TAOS, N.M. (ap)
- Doug Sahm, a main mover in the Tex-Mex supergroup Texas Tornados and the lead
in the Sir Douglas Quintet, was found dead Thursday in a Taos hotel room
Thursday. He was 58.
The cause of the death was not immediately
known, but a field examiner with the state Office of the Medical Investigator
determined there was no foul play.
Sahm, who first became famous in the 1960s
with the Sir Douglas Quintet, found a new career 25 years later with
Freddy Fender and the Texas Tornados.
The master of many different musical styles
- from rock, country and blues to Tex-Mex - he began his career as a child,
playing in a local band and singing on the radio at age 5. By age 8 he was
a regular on the ``Louisiana Hayride'' radio show. By 11, he sang at a Hank Williams
concert in Austin only weeks before Williams died.
As a teen-ager he started his recording
career in 1955 with a single called "A Real American Joe'' under the name
"Little'' Doug Sahm.
He achieved national fame in 1965, when
the Sir Douglas Quintet had a hit with ``She's About a Mover.'' Other Sir
Douglas hits included ``Rains Came'' and ``Mendocino.''
In the late 1980s Sahm teamed up with Fender
in the Texas Tornados, which had hits with songs such as ``A Little Bit
Is Better Than Nada,'' ``Who Were You Thinking Of,'' ``She Never Spoke Spanish
To Me'' and ``Hey Baby, Que Paso".
of Texas music legend hits Austin hard
By Michael Corcoran and Chris Riemenschneider Austin
He gave the Austin music scene its soul,
and his death Thursday broke its heart.
Doug Sahm, a singer and guitarist who showed the world the glory of Texas music with
the Sir Douglas Quintet in the '60s through his
'90s stint in the Tex-Mex supergroup Texas Tornados,
died Thursday afternoon in Taos, N.M. He was
The San Antonio native, who defined the
Austin redneck rock scene with his 1974 album "Groover's Paradise," was
found dead in a hotel room. The cause of death has not been determined,
though police and family speculated that it might have been a heart attack.
Sahm's eldest son Shawn, who played guitar
in the most recent incarnations of the Sir Douglas Quintet,
said his dad telephoned his girlfriend in Wimberley on Wednesday complaining of
chest pains and more.
"He just wasn't feeling well, but my dad
was the type to downplay whenever he was feeling bad," Shawn said.
"So many people loved his music, but almost as many people loved him personally."
The news hit the Austin music scene hard
Thursday night. Musicians were gathering at Antone's for an impromptu
tribute, and radio stations including KGSR-FM and KUT-FM were steadily
playing music by the man who many felt embodied the diversity of Texas music.
"You just can't live in Texas if you don't
have a lot of soul," Sahm sang on a signature tune called "At the
Crossroads." That was his motto until the end.
"He could play anything -- Cajun music,
country music, rock, blues, Mexican conjunto music," said Antone's
founder Clifford Antone. "And it wasn't just people in Texas who knew it. He was
always playing places like Canada or
Scandinavia or Japan or wherever, and there'd
be people that have known his music since (1965's) `She's About
a Mover.' "
Sahm began his musical career as 6-year-old
Little Doug, a pint-sized steel guitar prodigy who performed on
Nashville's Grand Ol' Opry and once played seated on Hank Williams' lap. During
the early rock 'n' roll explosion, he formed his own bands and had regional
hits while still in high school.
It wasn't until the British Invasion of the
'60s, that Sahm, masquerading as a British band leader
in Sir Douglas Quintet, broke onto the national music scene with "She's About a Mover,"
a Top 20 hit produced by Texas music legend Huey P. Meaux. The song featuring
the pumping Vox organ of longtime sidekick Augie Meyers inspired
such later hits as "96 Tears" by ? and the Mysterians and even the new
wave sounds of Elvis Costello and the Attractions. The English ruse was
discovered when the band was interviewed on television's "Hullaballoo"
and Sahm's Texas drawl came rolling out.
"I was a kid for rock 'n' roll in '55 when
I saw Elvis," Sahm told the American-Statesman in 1994, speaking in
his nonstop hippie-meets-Texas lingo. "It blew my mind. I saw Elvis,
got in front of the mirror, shake, shake, shake. Then the '60s came along,
I have all these local hits in San Antonio, and then all of a sudden we turn
on the TV and there's the long-haired thing from Liverpool. So, we say, "Hey
Huey (Meaux), we can do this crap; let's go get after it.' "
Sir Doug hits in the late '60s included
"Mendocino" and "The Rains Came" when the band was deep in the heart of
San Francisco psychedelia. In the early '70s, Sahm rejected the hippie scene
and came back to Texas to re-establish himself as a bona fide rocker
with "The Return of Doug Saldana."
