Guest article written by Craig Smith with Lauren Haas
Stevie Ray Vaughan’s legacy was on display Saturday, November 26th at the 13th annual SRV Tribute concert at the Pageant Theater. Vaughan was called the Master of the Stratocaster for his ability to make the trademark guitar sing, cry, howl and scream. He died in a 1990 helicopter crash, and his career was far too brief. But his timeless influence was showcased by three of St. Louis’s best last night at the Pageant.
This year’s show opened with Jimmy Lee Kennett. For 30 years, Kennett has rocked the St. Louis area. Despite battling cancer over the past year, he is still in prime form. A somewhat diminished but cancer-free Kennett ran through several numbers including a Vaughan-inspired version of the 60’s surf classic “Pipeline.” At one point Jimmy picked up a blue Stratocaster he claimed was a “Guitar Center $100 special.” The sound was priceless no matter the cost of the axe. Kennett played with an effortless quality and joyfulness that belied the soulful blues pouring from his guitar.
The center piece of the show was Tony Campanella, who literally shredded his guitar, blowing out a string at one point. Campanella loses himself in the music and plays with abandon as the sound cascades from his fingers. Campanella has mastered Vaughan’s speed and passion in a way that only a live performance can demonstrate. Tony attacks the material with ferocity and surprising power.
The godfather of Stevie Ray players in St. Louis is Steve Pecaro. Steve is a giant of a man with magic hands. Despite his great talents he is also a master of generously sharing the stage and frequently turned the spotlight to other artists. At one point he literally tossed his strat across the stage where his long time bass player, Craig West, proceeded to stomp the tremelo bar sustaining the screaming note Pecaro had initiated.
Steve also shared the stage with vocalist Danny Liston who highlighted the turbulent year many of the artist had endured. Another local legend, Max Baker of Mama’s Pride joined Steve. The two exchanged blazing licks from Stevie Ray’s hit “Pride and Joy.”
Steve closed down with a rousing encore of “The House is a Rockin” that featured all the night’s guests. The final jam saw Kennett, Baker, Campanella and Pecaro playing round robin lead. The full house was truly rocking by the end and Steve made a point to invite everyone to next year’s event.
If you love Stevie Ray Vaughan, rock and blues, or just amazing live performances, I would encourage you to be there too.