Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Dallas roots recognized with new park in his honor
Stevie Ray Vaughan, the blues rock giant, had a reputation as a guitar virtuoso who garnered worldwide fame.
But before Vaughan and his band Double Trouble churned out hits like the swaying “Pride and Joy” and the fast-paced instrumental “Rude Mood” from their debut album, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer got his start in and around the Dallas neighborhood of Oak Cliff.
That’s where he began to make a name for himself as a young local musician destined for stardom.
“I was proud of him, because he always told me that sometime I would see his name in lights, said Sue Ann Wall Kosydar, who remembers Stevie Ray Vaughan as a kid from the neighborhood. “That was our big standing joke — that I'd have to pay to come see him.”
Stevie would lock himself in his room and Kosydar would hear him practice behind the walls. She said they wouldn't always get along, but she was amazed by his guitar skills.
"I know of him practicing in his bedroom constantly," Kosydar said. "My parents would go there and play dominoes with his parents."
Now, the local community that supported Vaughan’s early days has honored his legacy with a new park bearing his name.
On Saturday, the small city of Cockrell Hill — tucked into Dallas nearby Vaughn’s Oak Cliff neighborhood — unveiled Stevie Ray Vaughan Park to coincide with Earth Day.
The new park includes a stage, a grassy knoll and parking spots for food trucks. Near the manicured lawn, there's a realistic painted mural depicting photos of the Vaughan brothers through the years.
One of the photos is of Jimmie's first band, the Swinging Pendulums. A young Stevie is on the stage. Written on the stage below the band are the words, “Cockrell Hill Jubilee.”
“On the back of that photograph, Stevie Ray Vaughan actually wrote ‘First band, First performance,' and so there is no other city that can claim that,” said Cockrell Hill Mayor Luis Carrera.
Before he died in a helicopter accident in 1990, Stevie and his brother Jimmie, who’s still alive, released hundreds of hours of music and won numerous awards including six Grammys.
Stevie's song "Crossfire" was a No. 1 hit on the Billboard U.S. Rock charts in 1989. They each stood alongside the likes of Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King and Eric Clapton.
But before Stevie and Jimmie hit it big, they lived in working-class Oak Cliff near Kiest Park with their family.
The new park isn't the first memorial to Stevie in Dallas or Texas. The city of Austin dedicated a statue to him in 1994, and another was dedicated in 2020 to both the Vaughan brothers near their old home in Kiest Park.
But Cockrell Hill is the first city to name a park after the musician.
Kirby Warnock, director of a new documentary about the Vaughan brothers called "Brothers in Blues," said Dallas is lucky to have such a rich music legacy.
“I'm tickled that Dallas and now Cockrell Hill are trying to recognize their, you know, cultural history," Warnock said.
During one of his interviews for the film, Jimmie Vaughan explained that before their family lived at the house near Kiest Park, they lived in a home in Cockrell Hill. It was at the nearby Hill Theater that Stevie first played guitar in public.
That theater had some history of its own. It was once owned by Gene Autry, known as the “Singing Cowboy,” who was a Hollywood star and North Texas native.
The Hill Theater burned down in 1999 and the property sat unoccupied for years.
That’s when Mayor Carrera said he learned about the history of the property, and the city jumped at the chance to dedicate that part of history to Stevie Ray.
"We were able to put our pennies aside and have enough funds to do what's here," Carrera said. "We're wanting this to be a public space, a mini-Klyde Warren park in a way."
Now Carrera hopes the park will be a place that will encourage more local music, and the next generation of artists.
That way fans can come and enjoy live local music at the park — at no cost.
And who knows — maybe Stevie Ray Vaughan Park will be a launch point for the next local legend.
“We’ve got power, they can come and set up play as they wish,” Carrera said.
“It's really meant for any young musician,” he said.
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