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..... 5.6.2 STEVIE'S "SOUL TIP"
..... 5.6.3 STEVIE'S TATTOO
..... 5.6.4 STEVIE'S HATS


If there's one thing that can be said about Stevie's on-stage and on-record rig, it's that it changed almost as often as his solos! His amps are as distinctively Fender as his guitars, but he also mixed-in several interesting non-Fender pieces of equipment in that ultimate quest for The Tone. Even so, you would never mistake his signature sound for anything but Fender.


Since Stevie's rig changed so often, we'll give some details by year. Before we start, let's summarize some of the mods he made over the years.

A constant in Stevie's sound was a pair of sequentially numbered, 1x15" Fender Vibroverbs, numbers 5 and 6. He obtained them in different years, and was very proud of having such low serial numbers, and in sequence to boot. It seems no matter what other amps were in his setup, the Vibroverbs were always there.

Another pair of amps that regularly drifted in and out of Stevie's rig were a pair of Fender Super Reverbs. While the Vibroverbs would give that much desired "tube breakup" at relatively low volumes, the Supers were 40-watt monster combo amps that would stay almost totally clean even at volumes that would make your ears bleed! Stevie would blend these into the overall sound for sheer power.

If that wasn't enough, Stevie also relied at various times on a couple of plexi Marshalls: a 100-watt Super PA, and a 200-watt Major. These fed modded Marshall "bathtub" cabinets, and another homemade cabinet. Early in his career he even relied on a Marshall Town and Country Combo, another 200-watt monster that (fortunately?) peaked-out at only 80 watts.

Later the Marshalls were generally retired in favor of a Howard Dumble Steel String Singer. This Rolls-Royce of high-powered heads fed the same Marshall speaker cabinets. He retired the Marshalls because he could not find the proper tubes anymore.

Finally, he also possessed an oddity of a cabinet called a Fender Vibratone. This is a Leslie-style speaker cabinet, but instead of a rotating speaker, it had a slotted, rotating foam cylinder around the stationary speaker. The effect is the same, though-- a rich, warbling sort of organ tone. This unit is heard on "Cold Shot" and "The Things I Used to Do."

Some modifications he made to the amps include:

Fender Super Reverbs
Replaced speakers with 10-inch Electro-Voice EVMs
Baffle boards replaced with 3/4" plywood
American 6L6, Sylvania STR415, and Sylvania STR387 tubes

Fender Vibroverbs
Baffle boards replaced with 3/4" plywood
American 6L6, Sylvania STR415, and Sylvania STR387 tubes
Channel 1 disconnected from phase inverter tube
Tremelo circuit disconnected at trem intensity control

Home-made 4x12 cabinets, w/ 12" EVMs

Stevie played with a minimum of effects on stage, but also regularly experimented in the studio to get particular sounds. His stomp-box gear included a pair of old Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamers, a pair of Vox wah-wah pedals, Octavias, Univibes, Fuzz Faces, and an Echoplex. His amp tech in the later years, Cesar Diaz, modified the Fuzz Faces with matched germanium transistors. Diaz also performed most of the mods to the amps, and was regularly called upon to repair the amps that Stevie blew up. Stevie also had at least two of everything because of the age and relative unreliability of the effects. For instance, he once remarked that he rarely used the Fuzz Faces outdoors because the heat from the sun would cause them to fail. He did not use any rack-mount or digital gear.

One of Stevie's album experiments was to chain the two Tube Screamers, giving a hugely loud and distorted tone. He later used the Fuzz Faces to do this sort of thing. Another experiment was to connect two wahs inline, but rock the pedals in opposite directions. This was first heard on "Say What!". The pedals would cancel some frequencies and enhance others, giving a wild phased type of tone. Every so often he would kick-in a Univibe or Octavia to get a richer, doubled sort of tone.


