In January 1983, David Bowie invited Stevie Ray Vaughan to record guitar for six new tracks he’d written for his upcoming release, Let’s Dance.
Vaughan’s powerful and unique guitar work brought a fresh sound to Bowie’s music, most famously on songs like “China Girl” and the album’s title track.
With the album a success, Bowie was keen for SRV to join his group for the subsequent Serious Moonlight Tour. However, with Vaughan reluctant to leave Double Trouble (who had just finished recording their debut album, Texas Flood), Bowie’s management offered to let the group open the show on select tour dates; but just four days before the tour began, Bowie's management reneged, telling Vaughan’s manager, Chesley Millikin, that the band would not be included and, furthermore, Vaughan wasn't allowed to talk about the group or its new record in interviews.
With the offer pulled, Vaughan’s manager took him off the tour.
Although both artists still achieved huge amounts of critical and commercial success during their respective careers, what they might've gone on to do together remains one of rock's great "What If's."
No video footage of Bowie and Vaughan performing together is known to exist; however, several taped rehearsal performances do, including these excellent versions (in the clips below) of "Let's Dance," "Cat People (Putting Out the Fire)" and "China Girl," recorded at the Las Colinas Soundstage in Dallas April 26, 1983.
Jonathan Graham is an ACM UK graduate based in London studying under the likes of Guthrie Govan and Pete Friesen. He is the creator of ForgottenGuitar.com, a classic-guitar media website, and is completing his debut album, Protagonist, due for release in 2016. Updates also can be found at Graham's YouTube channel.