The following is an excerpt from Stevie Ray Vaughan–Day by Day, Night After Night by Craig Hopkins. This book is available as separate volumes: His Early Years, 1954-1982 and His Final Years, 1983-1990, as well as together in a deluxe boxed set.
October 4, 1984
Chesley [Millikin, Stevie’s manager] said Stevie wanted to play Carnegie Hall, and he sold it to Ron Densler in New York as a blues show – the only time Chesley ever presented Stevie as a bluesman.
The band wore custom velvet “mariachi” suits made for the show, Stevie in red for part of the show and then in a blue suit matching those of Double Trouble. The band built a stage set of blue and gold and wanted to film the show, but CBS Records decided against it and only recorded the audio. Chris [Layton] recalls why the band went to the trouble of costumes and stage set: “Because it was Carnegie Hall – historical place – and so many great people have been there. It seemed like a real privilege to be able to go there and do that. We thought, ‘God, it’s so special, let’s make it more special than just haulin’ the gear in there and setting up and just playing.’”
There was a 4:00 p.m. sound check, which was the only practice in Carnegie Hall before the show.
Stevie was introduced as “one of the greatest guitar players of all time” by John Hammond, whose loyal support after hearing the Montreux tape included serving as Executive producer of both Texas Flood and Couldn’t Stand the Weather.
The show was benefit for the T.J. Martell Foundation’s work in leukemia and cancer research. The 2,200 seats were all sold. Stevie was extremely excited and nervous, saying he didn’t calm down until about halfway through the third song.
STEVIE: “We had a limousine to take us to [Carnegie Hall], which is half a block from here, but it was necessary. Every time we’d go down there or come back to the hotel, we had to get in this car and do a couple of blocks so I didn’t have to stand there with a lot of people that I didn’t know, and some that I did, getting mad at me because I couldn’t get them tickets of backstage passes. The last time I was that nervous is when I got married, but I couldn’t show that to anybody. There were some panicky times in rehearsal, but I can’t show them how freaked out I am. I’m supposed to be leading this thing. Are you gonna follow somebody who is shaking in their shoes? It’s a fear of not living up to what you’re trying to do. I’m not sure how to say this. Sometimes something can almost mean too much, you know? I sounded as nervous as I was. I calmed down about halfway through ‘Voodoo Chile.’ I looked over at Tommy, and he was just sort of staring at me, and that’s when I knew it was gonna be all right.”
After the show, MTV threw a private part for the band, record company and other VIPs. It took [Stevie] an hour just to walk from the bar to the table across the room where his parents were sitting. Stevie Ray found his father, a retired asbestos worker who hadn’t taken a plane ride since the Korean War, and hugged him until they both cried.
On Oct. 6, Joe Rhodes wrote in the Dallas Times Herald, “Tomorrow there will be chamber music here again, string concertos and people in tuxedos politely applauding the works of Bartok and Bach. But Thursday night, this place was full of stomping feet and swaying bodies, kids in blue jeans hanging off the balconies, dancing bodies that clogged the aisles. Thursday night, it belonged to Stevie Ray Vaughan.”