1981 THROUGH 1983

Marshall Combo 2x12 JBL (200 watt, but peaks at 80 watts)
Two Fender Vibroverbs 1x15
Y-cord into Marshall and one Vibroverb, then patch to other Vibroverb
Tube Screamer
Vox Wah

CIRCA 1984

Stacked 2 Vibroverbs with 2 Super Reverbs
Two Vibroverbs (#5 and #6 serials, bought in different times, different places)
Super Reverb w/ 15" speaker, shorter cab, no midrange control
Fave setup was two Vibroverbs and two Supers, let Vibroverbs handle bottom end, set one super clean, the other variable
Eventually retired Supers for Dumble Steel String Singers
Wah wah, Tube Screamer, Univibes
No straight distortion box, uses Tube Screamer for extra gain and break-up
"Cold Shot" played through Vibratone (10" speaker with rotating Styro cone in front)


Two chained Vibroverbs, one driving a Vibratone cabinet
One or two Super Reverbs
Dumble Steel String Singer driving Marshall 8x10 cab
"Life Without You" used Tube Screamer plus two open wahs opposed (for solo on record)
For "Say What!", sat on stool and used both feet to rock wahs in opposite directions (on record). On stage, would sometimes duct-tape wahs together for one-foot operation

1988 THROUGH 1990

Two Vibroverbs, one driving Vibratone
Two 4x10 Super Reverbs
Two Marshall heads driving Marshall cabinets
Dumble Steel String Singer driving Marshall 8x10" cabinet
One or two Tube Screamers for gain
Fuzz Face for distortion
Octavia, wah


1959 Tweed Bassman 4x10"
2 Dumble 4x12" cabs
2 Marshall 4x12" cabs
1962 Twin Reverb
Marshall Major 200-watt Super PA into Marshall "bathtub" 4x15" cabinet
Marshall Major 200-watt Super Lead into 8x12" KTR88 cabinet JCM800 100 watt half stack
1 "bathtub" Marshall cab w/ 4x12"
300 watt Dumble
150 watt Dumble
2 Super Reverbs
Mesa-Boogie Simul-Class running Fender Vibratone
Vibratone in separate room, with Variac controlling speed
Fender Harvard
Roland Jazz Chorus
Groove Tube preamp
Variacs to adjust and sync power requirements
Fuzz Face
Cry Baby
Cyclosonic "auto-panner" on Riviera Paradise
Liked Groove Tube feeding Roland, plus Marshall, plus Bassman
Tried Tube Screamer feeding another TS feeding Bassman
(These are the amps mentioned in various interviews)


If you would like to "duplicate" Stevie's tone, first of all remember that much of the tone was in Stevie's hands and fingers. In other words, equipment is only part of the equation. His aggressive right hand attack and strong left hand fingers made much of the sound. This section can get you started in the right direction in setting up your rig.


The first thing to do is to find a Strat or Strat copy that has single coil, Fender-style pickups, a rosewood fingerboard, vibrato, the biggest strings you can stand to use, and bigger frets to match the big strings. Like every guitar, every amp is different in its response. Even amps in the same model line may sound different. As a start, use a tube amp that you can dial-in to slightly distort at your desired volume, preferably one with at least a single 12" speaker, or two 10" speakers. Stevie's rig had a big bottom end response, and you won't get that using an 8" or single 10". Keep in mind that Stevie normally played at ear-splitting levels, even in a club setting, with several amps. This all adds up to a lot of square inches of speaker surface. Add a distortion pedal (or a Tube Screamer, to emulate Stevie), compressor (so you can sustain at reasonable volumes), chorus or Dunlop Rotovibe(to cheaply emulate a Vibratone), and wah. Add some reverb, and you're on your way.


You'll have to play around with the amp to get a volume setting that just breaks up a bit, but doesn't really fuzz-up. Stevie used multiple amps, chained together, to get his sound, and unless you can do the same, you'll have to dial-in your one amp to get close to the same sound. If your amp has a Master / Preamp setup, set your guitar volume knob to ten, your preamp knob to at least 5, and set a reasonable listening level on the Master knob. Stevie pushed the power tubes and the speakers, and you'll be pushing the preamp tubes only, so you won't get an identical breakup, but it will be close. Plus, you won't go deaf in the process. If you are to play on stage, these reasonable levels will be your stepping stone to the higher concert levels. The guitar volume knob can now be played at 10 for the "greasy breakup", or rolled-off a number or two to back-off on the distortion but keep relatively the same volume.

Listen to something like "In The Beginning" while you dial-in a stage tone, or "Couldn't Stand the Weather" for a consistent album tone. Start by either setting all tone knobs to zero, and turn them up one at a time until you like what you hear, or turn them all to ten and back them off one by one. For you Bassman users, Stevie said in an interview that he liked the sound of his Bassman with all the tone knobs turned almost all the way down. This was around 1989, and not representative of his early years. For that early tone, you might try setting treble to 9 or 10, the midrange to 6, and the bass to 6 on the amp. The guitar tone knobs will then simply roll-off the treble. Stevie constantly fiddled with the guitar tone and volume knobs while he played, and this would allow you to do the same.


