Mike McCready explains how “transcendent” Stevie Ray Vaughan helped him understand Jimi Hendrix better

“Stevie somehow taught me through osmosis.”

Mike McCready and Stevie Ray Vaughan

Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Credit: Jim Bennett/Paul Natkin/Getty

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Mike McCready has sung the praises of Stevie Ray Vaughan, revealing that seeing him perform helped him to get a grip of his guitar hero Jimi Hendrix‘s trademark thumb technique.

His praise of Vaughan isn’t limited to this, however – in a new interview with Guitarist, he also explains how Vaughan influenced so many other aspects of his playing, including his love of the Fender Strat.

When asked his reasons for falling in love with the Strat, McCready says: “I know exactly why.

“I was lucky enough to see Stevie Ray Vaughan play four times before he died. I loved Hendrix: he was my first guitar hero, growing up in Seattle. But seeing Stevie was transcendent. He made me understand Hendrix better.”

Seeing Vaughan had enabled McCready to see up close how Hendrix’s unusual technique of fretting the root notes of chords with his thumb benefitted his playing style.

“I could watch Hendrix play Monterey, but I still didn’t really know what he was doing,” says McCready.

“I saw he had his thumb over the fretboard, but it still didn’t make any sense to me. But when I saw Stevie live, it was like, ‘Oh! That’s what he’s doing.’ Stevie somehow taught me through osmosis. He was so bluesy and so real, and he’d sit on the side of the stage at the end of the show and do Lenny, y’know, that little mellow piece.

“When he did Voodoo Child, it was so bad-ass. He changed how I wanted to play, and if you listen to [1992 single] Even Flow, you can hear me trying to emulate his stuff.”

Indeed, the story goes that McCready landed his spot in Pearl Jam after Stone Gossard heard him playing Vaughan’s Couldn’t Stand The Weather, but he clarifies that this happened at a house party rather than a gig as is often believed and it occurred some time before he was asked to join the band.

“I was at a party at my friend’s house,” says McCready. “I was in his bedroom and I put on Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Couldn’t Stand The Weather and was playing along to it. I remember Stone Gossard walked in. I had known Stone since sixth grade, but he had Mother Love Bone happening already.

“Cut to about a year later when Andy [Wood] passed, I got a call out of the blue from Stone and I think it was because he saw me playing Couldn’t Stand The Weather to the record… he said he couldn’t do that stuff – and I could kind of do it.”

Earlier this month, McCready reveals he doesn’t know how to play the intro to Pearl Jam’s hit Alive, because it turns out Gossard plays that part.


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