Playing with Heart, Blues, and Soul: Texas Flood, nation’s leading Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute, begins not in Texas but 6,000 miles away
The story of Texas Flood, billed as the nation’s leading Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute, begins not in Dallas, not in Texas – and not even the United States. A testament to Vaughan’s global impact on blues music, it begins in a country 6,000 miles away, across the Atlantic Ocean.
“I was raised in Hungary, and very much influenced by my father, also a great blues guitarist,” said Tommy Katona, the guitarist leading Texas Flood. “I got into Stevie and his music at a very young age, at 4 years old. My father had a couple of reel-to-reel tapes, and I remember even at that young of an age being mesmerized by a video from 1985 of him. I wanted to watch him over and over again, and would ask my dad to see the ‘guy in the white hat’ again,” he recalled.
Not too long after, Katona picked up a guitar himself, and effectively became what can only be described as a child blues prodigy in his native Hungary.
“I picked up the guitar right around then, when I was 7. I started playing with my dad in his band, and at not even 10 years old I was playing gigs all over the country with him. I was really the first little kid playing blues at this young age in the early ’90s. I was like this ‘little kid with a big guitar,’ which led to a lot of interviews and performances on radio and TV,” Katona said.
It was also around this time his dad had to let his son know about Vaughan’s tragic death in a helicopter crash in Wisconsin.
“As a kid I really didn’t understand when he died, actually. But I did become more and more obsessed with his music, and when I understood that he had died in this tragic accident I decided that his legacy needed to be carried on. I wanted to be like he was—play hard, play fast, and look cool. As I grew up, I had this dream to come to the U.S., to Texas, and play at clubs or venues where Stevie played, and meet people who knew him or played with him. I was looking for something more beyond what I was doing in Hungary,” he said.
This thirst for something more eventually led Katona to Dallas for a Stevie Ray Vaughan fan club tour in 2006, where large groups of SRV fans from all over the world gathered to memorialize the late great blues guitarist at different locations significant to his life during a “SRV ride” in a bus tour, and which culminated in a SRV tribute concert.
“It was at this concert that I got the opportunity to play on stage, and after that, everyone was like, ‘who IS this guy? They were really impressed; that was a really memorable experience,” Katona said, who on top of this surreal moment also played with Texas greats such as Wes Jeans, Texas Slim, Jim Suhler, Cheryl Arena, and Alan Haynes during the SRV fan club tour.
Katona returned back to Hungary after the SRV tour, where he recorded and released his first original album titled Let Your Fingers Bleed, and began touring with his Hungarian band called Full Blast. He and the band during this time played the prestigious Puisto Blues Festival in Finland, opened for the late great blues musician Johnny Winter, and even played in Italy, opening for none other than Cyril Neville of the Neville Brothers. However, Texas was still calling Katona’s name, and he returned a year later—by coincidence, or some might say destiny or fate— landing in Dallas precisely on October 3—Stevie Ray Vaughan’s birthday.
What happened shortly thereafter is the stuff of movies.
What happened shortly thereafter is the stuff of movies.
“So one time in high school, I was searching the internet for anything and everything Stevie, like I would do a lot,” he laughed, “and came across this Stevie tribute band called VooDoo Blue. And it just so happens, two months after arriving back in the U.S., years after this happened, I got a call from this very band, looking for a guitar player,” Katona said.
Katona then went for an audition, the band was blown away by Katona as so many others had been throughout his life since he was even a child, and the rest was history. VooDoo Blue then went through some lineup changes in subsequent years, to the point it was appropriate to rename the band to reflect the trio it now represents— with Steve Buckner on bass, and Travis Montoya on drums.
Katona wants to make it clear, however, that there is only one SRV, and that he and the band are in no way an attempt to imitate or look exactly like him or his band.
“You don’t have to look just like a certain band to be a great band. You can have the look, but the music is just not there, not the playing, not the voice. In certain SRV tributes, that creates a lot of weirdness from certain people. Out of respect to his brother and his family, I do not want to do that. I want to play a great show, but not imitate him. I am not trying to ‘be Stevie,’ but follow his formula with the blues, by bringing certain blues greats back into the spotlight like he did. A lot of people don’t realize SRV actually didn’t release very many original songs—mostly he covered those old blues songs from Albert King, Jimi Hendrix, Albert Collins, and brought them back to life through his music.
This was further reinforced in Katona when he once played a solo with SRV and Double Trouble’s bassist Tommy Shannon.
“He told me, and I’ll never forget this, because he knew Stevie very well— ‘Stevie wants you to be you.’ That made me think,” said Katona, who will also release his own original work later this year. “So it’s a mission in life. I pay my respects and tribute to him, I play his originals and his covers, but at the same time I am myself. Nobody can replace him. I find it really important to keep his music and legacy alive and do it right,” he said.
Audiences can experience the Stevie Ray Vaughan legacy in Houston at the Dosey Doe in Spring on August 30, or even more locally at Scout Bar in Clear Lake on August 31. Doors open at 8 p.m.; show begins at 9 p.m. Grab your tickets in advance from scoutbar.com, or reserve your VIP table now to experience an unforgettable night of heart, blues, and the intense, soulful presence of SRV brought to life by Texas Flood!
By Sarah Piña