Aug 28, 2015
The first time I saw Stevie Ray Vaughan live in concert, he was close enough to reach out and touch. Literally. Vaughan and Double Trouble were playing at a long-gone Clearwater, Florida nightspot, Mr. T’s Club 19 in the mid-1980s. (It was next to the also long-gone Peaches Records & Tapes. I think the site is a Sam’s Club, now. Naturally.)
MARK PROCT podcast excerpt: "It was hard to believe what happened to Stevie the night before and we were not sure what we we were going to see (at the crash site). The FAA was already onsite and they were very nice to Jimmie and let us go up the hill to the site. The amazing part of this was that Jimmie was looking for Stevie's cross. We were there for a while and couldn't find it. We went to leave and a guy ran up to the car we were in. In this field he had found the cross and handed it to Jimmie. It was amazing."
I was sitting at the cool kids’ table – Tampa Tribune rock critic David Okamoto was there, as were Bill Templeton and Eric Snider, editors of the local music mag called, cleverly, Music. I was covering the show for the St. Petersburg Times. All of us had heard of the blistering blues guitarist from Texas and we all wanted to see what the fuss was about in person.
It took about 10 seconds to know Stevie Ray was the genuine article.
MARK PROCT podcast excerpt: "The Fabulous Thunderbirds were a ragtag group in Austin. I'd seen them at Antone's and their gear would be in almost garbage bags. They hardly had cases! I didn't want to go to work for that bunch! It scared me. But when Delbert McClinton stopped working, I needed a job, and a friend of mine had gone to work for the Thunderbirds as their sound engineer. He called me up and said, 'We're looking for a tour manager. (I had never done that before.) We're going to Europe in six months for about six weeks. Are you interested?' I had never been to Europe at the time and I really wanted to see it. I'm a fairly organized person; I had been watching tour managers for Willie Nelson, Asleep at the Wheel, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Delbert for five years. I thought I could probably do the job."
Today, I’m excited to welcome a guest who may well have been at that gig, too, long time Stevie Ray Vaughan and Fabulous Thunderbirds tour manager Mark Proct.
Proct has just published Home Today, Gone Tomorrow: Snapshots from 40 Years on the Road – Austin and Back, a collection of snapshots from his four decades on the road with musicians, including Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Delbert McClinton, Carlos Santana, Jimmie Vaughan and the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and, of course, Stevie Ray and Double Trouble.
MARK PROCT podcast excerpt: "I was a serious New Yorker with a heavy accent and fairly long hair when I got to Austin in 1975. The first job I got was as a sound technician on the road with the tech crew for Willie Nelson... I had never been to West Texas before. Those were some serious rednecks. Fortunately, I had a couple of people on Willie's crew that were 6'2", 6'3", and they watched my back all the time so I didn't get in too much trouble."
We recorded this interview on August 27, 2015, which was the 25th anniversary of the helicopter crash that took the life of Stevie Ray Vaughan. The book is heavy on photos and light on stories, but I’m told Proct has the gift of gab, so let’s put him to the test.
• 6:25 Mark Proct discusses being a native New Yorker working for Willie Nelson and touring East Texas in the mid-1970s;
• 14:00 The state of the Fabulous Thunderbirds when Proct agreed to become the band's tour manager in Europe -- even though he had never been there before;
• 42:30 What it was like visiting the site of the helicopter crash the morning after the accident that took Stevie Ray Vaughan, two members of Eric Clapton's crew, a CAA agent, and the pilot.