After you have dialed-in the amp, you can get down to business on the effects pedals. Stevie kept things really simple, so don't get too carried away on the effects. The less you use them, the better off you'll be. The more effects you add will tend to destroy that vintage Fender tone. Use to your taste. We hope to give you a starting point here.

Start with the distortion pedal. Stevie used the Tube Screamer for more gain, not distortion. In other words, he used the TS as a sort of "pre"-preamp. Do the same with your pedal. We really don't have a specific setting for Stevie's rig, but it would probably be close if you set the Level to max, the distortion to maybe 2, and the tone to max. Now remember, Stevie is playing on the edge already, and using the Tube Screamer this way will simply provide a wall of volume with more power amp distortion. If you can't turn up like he did (and I don't know who can!), use the distortion control to give just a little more fuzz, and use the level to match the volume like you normally would. It won't sound the same, since you're introducing "imitation" distortion, but it will be at a more reasonable level, and it will help sustain.

Stevie did use a Fuzz Face on some songs, especially later in his career, and mostly in concert rather than on an album. Stevie used the Fuzz Face specifically for distortion, while he used the Tube Screamer mostly for added gain (make it louder). You can hear the Fuzz Face on "Leave My Girl Alone" on IN STEP. Stevie turns the Fuzz Face on as he begins his solo. You can hear how his tone becomes much more distorted at that time. You can set your distortion box to this type of fuzz, too. It may not be as "smooth" as a Fuzz Face, but it will produce the extra distortion.

Now, the compressor. Tube amps naturally introduce some compression, but mainly when you drive them hard. A small amount of pedal compression will help sustain, and smooth out the pops and thumps when you play hard, like Stevie's attack. This will help a lot when you play at lower volumes. His playing style had a lot of string pulls, finger plucks, and rakes, which means the "volume" of the sound when you use these playing techniques will greatly vary. The compressor will smooth these out. To the best of our knowledge, Stevie never used a chorus unit, or a Rotovibe. Unless you can afford a vintage Vibratone (the Leslie-style speaker cabinet), either of these effects can approximate the shimmering sound found on songs like "Cold Shot" and "Couldn't Stand the Weather". Set the depth to shallow, and the speed to medium-fast, about 6 or 7 beats per second. You want just a hint of an organ tone, not a full-out, phased and echoed goth-rock effect.

These tips are just a start. Your equipment, your fingers, and your style will give you a tone all your own, even if you played with Stevie's own gear. Even Stevie's tone changed through the years, so use this info as a jumping-off point, and change it to introduce your own personality.

--(Major contributor: Tony Wojnar)


A full write up on this topic is forthcoming.


Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation has an extensive "Recorded Versions - Guitar" series of tablature. These books are an excellent source to get an idea of how to play Stevie's music. They will not show you technique so much as the notes, both in music and standard tablature. The books are best used in conjunction with the albums to get the timing and feel of the music and Stevie's style of playing.

Hal Leonard has published tablature books for every Stevie Ray Vaughan album. Most include the basic rhythm along with fills, and of course, solos. All books are well prepared, clean and easy to read. All but one include a few pages of pictures of Stevie Ray from various times.


Following is a list of the tablature books, a brief description, transcriber, and ISBN numbers.

Texas Flood (ISBN 0-7935-4093-3) Transcribed by Jesse Gress.
Includes all songs from Stevie's first album.

Couldn't Stand the Weather (ISBN 0-7935-4203-0) Transcribed by
Jesse Gress. Includes all songs from his second album.

Soul to Soul (ISBN 0-7935-4414-9) Transcribed by Jesse Gress.
Includes everything from this 1985 release.

Live Alive (ISBN 0-7935-4381-9) Transcribed by Jesse Gress.
Includes everything from the live album.

Lightnin' Blues 1983-1987 (no ISBN listed) Transcribed by John
Tapella. Compilation of songs from albums between 1983 and
1987. Includes 6 songs from Texas Flood, 6 from Couldn't Stand
the Weather, 7 from Soul to Soul, and 5 from Live Alive. In
addition, Pipeline from the Back to the Beach soundtrack appears.

In Step (ISBN 0-7935-0322-1) Transcribed by Jesse Gress. All
songs from Stevie's last album. Also includes a foldout color poster.

The Vaughan Brothers - Family Style (ISBN 0-7935-0741-3)
Transcribed by Jesse Gress. Notation for Stevie's only album with his brother.

