Friday, August 27, 2010

Casey James Fans, Thank Stevie Ray Vaughan Today

John Mayer wrote a post today on his blog in honor of the 20th anniversary of the death of legendary blues musician Stevie Ray Vaughan.  In it, he wrote:
And I post this in honor of both Stevie and the thousands of undiscovered guitar players who shut the doors to their rooms, dim the lights and play along to the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan and find their escape through a Fender Stratocaster.
I don't know whether the visual is 100% accurate (maybe Casey played in his living room, maybe the lights were bright), but it is fair to say that Casey James is one of those thousands of guitar players influenced by SRV.  The difference from a year ago to now is that he is no longer within the umbrella of the undiscovered, which is the usual fate for blues musicians.

That a musician so heavily influenced by the blues could get on American Idol, let alone have such a great run on the show, was a good sign. That he is now signed to a major record company is an even better one. Blues, and its purveyors, does not get the attention it deserves on its own.  It's a simple fact that far more people know who Ke$ha is than Kenny Wayne Sheppard.  Hopefully, Casey can continue to do his part to help change that as he has just by introducing me and the other millions of AI fans to a genre we may not have been that too familiar with.

For whatever reason, blues as a genre is not widely popular in mass media.  There is no major TV channel devoted to the genre, no nationally broadcast awards show for its practitioners, no top ten radio station playing the music.  Yet as a genre, it has had the widest influence on what is popular.  I recently interviewed Casey's brother BC James, Casey's bassist, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of music.  He rattled off to me all the progenitors of the blues and showed me just how much of what I and everyone else listens to came from the blues genre.  But when I asked who was his biggest influence, he went for one name -- Stevie Ray Vaughan.

When the brothers first started playing, they patterned themselves after Stevie Ray Vaughan.  As Vaughan influenced Casey's guitar playing, he told me, so too did Vaughan's bassist, Tommy Shannon, influence his playing.  Hearing that reminded me that however the mainstream media tries to tell us what's good and what we should listen to, there will be people out there who will think for themselves and find what's truly good.  The James' brothers, like those other still unknown musicians, discovered blues and with it discovered real music.  Nothing fancy, pre-fabricated, constructed to please.   Just honest music. 

Casey told LA Times writer Shirley Halperin that Stevie Ray Vaughan's 1992 release "In the Beginning" was one of the pivotal albums of his life.  He mentioned that he first discovered SRV thanks to his brother and that he used the record to learn how to play the blues.
It was a few years later when I started playing guitar, first by learning some simple stuff like country music and old rock 'n' roll, but then I remember hearing my brother listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan. It was another moment where I was, like, “Wow, I really like what he’s doing with the guitar.” He was just attacking it like nothing I’ve ever heard. So I got an album called “In the Beginning” and I learned every note on it, which was easier to do because it was early on in his career [it was recorded in 1980]. I learned all those notes and it opened me up to the blues. When you look what he was doing, a lot of it was covers, and then you go back and start listening to those guys -- the originals Albert King, Freddie King, Albert Collins -- those influences changed me, too.
Casey James wrote in his high school yearbook that he wanted to be a famous blues musician.  He specified the genre back then that he connected with.  When Casey was playing at the Keys Lounge, he was a blues musician.  When he takes the stage during the American Idol tour, he's a blues musician.  Wherever he goes from here, he's a blues musician.  Because it's about heart and feeling it and not worrying about technique or formulas.  It means being so connected to the music that nothing else matters, you get lost in the notes and how they make you feel.  It is the most organic, most natural form of music, the most stripped bare and raw.  Whatever he does musically from here on out, it will be inspired and informed by the blues and in particular by the blues guitar of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.