"He could flip from genre to genre at a
whim," marveled Texas Monthly writer Joe Nick Patoski. "He epitomized
the Austin music scene better than anyone else."
Sahm traveled frequently between Austin
and San Antonio, which was home base for the Texas Tornados. He formed
the group with Freddy Fender, Flaco Jimenez and Augie Meyers. They produced
seven albums, including this year's "Live From the Limo" and the Grammy-winning,
1990 self-titled debut, which included such hits as "Who
Were You Thinkin' Of" and "(Hey Baby) Que Paso"
Although he was most associated with a
roots sound that blended Texas and Mexican music, he also fronted a San
Antonio-based blues band he called the Southside Horns.
His musical connections reached far beyond
Texas. He took part in sessions for two different Grateful Dead
albums, while Bob Dylan can be heard on Sahm's recording of "(Is Anybody Goin'
to) San Antone." Younger groups such as Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt and the
Gourds have also recorded and performed with Sahm.
The last sir Douglas Quintet album, "S.D.Q.
'98," included Sahm's take on the fast-paced Austin of the '90s called
"Get a Life."
Arlyn Studio owner Freddy Fletcher noted
Sahm never lacked for modesty. "In the words of Doug Sahm, he put Texas
music on the map," Fletcher said.
He said the ever-hyper Sahm never stopped
writing songs, even during recording sessions: "I remember him in
our lobby, with Flaco on the accordion and Doug pounding that acoustic
guitar, working up a new song while were in the middle of making a record."
An autopsy to determine the cause of Sahm's
death was pending late Thursday. Maj. Robert Rivera with the
Taos Police Department said a maid found Sahm's body at the Kochina Hotel
and paramedics believed he suffered a heart attack. He was pronounced
dead at 3:45 p.m.
Sahm drove himself to Taos just to travel,
said his son Shawn. In 1994, Sahm described why he often kept to the
"I can't stand to get bored here," he said.
"When you get bored here, and nothing's happening, you can get pretty
weirded out. But if you keep some kind of edge going -- that's why
I leave all the time. You know, jump in the car, get in my Cadillac and drive
to Seattle, drive to Minneapolis, see the Dead, go to spring training. It keeps
Sahm's youngest son, Shandon, who's a drummer
with the Meat Puppets, said his dad had been experiencing circulation
problems in his arms and fingers.
"He called me a few days ago from Santa
Fe, and one of the things he said was that he was feeling his age,"
"He was the most amazing dad any of us
could have asked for," Shandon said as he fought back tears. "He never
judged, and he was always supportive. He was that way with everyone.
That's why he had so many friends. We were all lucky to have him
in our lives." Sahm was also survived by a daughter, Dawn, and her
two children, Shealynn and Earl.
The family said memorial services will
be scheduled later.
Fender Speaks Out On Doug Sahm's Death
In interviews conducted Friday (Nov. 19), bandmates Freddy Fender and Augie Meyers remembered Doug Sahm as a friend
and performer who never doubted his independent, individual musical
direction. Sahm, of the Texas Tornados, died Thursday (Nov. 18)
"He knew who he was, and he was one of the most confident
musicians I ever met," says Fender, reached by phone in San Diego. Fender had played with Sahm since 1989
in the Texas Tornados. "The thought that you're the best thing, the best
talent that ever hit this planet -- he had that. When we were going 20
miles an hour, he was going 100. He was one of the greatest guitarists I've
ever known and, in his own style, one of the greatest singers I've ever
Sahm was found dead of a heart attack Thursday afternoon in
a Taos, N.M., hotel room. The singer and guitarist founded the Sir Douglas
Quintet, which had three top 40 hits, including "She's About a Mover"
during the '60s. He also formed the Texas Tornados in 1989.
"He was my buddy for 38 years," said keyboardist Augie Meyers, who played with Sahm from the early days of the Sir
Douglas Quintet all the way through to the Texas Tornados. "I'm still
in shock. I lost the best friend I had. Somebody called today, and they said, 'Tell me a Doug Sahm story.'
