To all of you lovers of the blues, get ready!
Harley Hamm, billed as the “World’s Greatest Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute artist,” is coming to the Talent Factory on Friday, July 12.
“It’s a lot of guitar playing … hard-driving blues-rock. It’s in your face and loud … rude and crude,” said Hamm, 48, of Muskogee, Okla., who’s been playing guitar for as long as he can remember and doing SRV tribute performances for about 10 years now.
“I think I was about 3 years old, I really don’t remember, when my dad first put a guitar in my hand and showed me a chord,” Hamm said. “I grew up listening to a lot of music … and [music] got under my skin.”
Hamm said, in fact, that guitar playing and music have been so much a part of his life that he can’t remember ever not playing the guitar. He was 12 years old when he got his first gig at the State Fair in Muskogee, playing guitar and singing.
When it comes to paying tribute to one of the greatest guitar players of all time, you need a resume like Hamm’s to get that job done.
Not only does Hamm sound just like SRV, but he also looks an awful lot like Vaughan. “I’ve seen people with tears in their eyes when they see me,” Hamm said of his uncanny likeness to Stevie.
The show Hamm is bringing to Nevada will be a total dedication to SRV and the music the talented blues artist played. “I do one song I wrote that I use as a setup to the whole show,” Hamm said. “It’s called, ‘A Cat named Stevie Ray,’ and leads into the story of SRV’s life, which we tell through his music.”
Those who attend the show will hear all the great hits of SRV, an artist who died at just 35 years of age in a helicopter crash in Wisconsin. “We do ‘Pride and Joy,’ ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb,’ ‘Couldn’t Stand the Weather,’ ‘Crossfire,’ and… we also play some of his famous b-sides, too, that were really popular among the SRV crowd.” Those b-side tunes will include ‘Sky is Crying,’ ‘Texas Flood’ and ‘Tin Pan Alley,’ among others.
Performing with Hamm is his full band, including a drummer, bass player and keyboard player. “The bass player is also a backup singer for Stevie Ray’s brother, Jimmy Vaughan, who is still performing,” Hamm said.
Hamm said being a tribute artist to SRV started at a Halloween show at a bar in Tulsa. “The bar owner said she’d pay me extra to do Stevie Ray; it was her favorite. She paid me extra to do a whole set of SRV.” Hamm didn’t argue it, after all, he said, “I’ve always had a knack for Texas-style blues.”
He did SRV again soon after at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa and an agent was there. “He pulled me aside (after the shows) and said, ‘You ought to think about doing that (SRV all the time).”
For the past four or five years, he’s been focused on paying tribute to SRV.
“I did a little research (on SRV) and have had some fun doing it,” he said. To capture the true essence of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Hamm takes into account that the real Stevie was one of the greatest guitar players of all time and was very nice to his fans. “I loved how he dressed and how he played,” Hamm said. “I do look a lot like him, and I just really think our personalities (were similar).” Even Stevie Ray’s brother Jimmy “gravitates toward me people say, because I remind him so much of his little brother.”
Through his SRV performances, Hamm said he’s learned just how loyal the SRV fan base is. “He had a lot of really loyal fans… People loved that guy… They fell in love with him at a time when there was nothing but ’80s rock and hair metal,” Hamm said, but makes note that he loves all that music too, and has played a lot of it. Where Stevie Ray Vaughan comes in, though, Hamm said, is that “he was this kid who belted the blues. He breathed new life into the blues.”
Hamm loves all kinds of music but said SRV music is definitely “my style. It’s like a lot of the stuff I write myself.”
His appearance at the Talent Factory in Nevada is part of a “mini tour” in Iowa, which will also include shows at Waterloo, Fairfield and Maquoketa, all set up by his manager, Michael “Bear” Clair.
Hamm has been to Iowa before and said he loves playing for the Midwest crowd. “They seem very receptive to the music.”
If you are a fan of the blues or of Stevie Ray Vaughan, this is a show you don’t want to miss. Ticket information can be found at The Talent Factory on Facebook, The Talent Factory’s website: https://www.iowatalentfactory.com; or by calling The Talent Factory at 515-382-0085.
“I’ve had people try to get me to do it (go on the road with this show for quite a while), but I’ve been raising a son.” While his son was growing up, Hamm performed mostly in the tri-state area of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Now that his son is 18, Hamm said, he’s ready to hit the road more. “It’s on. I’m going to be playing some good music, making some money and making some friends.” Best of all, he said, “I just love being able to really cut loose on my guitar … Being able to play that style that I grew up on — it comes really naturally to me.”