  1. Carman ( CoolCJFan)August 27, 2010 at 9:33 AM

    AMEN to that!! Love your posts Shari, only problem, lately I'm having to retouch my makeup everytime I read one... ;)
    You just captured my exact sentiments of the day in this post. I read Mayers post earlier, then watched some SRV stuff, and of course some Casey James vids/interviews/pics and had all these thoughts running thru my head and you just put them all together in one nice compact blog post for me. THANK YOU!! How do you do that? ;)
    I would like to add one thing; Casey James is by far, the best looking Blues Musician ever. ;)

  2. it doesnt get any better than SRV i know in my heart casey james will be as big as SRV.the few people out there that doesnt know casey will know him by this time next year.caseys style and sound is whats been missing in music since the death of this legend.the great thing about casey is he doesn't sound like anyone else.sorry but Lee will just blend in with all other pop singers.casey definitely stands out.and what a personality he has.he loves his fans and it shows!

  3. This was beautiful, Shari. Thank you. Mayer's words were fitting, too. Stevie Ray was a such an inspiration and, I think, a sweet man. How I wish he could have had a longer time here.
    la peche

  4. Well, when he played Kenny Wayne's, King's Hiway at the Keys Lounge, he was way better than Kenny, and not to take anything away from Kenny,he just did.In the video I made,towards the end, he is so into the MUSIC, he is playing with his left hand and his head is down, there is no one in the room but him and his guitar, simply amazing! I was raised on the blues, and there is no place for it specifically, it lives in your soul and heart, and once it's there, it needs more blues to strive, so you listen to your old albums and cassetts, and then when you think it's not going to happen, along comes a BB King, SRV, Albert King,Bobby Blue Bland,just to name a few, all rolled into a tall, good-looking young man from a little town called Cool, someone that has touched my soul with his music and his humbleness. And there are more of these great guys at the Keys, this is the tip of the iceberg for Casey,he is going to do unbelieable things, I can hardly wait!!

  5. Thank you Shari, love your blog!! Keeps us very informed!

  6. Ok, someone's pushin blues here and reminding us of Casey's first love. Stevie Ray Vaughan is amazing, wild on that guitar. I have to admit that Casey's right in there, too. Well, it looks like Casey will be a very very busy musician. Since everyone loves him so much, maybe he will, in due time, make a blues album for his strictly blues fans, a twang album, and something all mixed up album. Boy, he will have to keep pretty darn busy for all of that. Love Casey, trust he will keep everyone happy as he can, he has it all.

  7.'s an added advantage to Casey that he's really good looking...and playing blues...I love SRV bcoz of CEJ coz I see him in him...I mean the love for blues...

  8. Tim Stewart (the guy who plays with Casey on "I Got Mine") is a superb guitarist. His notes are sharp, technically correct and clearly picked. However, his playing sounds surgical and clinical. He lacks soul and the connection that Casey has with his guitar. Casey and his guitar become one and take us on a journey led by our gut. When Casey plucks those strings, I can feel it in my chest. He goes to his musical world and when we are lucky, he takes us with him.
    I don't say this to dis Tim Stewart, I have much respect for his skills. I am just trying to illustrate what sets Casey apart.
    It's just that he feels the music, he IS the music. And to me, that is what makes him just as influentual as SRV.

  9. Anon at 10:30 am said "When Casey plucks those strings, I can feel it in my chest. He goes to his musical world and when we are lucky, he takes us with him." and "It's just that he feels the music, he IS the music."

    Well said! That's exactly how I see it. Or feel it.

    I have always liked blues a lot, but now because of Casey, I love it.

  10. Shari,
    You are such an awesome writer. Thank you for giving us such incite into the Casey James that we have all come to love so much and his beautiful family. You seem to always have just the right words to express what we all feel. I know it is a lot of hard work but we all appreciate so much the work that you do. You are not only a writer but you have become one of our closest friends.
    Thank you.