I said, 'I've got 45 years' worth of Doug Sahm stories; where do you
want me to start?'"
Meyers said he and Sahm had a studio booked for early next month
to work on a movie soundtrack as well as a Tornados album. "I figure the
Lord didn't hear any Sir Douglas Quintet on the radio, so He decided that
the next best thing to do was to bring him on up," said Meyers.
Fender and Meyers dedicated their concert in Phoenix Thursday night to Sahm and plan to do the same thing tonight
in San Diego. "By playing our music, we're going to bounce back and see
what we can do," Fender says.
"If I had anything to do with-and I don't-I would put on
his tombstone: 'The Last of the Great Hippies.'" says Fender. "He
loved to be called a hippie."
- Brian Mansfield
Mourners Attend Doug Sahm's Funeral
Nov 24, 1999, 1:20 pm PT
Some 1000 friends, fans, and fellow musicians joined Doug Sahm's family on
Tuesday (Nov. 22) at the Sunset Memorial Funeral Home in his native San
Antonio, Texas to pay their last respects to the legendary Texas musician.
Among the overflow crowd were his fellow Texas Tornados Flaco Jimenez, Augie Meyers, and newest member Little
Joe Hernandez (Freddy Fender was conspicuous in his absence), as well as
guitar star Jimmie Vaughan, country artist Lee Roy Parnell, Texas
singer-songwriters Joe Ely and Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Sahm acolyte Joe "King" Carrasco.
Although the mood was somber, it was punctuated by laughs and applause as Sahm's brother, sons, and daughter recalled the
man known as Sir Douglas, who died last Thursday (Nov. 18) (allstar, Nov. 19) from what was determined to be heart disease.
"I never met anyone like Doug," said Sister Terry, Sahm's 87-year-old
"spiritual advisor," who led the service, and had known the Texas Tornado
since his childhood. No doubt everyone there could say the same of Sahm, who was as beloved
as much for his delightful eccentricity as his awesome musical talents and
versatility by all who knew him.
Before and after the service, mourners were able to view Sahm in his casket, decked out in cowboy hat, purple sport coat,
and bolo tie, surrounded by dozens of flower arrangements, his fiddle and
triple-neck Fender steel guitar, and pictures of him from throughout his
life, including shots of Sahm with such admiring stars as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.
Brother Victor Sahm recalled the family history and Sir Doug's youth,
when his steel guitar talents impressed such country greats as Hank
Williams. "This man had immense, immense, immense talent," he noted.
Son Shawn Sahm -- who won his own record deal in the early
'90s as a member of Pariah, and of late had played with his father in the
Sir Douglas Quintet -- posed the question, "How do you describe Doug Sahm? Let's be real here. How do you
describe the best? A musician, a baseball freak, self-appointed herbologist, part gypsy, a grandfather, a wrestling
freak.... As Dad would say, you either get it, or you don't get it.
"This is the end of an era, musically" concluded Shawn Sahm. "Nobody could do what my Dad did. Thirty musicians
couldn't do what my Dad did."
Son Shandon Sahm, who plays with the Meat Puppets, finished
the testimonies with a prayer for his father. Following Sahm's interment next to his parents in a private family
ceremony, mourners gathered for a wake at the Laboratory Brewing Company,
where Meyers, Parnell and Little Joe along with Sahm compadres like Jack Barber, Ernie Durawa and members of San Antonio's Westside Horns jammed to celebrate Sahm's musical legacy. Sahm will also be remembered in a musical tribute on Dec. 3-4 at Antone's nightclub
in Austin, where The Texas Tornados recorded their recently-released album,
Live From The Limo. ~ Rob Patterson
Sahm, Musical Voice of Texas, Dies at 58
By JON PARELES
Doug Sahm, a patriarch of Texas rock and country music, was found dead on Thursday in Taos, N.M., The Associated Press reported. He was 58 and lived in Austin.
A Taos police spokesman said he appeared to have died of natural causes. An autopsy was ordered.
Sahm had been making music since before the birth of rock 'n' roll in the 1950's. He played country, blues, honky-tonk, folk rock, Tex-Mex, rockabilly, swing and just about every other style that thrived near the Mexican border. Sahm had his biggest hits in the 1960's as the leader of the Sir Douglas Quintet, with "Mendocino" and "She's About a Mover," songs that transferred the pumping accordion chords of Tex-Mex to electric organ and helped to reshape American garage rock. In the 90's he sang and played with the Texas Tornados, an all-star band that won a Grammy Award in 1991 for Best Mexican-American performance.
