— June 26, 2017
On July 17, 1982, an unexpected and unanticipated sound signaled the launch of an unforgettable musical icon, along with providing a timeless business lesson.
The sound was so stunning, so shocking, I had to go back over the audio to make sure I was hearing it correctly.
I listened again, and yes, it was indeed there – a sound I never imagined I’d hear.
At least not one associated with this person, and not in this setting.
But it was there, clear and unmistakable.
People were booing.
And they weren’t just booing anyone.
They were booing one of the most talented guitar players in human history, an iconic figure who has inspired countless rock and blues guitar players for the past 30 years.
The (Unexpected) Sound of Success
It was July 17, 1982, and a young, virtually unknown Texan named Stevie Ray Vaughan was about to take the world by storm.
Only he (and the crowd booing him that night) didn’t realize it at the time.
Stevie was playing with his band, Double Trouble, at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival.
Vaughan took the stage (you can watch the performance here) and gave an incredible, face-melting performance, using the signature style of electric guitar-fueled blues rock that would make him a superstar in short order.
Unfortunately for him, the mostly European crowd in attendance that night apparently preferred a more traditional, acoustic style of blues music.
So much so that many of them booed their heads off during his entire set!
Don’t Always Listen to the Audience
It’s unsettling to hear, and especially shocking when you consider how well Vaughan played and sang, and how, just a few months later, he’d begin his stratospheric journey into guitar god and rock icon, selling more than 11 million albums before dying in a tragic helicopter crash in 1990.
The great irony (and lesson) here for you and I is twofold:
First, Stevie Ray Vaughan did not stop playing. He ignored the boos and kept doing his thing. He didn’t try to adjust or apologize for his unique approach.
He didn’t conform or quit.
Second, and quite ironically, the Montreux Jazz Festival actually became the catalyst that launched Vaughan’s entire music career.
From Boos to Bowie
It was during his time at the festival that two of the era’s biggest rock stars (David Bowie and Jackson Browne) heard Vaughan play.
Impressed, Bowie asked Vaughan to play on his upcoming record.
Next, Browne offered Vaughan and his band free use of a recording studio to make an album.
Playing on Bowie’s album helped Stevie Ray Vaughan break into the rock and roll mainstream.
Recording (for free!) at Browne’s studio produced Vaughan’s iconic “Texas Flood” album, one of the most beloved records in rock (and blues) history.
The Route You Must Take
What if Stevie Ray Vaughan had listened to the naysayers and boo birds that night at Montreux?
What if he hadn’t finished his set, or hadn’t stayed around for two more nights to play a couple of tiny club gigs …
The very gigs where Bowie and Browne discovered him and helped launch his career?
I want you to finish this post by making me a promise or three:
You are going to get out there and take some risks.
You are going to get out there and take some action.
You are going to get out there and be original – staying true to your unique voice and style of communicating, marketing and selling.
People might boo, but others (many, many others) are going to cheer as well.
Focus on those cheers, and follow the path you were meant to take!