  11. Jennifer (@spinnyjb)August 27, 2010 at 11:37 AM

    I saw mayer's tweet on my feed this a.m and immediately retweeted because it reminded me so much of those james boys!! I then went and posted it on Billy's fb wall! :) My older brother got me hooked on SRV when I was a kid. When he died it was like a black cloud had descended on our house! I think John Mayer is good, love him. But Casey has so much more....soul. His life experiences come through in his music. He is the real deal. Thank you for writing this. I'm w/ Carman, now i need to go touch up the mascara! ;)

  12. Carman & Spinny took the words outta my mouth, have moved me to tears on more than one occasion with your words and this time is no exception. You are truly a gifted writer and you connect with your readers the same way Casey connects with his music and with his going right to their hearts.

    I came to know SRV thru my oldest son, who is a fierce SRV fan and who was lucky enough to see him play at Jazz Fest here in N.O. years ago before his untimely & tragic death...I may be biased, but I have come to believe over the last several months of falling in love with & getting to know Casey James, that Casey is SRV re-incarnated. Growing up in and living in the city that claims to have given birth to the Blues, where you can find it on every street corner and in every club/bar/honky-tonk in the French Quarter, I can tell y'all that Casey James is the REAL DEAL...he comes in a pretty package, but down deep inside he's got an old Blues soul from waaaay back in the day...and he is gonna go far in his musical career...all the way to the top!

  13. Shari, such an amazing interview with BC. I love your style and your ability to pull out all this information about Casey and his family that we all want to know. The more I read, the more certain I become that Casey is the true example of what an American Idol truly is, seeing where he came from and where he is today. The music came, and by what means? Your interview shows a tough and humble life and one that music kept alive through hopes, dreams and pure love. I hope Billy and the band are able to stay with Casey. They belong together. What a wonderful family. I sure wish them all the best.

  14. Shari, this blog is just getting better and better. I look forward to it every day. Thanks for all your hard work. Now, I have to show my ignorance and say that although I have always loved the blues, I strayed away from it for a while until I saw the videos of Casey at Keys Lounge. Honestly, I felt every note of those last two songs, DODL and Kings Hi-Way. Just love that music and Casey's reaction when he plays the blues. He's obviously so happy, it makes me happy. Maxi, I downloaded your Kings Hi-way and I have to say the last two minutes of that song is just so amazing I have played it so many times. Okay, back to the ignorance. I had never heard of Stevie Ray Vaughn until Casey mentioned him and had never heard him play until this video was posted. Okay, I'm hooked! He is just incredible. Now I will have to DL some of his songs. I can see why he had so much influence on Casey. daydreaminmeme - I agree Casey has an old Blues soul - I had thought that myself. Sorry for rambling on but that's what happens to me when I start talking about Casey. Just love him!

  15. Shari, Thank you for the article. Because I am not familiar with Blues, This has been very educational one:) To understand Casey's music, we got to learn SRV's. When I watch/hear SRV's performance, I can connect with Casey's Performance of Idol Live concert. Inside the Casey's soul, There's Blues~Soul, right?

  16. I posted this on another thread, but it seems more fitting here:

    Today is the 20th anniversary of the death of the great Stevie Ray Vaughan - God rest his soul.

    I cried buckets that day because we lost a an icon: someone who had toiled unnoticed for years and overcome horrible addiction to rise to the top - and show the world what Texas blues are all about.

    Yes, I like Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Sheppard, Doyle Bramhall. But I never EVER thought anyone would come close to SRV - until I saw Casey James perform just a short clip of "I don't need no doctor"

    My heart literally stopped for a moment.. I thought can't be...

    And then I heard his story..toiled unnoticed for years..overcame a horrible accident. Kept chasing his dream even when all the odds were against him

    The more I listened the more I realized that this man had the talent, GRIT, heart and SOUL to match SRV.. and then some

    if you don't believe me, watch his homecoming performances at Keys - watch him shred on "I Got Mine" - and then watch Stevie's version of "Voodoo Chile" or the long version of "Texas Flood". The similarities in their facial expressions literally gives me chills- the music just flows through them. As Shari has pointed out on more than one occasion - watching seems like an intrustion on a very private moment. But we just can't stop watching because the music touches us in a way we didn't know was possible.

