How Huey Lewis Helped Stevie Ray Vaughan Through Difficult Tour
The incident took place in the mid ‘80s, when Huey Lewis and the News had sold out a tour in advance. With the freedom to choose an opening act that didn’t need to help sell tickets, the singer told his agent to book Vaughan and Double Trouble.
“Stevie Ray's manager at the time asked for more money than they were worth,” Lewis wrote in a new Facebook post. “My agent said, ‘This is ridiculous. We can't pay them this kind of money. They're not worth anything. We're just helping them by putting them on the tour. They should be paying us. Blah, blah, blah.’ I said, ‘Forget about it. Just pay him. Trust me. You'll be glad you did.’”
The first show of the tour was in Oklahoma City – name-checked during the News' 1983 hit "Heart of Rock 'n' Roll" – and Lewis said he arrived early in order to watch Vaughan’s performance with News bandmates Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton. “They were just killing it,” the singer recalled. “Then the song ended and there was a moment of dead silence. Then the audience started chanting, ‘Huey, Huey, Huey, Huey.’ I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh. That's horrible. These people don't get this.’ I couldn't believe it.”
Unsurprisingly, Vaughan’s band members were “put off” by the reaction, and Lewis followed them to their bus in a bid to cheer them up. He told them: “Look, fellas, you're tremendous. Here's the thing, the audience is invested in us. They know our music. They play the record on the way to the venue. No matter how good you are, they're bound to think that we're going to be much, much better. There's no way you're going to score here.” But he added: “What's going to happen is, when they go home tonight, they're going to say, ‘Hey, you know what? That first band was pretty good’.”
After telling them to “relax” and assuming them that the tour would work out for them, Lewis said they wound up having a “wonderful” experience. “Stevie Ray got onstage and played ‘Bad Is Bad’ with us every single night," Lewis noted. "We just were inseparable for the whole tour.”