AmericanA to Z – Doug Sahm

Doug Sahm, AKA Sir Douglas, AKA Doug Saldana, AKA Wayne Douglas, a man of many names and one of the prime movers in concocting what we nowadays call Americana. The embodiment of Texas music, a child prodigy, Sahm made his debut stage appearance, aged 11, when he appeared with Hank Williams in Austin in 1952. Country music and Texas blues coursed through the young Sahm’s veins but it was the advent of The Beatles which gave him his break. A local producer, Huey Meaux, wanting to cash in on the fab four’s popularity, persuaded Sahm and his sidekick, Augie Meyers to don Carnaby Street togs and call themselves The Sir Douglas Quintet, their single ‘She’s About A Mover’, hit the US top twenty.

Texas in the early sixties wasn’t too keen on the likes of long-haired weirdos like Sahm and after a drug bust he fled to San Francisco just in time to join the burgeoning hippie scene. The Quintet reconvened there with Sahm adding a whiff of psychedelia to their trademark Tex-Mex garage punk sound. The seventies opened well for Sahm when he was signed to Atlantic Records and released the classic album, ‘Doug Sahm And Band’ which had a host of luminaries sitting in including Bob Dylan who gave Sahm the song ‘Wallflower’. Ever shape-shifting, Sahm released a slew of albums in the seventies which saw him steadily returning to his Texas blues roots while he also had a hand in revitalising his fellow Texan, Roky Erickson’s career. However, as a stoned cold Texan groover in the eighties, Sahm found himself somewhat out of place and sought refuge in Sweden where he recorded several albums and found himself again, for a short while, a bit of a pop star.

Before his untimely death, aged only 58, Sahm had a swansong in the shape of the Tex-Mex “supergroup,” The Texas Tornados. With Augie Meyers, Freddie Fender and Flaco Jiminez on board, the quartet were Grammy winners and paved the way for the likes of The Mavericks and Los Super Seven. Throughout his later years he recorded and performed with a wealth of artists including his performance with Uncle Tupelo on their recording of his song, ‘Give Back The Key To My Heart’, on their album ‘Anodyne’. A heart attack in a motel in Taos, New Mexico on November 18, 1999 took this supreme Texas groover from us, far too early, but there’s a wealth of music left in his wake which is well worth investigating. As the man himself said,  “I’m A part of Willie Nelson’s world and at the same time I’m part of the Grateful Dead’s. I don’t ever stay in one bag.”

The Canon There are far too many albums with Sahm appearing in various guises to mention them all. Recently released live albums are hit and miss, buy at your peril. An essential is the 1973 ‘Doug Sahm And Band’ on Atlantic Records. All of the Sir Douglas Quintet albums are recommended with 1969’s ‘Mendocino’ perhaps the best to start with while there are a couple of compilations which offer a fair overview. 1983’s ‘Borderwave’ is a favourite in this household as  the quintet dive into the new wave market, skinny ties and all, but essentially stick to their traditional organ fuelled Tex Mex garage punk. For a full on Texas blues trip seek out ‘Hell Of A Spell’ on Takoma Records and go for the debut album from The Texas Tornados, available in both Spanish and English versions, for a full blooded Tex-Mex jolt.

Key release Tough one. There’s so much there but picking one from each decade you can’t go wrong with ‘Mendocino’,’Doug Sahm And Band’ and ‘Borderwave’.

And his eternal hymn to his beloved Texas. Mott The Hoople had a brave go at this but Sahm hits all the buttons here…


About Paul Kerr 417 Articles
Still searching for the Holy Grail, a 10/10 album, so keep sending them in.
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John Gjaltema

Hey Paul, you were so close finding the Holy Grail, but overlooked it. Check out Texas Rock for Country Rollers from 1976 by Sir Doug and the Texas Tornados. Sounds like a Cadillac on a dirt road.

Paul Kerr

That’s a great album but in my opinion not the best, I was going to mention another one of my favourites, Rough Edges, a grab bag of cuts issued by Mercury in 1973. Some of it is astonishing.

Martin Johnson

Unlike some of his contemporaries he was still capable of pulling a good one out of the bag at the end. I have a soft spot for SDQ ‘98 and The Return Of Wayne Douglas .