    Casey, I can't wait to see where this journey takes you..I will be a fan for life

    God called one of his own home August 27, 1990.. I tell myself it's because he wanted to hear "Pride and Joy".. RIP Casey
    says, no words only love

    J from Boise @SnoSmurf

  17. Have to agree, Casey's music touches your soul. You feel it in your heart! When I saw/heard the videos from Keys of "Kings Hi-Way" and "She's Too Sweet For Me" I loved them and hope maybe he can record them someday. He is absolutely amazing!
    Twitter: @LauraLCourtney

  18. for words.. they've all been said. all i can add is THANK YOU SHARI!'ve given us another great one! God bless you!

  19. Shari, you said a lot in this one blog - and Casey is more than anything a blues musician like he always wanted to be - and now a famous one at that. His future is so bright and will light the way for other talented blues musician as people come to know and appreciate what only Casey has to offer - his heart and soul in his music. I am amazed by his talent and I simply adore the man.

  20. When Casey performs blues, it's not only the skillful, inspired guitar work, it's his gritty, soulful vocals that ring authentic to me. I felt it instantly after seeing just a split second of him on "I don't need no doctor" and like someone said above I too was like "no, it can't be, really?" I was intrigued and excited. Take another look at him performing an old Delta blues song with an acoustic guitar in that NYC hotel. He's got all the proper inflections down, but it's not just mimicking a style -- that boy feels what he's singing about. It raw and it reaches your gut. His voice is tailor made for the genre. The word reincarnated has been used alot in comments to this post, and for a 20-something in the 21st century to perform like *that* -- there is most definitely more than one blues great in Casey's soul. You can't 'learn' that, it comes from within and you're bred with it. He feels every bit of it, and can transform all that emotion -- from earnest pleading to the pure joy of living -- to an audience of listeners who may or may not be familiar with the genre. In the 1980s, blues music had a revival of sorts as a viable popular musical genre, and that was led by Stevie Ray Vaughn. The music was used alot by Madison Ave., and I MTV actually played Stevie videos, and his brothers as part of the Fabulous Thunderbirds in heavy rotation. It's time for another revival, any Casey is ready for the challenge.

  21. Amen Amy!

    It is most defintely time for a blues revival

    It's a unique genre and only those with an old soul..who have lived the pain loss and heartache can sing with sincerity.

    It can't be faked and it can't be packaged and since Casey is neither fake nor packaged...he is the perfect ambassdor to lead the way!

    J from Boise @SnoSmurf

  22. I hope you are a writer by profession Shari. If not, you have missed your calling! Thank you for all of the wonderful Casey writings you have done and continue to do. It is always such a joy to come here.

  23. Who would have known the one thing one brother Mike(I have 3) would have been right about is Stevie Ray Vaughan. We were so different, I just never paid attention to his taste in music, but I remember clearly my brother's love for SRV. Didn't listen, even kind of tuned him out when he'd start talking about him, and I do remember him talking about SRV and TRYING to get me to listen. So sad all I missed, but c'mon this was the guy that would tear down all my Osmond pictures in my room when I was off at Girl Scout camp. He obviously didn't have any music sensibility if he didn't understand my love for the Osmonds! Thank goodness I grew into a curious teenager and then an open-minded adult. Will I ever tell my brother that he was right all these years? Of course not, because he's also the guy who finally talked me into riding the back of his Harley, knowing I was scared, and purposely started riding crazy and fast and taking sharp corners just to scare the living you know what out of me. Will never admit it to him. Never. But, will he know about Casey James? Of course. Just waitin' for that CD!

  24. Thanks so much Shari for your posts and all of your hard work!! I totally agree with all of the above comments and am loving every minute of Casey news & video as I can't get enough of this young man's talent. My favs have always been SRV and Eric Clapton but Casey tops them both because he not only has the guitar skills but the amazing voice that also touches my soul! He is the real deal with a special heart and soul for people as well as music!! I can't help but love him for sharing his God given gifts with all of us!!