Alan Paul and Andy Aledort
Texas Flood: The Inside Story of Stevie Ray Vaughn
St. Martin’s Press
Hardcover (also available as an e-book, audio book, and on audio CD), 978-1-2501-4283-2, 368 pgs., $29.99
August 13, 2019
Texas Flood turns the concept of biography on its ear in an innovative, accessible, and wholly captivating way. Writers Paul and Aledort sidestep the traditional narrow and predigested historical narrative in favor of a wide-angle lens that lets the reader become the historian and discover meaningful conclusions based on a veritable flood of artifacts, interviews, photos, and more.
This technique is unsettling at first. The feel is almost skeletal, comprised of narrative snippets interspersed with interview clips. That’s partly for the reader’s practice, because very quickly—and comfortably—the skeleton becomes scaffolding laden with firsthand experiences told by Vaughan himself, his brother Jimmy, his bandmates, family, and a virtual who’s-who of blues and boogie rock, including Eric Clapton, Greg Allman, Albert King, Robert Cray, Dicky Betts, Buddy Guy, Eric Johnson, Bonnie Raitt, Steve Miller, and many more.
It's a risky strategy from a biographer’s standpoint, but the reader gets the ultimate payoff, examining the bits of firsthand memories and fragments of Vaughan’s life. More traditional biography generalizes and presents a single-thread chronology polished of the jagged edges of real life. This book does the opposite: Paul and Aledort particularize and ask the reader to piece together their own tapestry with the worn, imperfect threads of experience lived on the three hundred patiently, thoroughly detailed pages. For the reader, you’re there, and you make meaning of the visceral experience yourself, and thereby own the truth shared by the many voices that comprise this authentic account.
There’s a “Titanic”-worthy tragic undertow in that truth, because from page one we know the story does not end well. The loss is deepened as the chronology limns a humble, unassuming man from childhood simply exploring the guitar and over time and with much struggle, wringing from it a soulful, masterful intensity rarely seen or heard in a lifetime. Vaughan unfolds through the chronology, existing—couch surfing, mostly broke, schlepping road miles not only for the blues, but living the blues himself. He was what Baudelaire called the “supranatural”: Stevie Ray Vaughan was the music, was the blues.
Texas Flood is a fascinating backstage pass, a front row seat at the epicenter of the Texas music that unfolded in the eighties and nineties in Austin, told in the many authentic voices that shared SRV’s life. The story couldn’t have come from a more elevated Greek peripeteia: Vaughan was at last drug-free, sober, healthy, and leading his band into the best blues he’d ever played, even while offering a helping hand to others who struggled with the demons he’d vanquished himself.
“Stevie showed all of us,” says Tommy Shannon, Double Trouble bassist, “what it was to reach down into one’s heart and soul—into one’s life—and communicate that feeling of love through the guitar on a deep, spiritual level.”
Vaughan’s ability to express the blues was a gift, and this book is more than a history or tribute. Read it, live it, own it: along with the music, it’s the best of what we have left of Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Alan Paul is the author of the Top Ten New York Times bestseller One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band. His first book, Big in China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising a Family, Playing the Blues, and Becoming a Star in Beijing (Harper), a memoir about raising three American children in Beijing and the unlikely success of his Chinese blues band, Woodie Alan, is currently being developed as a film by Ivan Reitman's Montecito Pictures. Woodie Alan, featuring three Chinese musicians and one other American, was named 2008's Best Band in Beijing.
Paul is a senior writer for Guitar World and a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal. The National Society of Newspaper Columnists named him 2008 Online Columnist of the Year. He also reported from Beijing for NBC, Sports Illustrated, and other media outlets. You can find him online here.
Andy Aledort has sold over one million instructional DVDs and continues to produce new DVD products for Guitar World and Truefire. There are many additional Aledort products on the market available from other companies such as Hal Leonard and Alfred Music Pub. Aledort has also been featured nationally on Comcast Music On Demand every day, seven days a week. Aledort has been touring for the last eight years with Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers and plays slide guitar in the band. Aledort regularly participates in the Jimi Hendrix Tribute Tours of the last nine years and is featured on the live Experience Hendrix DVD available from jimihendrix.com appearing with Paul Rodgers, Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin, Mick Taylor, Mitch Mitchell, Billy Cox, Robert Randolph, and others. He’s also performed and recorded many times with Double Trouble, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s rhythm section of Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton. They appear with Aledort on a cut from his upcoming studio album.
Andy Aledort performs regularly in the tri-state area with his band, the Groove Kings. They released an acclaimed studio album, Put A Sock In It, an equally highly regarded live album, Live at North Star, in 2009. Aledort has two albums worth of studio material that is planned for release within the next two years. Visit him online here.
Chris Manno earned his doctorate in English at Texas Christian University where he teaches writing. He is the author of the award-winning Texas novels East Jesus and Blood and Remembrance.