The Times and Music of the ‘Texas Tornado’
Jan Reid remembers Doug Sahm
Author Jan Reid enlists Sahm‚Äôs son Shawn,
who played in his dad‚Äôs band, for valuable first-person accounts in his
biography, Texas Tornado: The Times &
Music of Doug Sahm (University
of Texas Press). Likewise
Reid relies on Sahm‚Äôs numero uno campadre,Augie Meyers, who was part of the
original Sir Douglas Quintet and Sahm‚Äôs final go-round with Freddy Fender and
Flaco Jimenez as the Grammy-winning Texas Tornados.
The Sir Douglas Quintet‚Äôs 1965 success with
the Ray Charles homage ‚ÄúShe‚Äôs About a Mover‚ÄĚ set Sahm on a course that he would
maintain for his adult life. Though never a top-selling artist, he was widely
respected by his peers.†Atlantic Records‚Äô
Jerry Wexler, himself an icon and sagacious scout of talent said, ‚ÄúI really
regard him as the best musician I ever knew because of his versatility and the
range of his information and taste.‚ÄĚ
Growing up in San
Antonio, Sahm was served up a buffet of music from country to
Mexican sounds from across the border to Cajun sounds from the fertile Gulf Coast
region of east Texas and Louisiana. Reid also notes the impact that a
nearby blues club had on Sahm. At a young age he witnessed performances by the
likes of T-Bone Walker and Bobby ‚ÄúBlue‚ÄĚ Bland.
With the British Invasion came the
management of ‚ÄúThe Crazy Cajun‚ÄĚ Huey P. Meaux, who thought the Sir Douglas
moniker would gain a seat on the bandwagon‚ÄĒthat is until the band‚Äôs undeniable
twang gave them away. Times were changing fast in the ‚Äô60s‚ÄĒjust not fast enough
for Sahm and his long-haired buddies. Sahm headed for California
following a drug bust, but he would return to the open-minded oasis of Austin, Texas.
It was here at clubs like the Soap Creek Saloon and the Armadillo World
Headquarters that his genre-melding talents were best put on display.
In Reid‚Äôs 1974 book, The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock,he hints at the importance of the Austin scene but cops out and mainly deals
with folkies like Michael Martin Murphey. Reid makes up for it in Tornado with a vivid snapshot of a scene
that had a hard time telling the cowboys from the hippies and where only the
music mattered. In 1973 Sahm would venture to New York City†to record his
classic Atlantic album Doug Sahm and Band,
which included contributions from Bob Dylan and Dr. John, among others.
In the decades to follow, Sir Doug never let up and was continually regrouping for another project, living at times in Canada and Scandinavia. Reid does Sahm justice in portraying the restless figure who stood by the lean years of his buddy Roky Erickson and the devoted baseball nut who would drive hundreds of miles to catch a minor league game. By the time the book gets to Sahm‚Äôs death at age 58 in 1999, Reid has more than explained how Sahm got his nickname.