Douglas Wayne Sahm was born in San Antonio and started making music before he could read. He learned to play guitar, steel guitar, fiddle and mandolin, and won a children's talent contest on KMAC in San Antonio, where he performed regularly for two years. He sat in with touring honky-tonkers including Webb Pierce and Hank Thompson. His mother made him refuse an invitation to the Grand Ole Opry radio show from Nashville, though he did appear on the "Louisiana Hayride" radio show before he was a teenager.
He made his first recording in 1955, a honky-tonk single called "A Real American Joe," under the name Little Doug and the Bandits; his voice had not yet changed. During high school he played guitar six nights a week at the Old Tiffany Club in San Antonio, soaking up blues and rhythm-and-blues. His next single, "Crazy Daisy" in 1958, reached local rhythm-and-blues charts, and "Why, Why, Why" in 1960 became a Top Five local hit. During the early 60's he worked in Texas and California, mixing blues, rhythm-and-blues and Tex-Mex music and making more regional
hits, including "Crazy, Crazy Feeling."
In 1964, as the Beatles led the British Invasion into American pop, Sahm created a pseudo-British band: the Sir Douglas Quintet, including Augie Meyer on Vox electric organ. Recording in Houston with the producer Huey P. Meaux, they had a national hit with "She's About a Mover," and followed it up with "The Rains Came." Despite the band's British fashion sense, the music was unmistakably Tex-Mex. The group toured the United States and Europe and appeared on pop television shows including "Shindig," "Hullabaloo" and, in Britain, "Ready, Steady, Go."
Sahm moved to Northern California in 1966 with a new quintet (minus Meyer) that performed regularly at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco. The band signed with Mercury Records; by then it had absorbed some psychedelia along with its blues, country and Tex-Mex material. Meyer rejoined the group in late 1968, and it recorded "Mendocino," its last major national hit.Sahm also produced albums for the blues singer Junior Parker and for a Mexican-American group in California, Louie and the Lovers.
Sahm returned to Texas in 1971 and temporarily retired the Sir Douglas name. His 1973 album, "Doug Sahm and Band," featured a guest appearance by Bob Dylan, who wrote "Wallflower" for the album. Sahm's 1974 album, "Groovers Paradise," used the rhythm section from Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Sahm was settling into a role as a voice of Texas. He sang about Texas cities and memories, he named his band the Texas Tornados and he used album titles like "Texas Rock for Country Rollers." By the mid-70's the "cosmic cowboy" movement was coalescing around Austin, Tex., mixing down-home music with hippie vagaries, and Sahm was right at home in it; he was a regular performer at Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin.
New-wave rockers, particularly Elvis Costello and the Attractions, revived the sound of organ-driven Tex-Mex rock in the late 70's. Through the 80's Sahm and Meyer toured with a reconstituted Sir Douglas Quintet that also included Sahm's son Shawn on guitar. Their 1981 album, "Border Wave," flaunted their role as precursors of new-wave rock. The quintet toured the United States and Europe through the 80's. Sahm released albums in Europe, including one of rockabilly songs with the Texas Mavericks and 50's Tex-Mex songs with Mexican musicians. He produced an album for Meyer of straightforward Mexican conjunto music.
In 1986 a visit to Vancouver led Sahm to assemble a group called the Formerly Brothers; their album of Cajun and country songs won a Juno Award, Canada's equivalent of the Grammy Awards.
In 1989 a concert in San Francisco brought together the Texas Tornados: Sahm, Meyer, the Mexican-American singer Freddy Fender and a top conjunto accordionist, Flaco Jimenez, backed by musicians from Mexico and Texas. The band leaders took turns singing lead vocals and did not appear together on most of the album's songs, but the album won a Grammy.
The group made follow-up albums in 1991 and 1992 before disbanding; it also released Spanish-language versions of its songs. The Tornados regrouped to perform in Austin to make "Live From the Limo," which was released in July. Sahm had recorded an album of country songs, due for release in March, called "The Return of Wayne Douglas."
In addition to Shawn, Sahm is survived by another son, Shandon, and a daughter Dawn; a brother, Victor; and two grandchildren.