Monday, August 27, 1990 was already heating up early in the morning when I got the call from my tearful wife telling me to turn on the radio and that Stevie had died. The details began to emerge of a tragic helicopter flight that claimed the lives of Stevie, the pilot, and several members of Eric Clapton’s management team.
She cried a little each day until Stevie’s funeral the following Friday. Our first date was going to a Stevie Ray Vaughan concert. We continued to remain huge fans and attended every show we could.
She listened to Stevie all the time while pregnant. When our infant son was fussy we would prop him up on a beanbag chair in front of the TV with a bottle and videotape of Stevie’s music videos. Worked like a charm every time.
We took our son to Stevie’s last Dallas appearance, a blues fest with Stevie, B.B. King, and Joe Cocker headlining in June of 1990. He was six months old at the time and danced in his parents arms the whole concert.
Now we were taking him to Stevie’s funeral.
Driving along I-20 east out of Arlington, Texas to Dallas that morning was surreal. Overnight many billboards along the highway had been tagged with farewells to Stevie. It seemed like every car and truck had something written on its rear window.
Stevie was buried at Laurel Land Cemetery in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas he had grown up in. Aug 30 was probably the hottest day of that Texas summer and we were concerned about the heat on our son. We considered a shaded area but wanted to be as close to the actual memorial service as possible. He didn’t seem to mind and was quiet the whole time.
In addition to his family and close circle of friends, Stevie’s memorial service was attended by numerous artists such as ZZ Top, David Bowie, and Buddy Guy. Nile Rogers read a eulogy to Stevie and debuted a track from an upcoming collaboration with his brother Jimmie called “Tick Tock”. Stevie Wonder, Jackson Browne, and Bonnie Raitt sang Amazing Grace, acapella. Despite the intense heat, many in the crowd would later describe the chills they felt at that moment.
Like many, we filed past his graveside leaving flowers, guitar picks, and a card for his mother, Martha.
I don’t recall the drive home except for the fact that we listened to Stevie’s music. His life, guitar, and legacy, though tragically ended provided solace and a soundtrack for my son to fall asleep to once again.