The Sky Is Crying (ISBN 0-7935-1555-6)
Transcribed by Dave Whitehill.

In The Beginning (ISBN 0-7935-2275-7) Transcribed by Jesse Gress.

For those interested in Stevie's technique, Hal Leonard has a Stevie Ray Vaughan book (ISBN 0-7935-0824-X) in their Signature Licks series. Wolf Marshall explains picking technique and other aspects of Stevie's sound. Parts of 13 songs are transcribed, along with notes on how they were played and what made them unique. An accompanying 59 minute CD includes samples of the transcribed parts, both in normal and slowed tempos.


If you just need that one lick from that one performance, a magazine back-issue can be a good way to go. In fact, if you are a typical guitar nerd, you may already have it and not know it. A list of known magazine issues with SRV tabs follows.


Change It GFTPM 11/86 Andy Aledort
Couldn't Stand The Weather GFTPM 1/86 Andy Aledort
Crossfire GFTPM 12/90 Andy Aledort
Crossfire GT 1/95 Julian Nicholas
D/FW GW 11/91
Good Texan GS 11/91
House Is Rockin', The GW 9/95 P. Mabry & A. Buk
Lenny GP 3/91
Lenny GS 1/91
Little Wing GL /94 Dave Whitehill
Little Wing GS 3/92 Dave Whitehill
Look At Little Sister GFTPM 8/94
Love Struck Baby GFTPM 3/93 Andy Aledort
Mary Had A Little Lamb GFTPM 5/91 Andy Aledort
Pride And Joy GFTPM 8/84 Chip Larison
Pride And Joy GFTPM** Andy Aledort
Pride And Joy GW 12/90
Pride And Joy (El Mocambo) BOGP /94 Vic Trigger
Pride And Joy (Unplugged) GW 3/95 Andy Aledort
Rude Mood GS 7/89
Say What! GFTPM* /92 Andy Aledort
Scuttle Buttin' GFTPM 11/89 Andy Aledort
Shake For Me GW 1/93 Hemme B. Luttjeboer
Sky Is Crying, The GFTPM 3/92 Andy Aledort
So Excited (El Mocambo) BOGP /94 Vic Trigger
Superstition GW 4/91 Dave Whitehill
Taxman GS 2/96 Andy Aledort
Testify GL 11/92 Patrick Mabry
Texas Flood GFTPM* /92 Andy Aledort
Texas Flood GW 2/90 Dave Whitehill
Tightrope GW 5/90
Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) GFTPM* /92 Andy Aledort
Wham! GW 4/93

*Guitar For The Practicing Musician Presents Hendrix/Vaughan (special issue)
**Guitar For The Practicing Musician Blues Classics Volume I


BOGP Best Of Guitar Player phone: (800) 444-4881 (US)

GFTPM Guitar For The Practicing Musician (handled by Music Dispatch)
phone: (800) 637-2852 (US) (414) 774-3630 (US)

GL Guitar World Presents Guitar Legends phone: (212) 807-7100 (US)

GP Guitar Player phone: (800) 444-4881 (US)

GS Guitar School phone: (212) 807-7100 (US)

GT Guitar Techniques email: phone: 01353 668586 (UK)

GW Guitar World phone: (212) 807-7100 (US)

Note that these numbers are in some cases not the subscription numbers. They were verified as correct for ordering back-issues as of March, 1996.

Other magazine notes:

Guitar World 9/95 includes a "private lesson" with Stevie himself that is the result of a trio of interviews done by Andy Aledort. Tab examples are included for the examples discussed.

--(Major contributors: Michal Casterline, C. Michael Parma & Sean Nicholson)


Below are some general topics which frequently arise during conversations about Stevie Ray Vaughan.


There is a great picture of Stevie's Coptic cross on the cover of the "Live from Austin, Texas" video. No one seems to know for sure where Stevie obtained the cross, but it was as much a part of his image as his hats, ponchos and boots. Doyle Bramhall, a close friend and fellow musician, suspects that he may have picked it up at a little Ethiopian shop in Austin, where Stevie purchased most of his trinkets.

In 1990, after the tragic helicopter crash, Stevie's brother Jimmie was asked to return to the tragic scene. As he was leaving, someone knocked on the car window and said, "We found one other item." Jimmie recognized it as being Stevie's Coptic cross and placed it around his neck as he drove off.

There is a store called Nomadic Notions in Austin, Texas which carries Coptic crosses, also known as Ethiopian crosses. This might very well be the store from which SRV obtained his cross.

