To say that Huey Meaux was a complicated man is an epic understatement, but one guy who prefers to remember only the good in the late Crazy Cajun is Augie Meyers, keyboardist in the Sir Douglas Quintet. Though touring prevents him from attending Meaux's funeral, Meyers says he will be there in his heart.
Meyers says unequivocally that without Meaux, he and Doug Sahm might never have made it out of San Antonio. Meaux told the young South Texas kids to woodshed for a while, come up with a fake English name, and he would make them big stars.
After recording "She's About a Mover," with Meyers's Vox organ acrest a bouncy, hard-charging and beery San Antonio polka, Meaux told Meyers "Brudda, give me five months, and dis'll be a hit."
"Five months later, we were touring," Meyers says.
Of course, Meaux paid them little more than booze and hotel rooms, most of the time. According to Meyers, the trick was not to ask for money. He recalls falling seriously ill in California.
Unbidden, Meaux sent him a check for the then-considerable (very) sum of $1,000. "He told me to use it if I needed it," Meyers remembers. "I sent it back to him, and he said 'I knew you'd do that.'"
Not that Meyers was unaware of Meaux's shenanigans. It was just that he fleeced people with such charm... He told of another artist in the Crazy Cajun stable who couldn't comprehend a certain clause in a recording contract.
"He said 'I don't understand paragraph 18 here," Meyers says. "Huey told him, 'Don't worry about that. It's only there 'cause if it wasn't, there'd be a big blank space.' He didn't tell them that paragraph basically said he would make them big stars but he would also keep all the money."
"Freddy Fender used to say that Huey took him to the cleaners," Meyers continued. "I would tell him, 'No, you took yourself to the cleaners.'"
Years ago, Sonny Landreth, whom Meaux recorded very early in the guitarist's career, recalls the first night Fender came into SugarHill Studios. Landreth was then sleeping on a pool table there, and as we recall, he told us that Fender busted in the door late at night, clad in a serape and clutching a jug of tequila in one hand and big bag of shrooms in the other.
"What da hell am I gonna do with Freddy Fender," Landreth remembers Meaux wondering.
Finally, he decided he would get the Valley-bred crooner to sing country. As Meyers remembers it, Fender wanted to do blues. Meaux prevailed, and the results were some of the most unlikely chart-topping country and pop hits ever recorded.
"He was a genius with his ears and his hustling," Meyers says. "He was Clive Davis, Jerry Wexler...He was that for Texas. He had a great ear for a song and finding who he wanted to sing it."
Meyers won't delve into Meaux's dark side, other than to say that Meaux took the fall for some bigwigs higher up the music-industry food chain when he was arrested in the 1970s and charged with sex crimes.
In that case, Meaux was convicted of violating the Mann Act in 1968. It was proven in court that Meaux brought a 15-year-old girl across state lines for immoral purposes; rumors have long swirled that some of Nashville's top record execs enjoyed her favors.
"He took the fall," Meyers says. "When he got out of prison, there was a new Cadillac with $10,000 cash in the glove compartment waiting for him. Nobody ever explained who that was from."
That conviction would come back to haunt him later. Meaux himself remained defiant about his sexual practices, as we can personally attest. Back in the 1990s, my dad and I worked for Demon/Edsel records on the re-release of Meaux's catalog overseas.
At that time, my dad was in frequent correspondence with the then-incarcerated Meaux. The Crazy Cajun would send dad these long diatribes about perceived wrongs, including some perpetrated on him by the state of Texas.
He summed up one of these missives thusly:
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"All I ever did was have sex with a 15-year-old crack whore," he wrote. "Who has not?"
So yeah, there's that. Like we said, he was a complicated guy.