"You just can't live in Texas if you don't have a lot of soul"
- Doug Sahm, "At the Crossroads"
If the Texas music scene ever had a soul, it belonged to Doug Sahm, the leader of the Sir Douglas Quintet who passed away ten years ago Wednesday. It didn't matter whether he was knee-deep in the blues, hammering on a three-chord rocker, or sawing on his fiddle, Doug Sahm was 100% Texan to his core.
Sahm had a storybook career, from child prodigy who was asked to join the Grand Ole Opry and sat in with Hank Williams to the elder statesman of Texas music as leader of supergroup Texas Tornados. He also had a lot of Houston history, recording his breakout hit "She's About a Mover" here with legendary producer Huey P. Meaux in 1965.
Lonesome Onry and Mean remembers Sahm's return to Austin and his musical roots that was signaled with the issue of 1971's The Return of Doug Saldana
, the Quintet's final album on Smash after a great run there. This was Doug Sahm grown up, the pot busts and psychedelic San Francisco nights behind him (you could hear it coming in songs like "Texas Me" and "Lawd, I'm Just A Country Boy in This Great Big Freaky City" from the Mendocino
album), a mature musician back in his home state looking, as always, for the meaning of it all.
The set list for Doug Saldana
fuses every style of Texas music, from the T-Bone Walker blues of "Papa Ain't Salty No More" to the great (and famous) cover of Freddy Fender's Valley hit "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" that literally reignited Fender's career. LOM has always loved the cover of that album, with Sahm in a wide-brim hat and a plaid cowboy shirt sitting on the porch thinking. It screams Texas-icity and subtly signals that the '60s are gone.
We were lucky enough to live in Austin during that fabulous period that morphed out of the Cosmic Cowboy thing into Groover's Paradise. It was truly a glorious time to be a college student. Sahm coined the term "Groover's Paradise" on his 1974 album of the same name. The week LOM moved to Austin, we went to Armadillo World Headquarters to see Sahm and a new band that had just come to town, Asleep at the Wheel. Cover charge? One dollar. That was one of the most rocking shows we ever saw Doug play.
We would see him many more times at Soap Creek Saloon, which essentially became Sahm's Austin HQ. Doug was always changing his lineup, and often had the Westside Horns in tow for his Soap Creek gigs. It seemed amazing that here was guy who had recorded with Jerry Wexler and Bob Dylan and Dr. John and David Newman, yet he was playing bar gigs in our backyard. Looking back, what a glorious and special time it was.
From our period in Austin (1973-76), Sahm, along with Willie Nelson, stands out as the preeminent figure in the city's musical life. Doug Sahm inspired us all by remaining what he was: a great journeyman musician and artist, and, at all times, a Texan. He made it OK for all of us to "be real" and be Texans.
Rock on, Doug Saldana. And rest in peace.