10 Doug Sahm/Sir Douglas Quintet Albums You Need to Own
Tonight at the Continental Club, Austin's Freddie Steady 5 will head up a tribute to the late Doug Sahm focusing on Sahm's 2000 album The Return of Wayne Douglas, which he recorded only a few months before dying of a heart attack in November 1999. La Porte native Freddie Krc, leader of the 5, has just reissued Wayne Douglas on vinyl through his Steady Boy Records, so surely this is a coincidence.
More hippie than outlaw, Sahm was a rock and roller through and through, but first he was a gifted child musician whose steel guitar talent supposedly once knocked Hank Williams' socks off at Austin's Skyline Ballroom. Wayne Douglas couldn't be more of a Texas dance-hall record if it were made out of neon.
"San Antone born and raised," Sahm is often referred to as Texas' unofficial state musician, and rightfully so. His music had such an everything-is-groovy attitude that a little bit of everything worked its way into his songs, and his albums are so varied that there's no real point in ranking them. Here are ten that exist, and thus that you should own.
The Last Real Texas Blues Band Feat. Doug Sahm (1994) Like just about everyone else in town (including the late UT football coach Darrell K. Royal), Sahm befriended the late Austin nightclub owner Clifford Antone. Recorded live at the Guadalupe St. edition of Antone's, Texas Blues Band assembles a stellar cast of San Antonio-bred musicians for smoky R&B standards like T-Bone Walker's "T-Bone Shuffle," Lowell Fulson's "Reconsider Baby," Fats Domino's "My Girl Josephine" and Guitar Slim's "Something to Remember You By."
Border Wave (1983) The Quintet gives Joe King Carraso & the Crowns a run for their money when the still-bizarre Tex-Mex/New Wave craze was at its height.
Texas Rock for Country Rollers (1976) Perhaps Sahm's first proper foray into straight country, except "straight" is hardly the correct word for this cosmic crew. Recorded when the high times at Austin's Soap Creek Saloon were very high indeed, Country Rollers throws in Merle Kilgore and Claude King's "Wolverton Mountain" alongside the self-explanatory "You Can't Hide a Redneck (Under That Hippy Hair)." Also here for the first time is Sahm's classic "Cowboy Peyton Place" (which reappears on Wayne Douglas) and, Uncle Tupelo fans take note, "Give Back the Key to My Heart."
Groover's Paradise (1974) About as shaggy an album released in 1974 and called Groover's Paradise can possibly be, this one is notable for the song "Houston Chicks," which makes a number of salient observations as some fragrant "House of the Rising Sun"-like organ wafts all over the place. Sahm's idyllic "Beautiful Texas Sunshine" is here too, but Paradise is all pretty blissful, with a wonderful cover by Armadillo World Headquarters poster artist Kerry Awn to match.
Doug Sahm and His Band (1973) Sahm recruited legendary Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler for his first album on the label (and first solo album period), and Wexler didn't steer him wrong. Single "Is Anybody Going to San Antone" and Western swing standard "Faded Love" salute Sahm's honky-tonk past, but "Papa Ain't Salty," "Dealer's Blues," "Don't Turn Around" and "I Get Off" are wicked, wicked soul. Still Sahm's most popular album on iTunes.
Texas Tornados, Texas Tornados (1990) Restless as ever in the late '80s, Sahm wanted to create a "Tejano supergroup" and boy he sure did, signing up "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" crooner Freddy Fender, accordionista extraordinaire Flaco Jimenez and old SDQ pal Augie Meyers. Sahm races through a couple of his most bracing rockers, "Who Were You Thinkin' Of" and "Adios Mexico," to go along with Fender's "A Man Can Cry," Meyers' "Hey Baby (Que Paso)" and the Sahm-sung cover of Butch Hancock acher "She Never Spoke Spanish to Me." The whole thing is over in 31 minutes, so play it twice.
Day Dreaming at Midnight (1994) Sir Doug bangs his head while keeping it in the family on this hard-rocking album recorded with sons Shandon and Shawn, then part of great pre-grunge Austin metal hopes Pariah.
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Mendocino (1969) Some of these others are close, but Mendocino is still probably the one single quintessential Sir Doug album. Many of the nakedly autobiographical songs -- a re-recording of 1965 hit "She's About a Mover," the achingly homesick "Texas Me," the not-quite-as-homesick title track, and the freaked-out "Lawd, I'm Just a Country Boy In This Great Big Freaky City" -- shortly passed into the canon of all Texas music. Mendocino also shows off Sahm's savvy A&R ear, because one of the covers is "If You Really Want Me to I'll Go" by a young Fort Worth kid named Delbert McClinton.
The Best of Doug Sahm & the Sir Douglas Quintet (1989) Yeah, it's a greatest-hits. But unlike some of these other records, this Mercury compilation has had the good fortune to remain in print and should be available at your neighborhood brick-and-mortar music retailer. It also contains jewels like "I'm Not That Kat Anymore" and "Westside Blues Again" that are difficult to locate anywhere else.
The Genuine Texas Groover (2003) And then... if you've got two and a half hours to spare, this is the Doug Sahm survey course you want at two discs and 42 tracks of pure groovy goodness. Sig's Lagoon usually has a copy or two in stock, or could definitely order it for you.
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