At this store, one can obtain Coptic crosses which are handmade in Ethiopia by the different Christian tribes there. Each tribe has its own variation on the theme. Most of them are the same general shape of SRV's cross, with the triangle shapes on each point of the extremities and three bars representing the Trinity at the top, although the center shows tribal variation.

The center of SRV's cross had little holes in it. The type available at Nomadic Notions have an area in the middle that looks like interwoven silver, to represent eternity. These crosses are made out of something called "pot silver" which is an alloy with a little silver in it for durability. They are quite beautiful and heavy, and priced at $12 and $14.

The book "Africa Adorned" shows photos of the different types of Ethiopian crosses, including a photo of one called an "Aksum" Ethiopian cross which is very similar to SRV's. Aksum is the town or region in Ethiopia where this style of cross is made.

Nomadic Notions gets shipments of Coptic crosses from Ethiopia every several months. They do not have control over what kind of crosses they get, and cannot order a certain style. However, they have a mailing list if you want to be notified when they receive shipments. That way you can watch for the Aksum style to show up. of our TexasFlooders has a company that is making replicas of Stevie's Coptic cross. For more information they can be reached at:

Finally, if you live in or near Ethiopia, you could go to Aksum and pick up plenty of SRV style Coptic crosses for all us Texasflooders.

--(Major contributors: Carla Lowe and Dan High)


Stevie's trademark "Soul Tip" requires two descriptions to do it justice. Representing the first perspective is Texasflooder Rose Southward:

Soul Tip - The gloriously sexy triangular patch of hair beneath Stevie's lower lip. Extremely sensual and oh-so-dreamy. Looks like it would have been pleasurable to run one's teeth through.

Representing the second perspective is Texasflooder Steve Toney:

Soul Tip - Let it grow, shave everywhere but under you lip, trim it once a week. Yawn!

--(Major contributors: Rose Southward & Steve Toney)


Doyle Bramhall, Stevie's longtime friend and song writing partner, tells this story:

The year was 1973...Stevie and Doyle were members of a group called the Nightcrawlers and they were in Corpus Christi, Texas at the time. After a night of heavy drinking, they decided to get tattoos. Doyle went first, and describes the tattoo artist as this crusty old guy with a cigarette butt hanging' out of his mouth. Doyle can't remember the guy's name, but he was a tough old bird. Smoke was blown right into his face as his tattoo was completed.

It was then 19 year old Stevie's turn. Stevie actually selected an arm tattoo, but requested that it be placed on the middle of his chest. Stevie wanted a tattoo of a grand phoenix bird rising from the ashes, but it ended up looking more like a baby peacock. The old guy proceeded to bestow a great deal of pain on Stevie as he bore down. Doyle says that most tattoo artists will tattoo a little, then stop and pause to give the customer (victim) a little relief. This old guy just kept on tattooing, never letting up. He would say "Does this hurt?", then he would laugh, as he continued tattooing. Since Stevie was so thin at the time, the pain was excruciating on his chest bone. He swore that he would never do that again!

Thanks for the story Doyle!
--(Major contributor: Dan High)


We are sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but Manny Gammage, hatmaker to the stars, died of cancer on December 30, 1995. Mr. Gammage was 57. He took over the hat business from his father and transformed it from a little hat shop in Austin to one of the best known hatteries in the world. As owner of Texas Hatters, in Buda, Texas Manny made hats for several US Presidents, the King of Sweden, and countless music and entertainment legends. He was a soft-spoken gentleman with the gift of story telling.

The shop's craftship continues under the guidance of Manny's daughter, Joella Gammage Nolen, who apprenticed with her father for 15 years. She is continuing the family business in the same spirit as her father and grandfather. So, you can still get "the real thang" if you want a hat like SRV's.

If you want to buy a hat like Stevie's, you can order it from Texas Hatters, in Buda, Texas. As of last November, 1995, you could order a custom hat, just like Stevie's, in your size for about $175.00. It will have your name in gold imprinted in the inside brim, with "In Memory of Stevie Ray Vaughan" in gold as well. For more information, you can call: 512-295-HATS or toll free 800-421-4287. You can also visit their website at:

--(Major contributors: Lee Hopkins & Beverly Howell)


Stevie's white guitar strap with the black eighth notes on it is available from:

Grapevine Mills Mall #117
3000 Grapevine Mills Pkwy
Grapevine TX 76051
(972) 724-3399

--(Major contributor: Frank Sandoval)