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.