Same Old Sir
Why the Sir Douglas Quintet has never managed to carve itself a permanent position at the top of the charts is one of the mysteries of the musical universe. It may be that bands that stay perpetually in front of the curve are simply destined to remain untainted by the spoils of commercial success, having to rely instead on legions of roadhouse-going devotees and the acclaim of the critics to sustain them over the decades.
That the Quintet's career is measured in decades rather than months or years is testimonial enough to the band's prowess -- or stubborness. Mercurial frontman Doug Sahm, who grew up in San Antonio among the swirling strains of Tex-Mex, blues, Western swing and country, learned guitar, pedal steel, fiddle and mandolin before he reached double digits and had a number of regional singles before he was old enough to drink. Even then, his music was all over the map, drawing at will from his flood of influences.
After migrating to California, Sahm in 1964 formed the Sir Douglas Quintet with Augie Meyers on Vox organ as his partner in crime. The name of the group was somewhat deceptive, not just because of the "Sir Douglas" (chosen to take advantage of the mid-'60s fascination with all things British) but because of the "Quintet." Yes, there were five guys, but only two really mattered, and only two have remained connected from the beginning: Sahm and Meyers. In 1965, the band released its biggest hit, "She's About a Mover," which remains a staple of the oldies crowd. The song, with its hints of Tex-Mex accordion in Meyers' organ trills, preceded a rash of similarly flavored winners by other bands, but the Quintet would have only a couple of other brushes with the charts.
The band has shifted personnel and sounds a number of times since, becoming more or less bluesy, psychedelic or honky-tonk, sometimes just rocking out, and dissolving for a time in the 1970s while Sahm went solo. Late in that decade, Sahm took up residence in Austin to become an integral part of the Cosmic Cowboy scene. From time to time, he reconstituted the Quintet to make a record here and a tour there. The various Quintet incarnations had slightly different personnel, but they always mixed the sounds of Texas, Mexico and California. At one time or another, the Quintet included accordion legend Flaco Jimenez, the Creedence Clearwater rhythm section of Stu Cook and Doug Clifford and Sahm's son Shawn.
Riding a parallel track, Sahm formed the Texas Tornados, the '90s version of which had Jimenez, Meyers and Freddie Fender playing a border-crossing mix that garnered plenty of positive print but, again, not much at the box office. More recently, Sahm mined a blues vein with the Last Real Texas Blues Band, a name that in any other white boy's hands would offend, but which Sahm's pedigree allowed him to finesse.
The current edition of the Sir Douglas Quintet, which finds Sahm and Meyers back in their anchor roles, continues to do what the best Lone Star bands have always done: turn a mishmash of sounds into something distinctly Texan. As for stardom ... well, at this late date, who really needs it? Sahm and Meyers know what they're worth, and if we're smart, so should we. -- Bob Burtman
The Sir Douglas Quintet performs at 9:30 p.m. Friday, May 17, at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue. Tickets are $10. For info, call 869-COOL.
Sincola -- Rather than waiting for others to hang labels on its sound, Sincola has beaten critics to the punch by coming up with its own tags. "The Go-Go's on Prozac" is one the Austin band has trotted out, and a listen to the band's new CD, Crash Landing in Teen Heaven, suggests they were dead-on. Since its formation in 1993, the group has developed a strong niche banging out catchy little tunes with a decidedly punk flair. A mix of gay and straight members has provided some of Sincola's mystique, and if you're not comfortable with that idea, then all the better, as far as the band is concerned. Vocalist Rebecca Cannon is as menacing and hyperactive as ever, and still behaving like the forgotten love child of Chrissie Hynde and Iggy Pop. She's way, way out there, especially on the decidedly disturbing Crash Landing track "Letterbomb." Wisely, Sincola isn't thinking about reeling her in any time soon. At the Urban Art Bar, 112 Milam, Saturday, May 18, with Fastball and Quickserv Johnny. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $6, 21 and up; $8, 18 to 20. 225-0500. (Greg Barr)
Flaming Lips -- Oklahoma's Flaming Lips haven't released any new material since last fall's fine Clouds Taste Metallic. They haven't had a single since "She Don't Use Jelly" spun belatedly off of 1993's Transmissions from the Satellite Heart (unless you count "Bad Days," from the Batman Forever soundtrack, which never really took off the way it deserved to). There are no lineup changes to report, and aside from a recent tour of Europe, just plain nothing new on the band front -- no hook on which to hang a fresh recommendation for the world's greatest psychedelic rock band. Sometimes, simply being the world's greatest psychedelic rock band is enough. There is one notable point to be made: the Lips' last several Houston pit stops have seen singer Wayne Coyne and playmates opening shows for lesser bands, playing abbreviated 30-minute sets that functioned as mere teasers for the Lips' solid crowd of hard-core loyalists. If those shows were the teasers, count this one as the big payoff, a full-length headlining set that'll give the band latitude to create the opus-sized rockscapes it does better than anyone. Revel in it. At the Abyss Wednesday, May 22, with Richard Davies and Rubbur. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10. 863-7173. (Brad Tyer)
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