Being blind, Stevie had to entertain himself a lot. He had few friends at school. Even among the blind kids, separate groups developed. Some of them could see a little bit and this made them think they were better than the totally blind kids. The sighted kids at the school all whispered when the blind kids passed. Stevie heard all of their whispers. Even as an adult, Stevie couldn't understand how sighted people could be in a room with him and talk about him and his being blind. Didn't they realize that he wasn't deaf?
Stevie liked to listen to the radio when he was at home. He listened to a Detroit rhythm and blues (R & B) station that played B. B. King. He listened to many other black guitarists and singers. He knew their sounds and voices, and could pick out the different instruments that were being played. When he entered school, Stevie was given a transistor radio all his own. He was overjoyed! He listened to the radio while riding the bus to school and after school at home. Stevie even put the radio beneath his pillow while he slept at night.
“I liked the Five Royales, Johnny Ace, Clyde McPhatter, Jackie Wilson, Jimmy Reed, the Drifters,” Stevie recalled. “Oh, Jimmy Reed. Oh, I used to love that boy, I swear. Oh the music! Jumping around and dancing. And the Coasters, the Dixie Hummingbirds, the Staple Singers—oooh!”