After last years ceremony being completely devoid of the genre that gave birth to rock and roll, blues once returned in full force to the 30th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony last Saturday, April 18th. While Albert King and Freddie King were given their much deserved and long overdue recognition back in 2013 and 2012, respectively, 2014’s list of inductees disappointingly had nary a bluesman or blueswoman in sight. 2015, thankfully, was the the year to rectify this travesty as the music of both Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band filled the Rock Hall, courtesy of a number of musicians who were inspired and molded by each of these influential and timeless blues rock acts.
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s homecoming was set into motion by a truly interesting and eclectic group of artists that made for one helluva performance. Tom Morello, former axeman of Rage Against the Machine, handled lead guitar alongside Zack Brown as the country rocker hollered Butterfield’s classic anthem “Born in Chicago”. The two were joined by a modern harpist extraordinaire, Jason Ricci, who more than admirably filled in for the late Paul Butterfield during the epic one-off, superstar jam. The band’s induction was carried out by Peter Wolf, longtime frontman of the J. Geils Band, and the surviving members of Butterfield’s crew, Elvin Bishop, Mark Naftalin, and Sam Lay took to the stage to accept the honor and speak of how the band tore down racial barriers for bands members, proved that legitimate blues music could come from artist of any color, and helped bridge the genres of blues and rock. After the induction, the three remaining members, along with harmonica legend Baby Boy Arnold, took to the stage for a powerful performance of the Muddy Waters classic”I Got My Mojo Working” in a long overdue reunion for a much awaited honor.
After upwards of 18 million fans demanded his entry, as keyboardist Reese Wynans joyfully recalled, Stevie Ray Vaughan has finally been added to the list of greats that adorn the walls of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The legendary blues rock musician and guitarist was inducted along with Chris Layton, Tommy Shannon, and Mr. Wynans, all of whom of course formed the powerhouse backing band Double Trouble. In what may have been as big a moment for those being inducted as it was for the inductee, John Mayer had the honor of ushering his biggest influence into the Rock Hall. Mayer made it clear to all those in attendance the impact that Vaughan had on not only his music, but also many aspects of his life as well. Where the younger pop and blues icon focused on the virtuoso side of Stevie Ray Vaughan, it was the late guitar player’s brother who bought true emotional weight to the proceedings. As Jimmie Vaughan accepted the honor of his little brother’s induction, he made a point of focusing solely on the generous and caring man that Stevie Ray was and made sure that the fans knew how much the late musician would have appreciated their love and support. The speeches from both Jimmie Vaughan and John Mayer offered a wholly comprehensive look, one both heartwarming and admiring, at one of the 20th century’s most beloved bluesmen.
When it came time to celebrate the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan, the talent and performances were about as perfect as could be. Jimmie Vaughan and Double Trouble were joined onstage by Mayer, Doyle Bramhall II, and Gary Clark, Jr. to perform two of Stevie Ray’s most cherished numbers from his 1983 debut: “Pride and Joy” and “Texas Flood.” These once-in-a-lifetime performances were certainly something to behold as each guitarist went down the line and back again taking turns both singing and shredding out Vaughan’s now-classic songs. Each artist had their own style and there was filled with beautiful blues music from truly talented artists. To close out this already spot-on tribute, the elder Vaughan took center stage as Double Trouble, Mayer, Bramhall, and Clark put down their instruments and formed a choir of sorts. They then proceeded to holler out a stomping rendition of Jimmie Vaughan’s mournful-yet-uplifting “Six Strings Down”, a tribute to his little brother taken from 1994’s Strange Pleasure. The theater of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was filled with the chorus of “Heaven done called another blues stringer back home” in what might have been the most beautiful moment of the night and the perfect way to end a raw and emotional moment in blues and rock history. [Top photograph by Derek Jensen. Bottom photograph by Don Hunstein]