The idea of Stevie Ray Vaughan covering a funky song by the great R&B band the Isley Brothers might seem bizarre until you consider that rhythm and blues was a big part of the Double Trouble playbook.
Besides, his choice of “Testify” makes perfect sense when you realize the guitarist on the Isleys' original 1964 version was none other than his hero, Jimi Hendrix.
More a tip of the hat than a cover, Vaughan pays respects to Hendrix’s original opening riff before ditching the rest of the song and heading into parts unknown. It’s just as well. “Testify” wasn’t very good in the first place, and Vaughan carves a much more exciting path while ripping a total of seven—count ’em, seven—electrifying solos, each more intense than the one before it.
But what really makes this one of Vaughan’s very best performances is the variety of sounds he gets by using his wah pedal to subtly color his sound, as it gradually shifts from silky smooth to full-on banshee wail.
Below, check out the original 1964 Isley Brothers version of "Testify," featuring Hendrix on guitar, followed by Vaughan's fully instrumental version recorded live in Japan in the mid-Eighties.
This is an excerpt from the October 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the rest of our Stevie Ray Vaughan "Top 30 Recordings of All Time" feature, plus Steve Howe/Yes, the 60th anniversary of the Strat, lessons, tabs and reviews of new gear from TC Electronic, Seymour Duncan, Prestige Guitars and more, check out the October 2014 issue at the Guitar World Online Store.