Jukebox Music
November 15, 2009 10:22 AM   Subscribe

Doug Sahm was a country music prodigy.

Offered a full-time position at the Grand Ole Opry when only a teenager, he had to turn it down after his mother decided he should finish junior high. He went on to found the Sir Douglas Quintet. He produced a great deal of distinctive musice like Nuevo Laredo and Mendocino. He later played with the Texas Tornadoes. There's a buch of Doug Sahm music on this Youtube Playlist. He died in 1999. There is a hill named after him in Austin, Texas. Alt country band The Bottle Rockets released an entire album of Sahm cover songs.
posted by dortmunder (23 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
If "She's About A Mover" doesn't make you smile and tap your toes, then check your pulse. Chances are you are already dead.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:51 AM on November 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

As long as we're talking about Sahm cover songs, I'll have to mention Uncle Tupelo's version of "Give Back the Key to My Heart," recorded with Sahm on their 1993 album Anodyne. Gorgeous.
posted by DeWalt_Russ at 10:52 AM on November 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

Joe King Carrasco made a fine career, of sorts, out of paying tribute to Sahm (And ? and the Mysterions). Buena
posted by jeffen at 11:21 AM on November 15, 2009

Sahm's long-time buddy and musical partner Augie Meyers was the subject of an interesting article in the Austin Chronicle a few weeks ago. When I was growing up in Europe, I was privy to all sorts of US and UK musical genres and a lot of stuff that's pretty obscure, but for some reason I never heard Doug Sahm, Augie Meyers, Flaco Jimenez and other Tex-Mex music until I came here. Now it's some of my favorite stuff. A lot of it sounds similar in some ways to various Eastern European / Gypsy musics - I know there was a big Czech / Bohemian / Polish influence in what evolved into Tex-Mex, so maybe that's why. That combination of catchy melodies, danceability, melancholy and longing (not forgetting the humor underneath a lot of it) reminds me of music from home, while still being intrinsically American. It's great stuff.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 11:25 AM on November 15, 2009

While we're here let's remember Sahm's long-term friendship with Bob Dylan (and of course Augie Meyers playing on Dylan's 2001 album "Love and Theft".)
posted by jeffen at 11:38 AM on November 15, 2009

I really like Sahm and his music as well as all of the musicians he inspired.

If we're talking about covers, I like the Gourds cover of "Nuevo Laredo"
posted by birdherder at 11:40 AM on November 15, 2009

Being in Austin, you hear a lot about the Cosmic Cowboy scene that Sahm and Rusty Wier and Willis Alan and a whole slew of folks created. Drawn from the weird fusion of hippies and cowboys that co-existed in relative peace here, it provides a decent model of what things are like here politically, musically, and socially. Our fusion of old cowboy and new liberal makes for some great music and fantastic food.

Now, granted, Austin is the town where, no matter when you got here, you just missed it. All the cool stuff? That was five / ten / twenty / thirty years ago. But the best thing about being in a town flooded with music is, everyone recorded it somewhere, and somebody knows someone who was there when Sahm played Liberty Lunch, and odds are, they recorded it or can at least tell you all about it.

It is strange that more attention isn't given to Sahm...makes me wonder who else out there we're ignoring who actually shaped the undercurrents of modern music. Besides the throngs of blues and folk musicians who were the 'wrong" color to make it big....
posted by blixco at 11:58 AM on November 15, 2009

Yesterday I was making guacamole and singing Guacamole and giggling like a thirteen year old about the innuendo, and then here comes this plate of shrimp post.
posted by padraigin at 1:23 PM on November 15, 2009

It is strange that more attention isn't given to Sahm...makes me wonder who else out there we're ignoring who actually shaped the undercurrents of modern music.

You really have to illuminate me here as to what Doug Sahm did to change the course -- undercurrent or not -- of modern music? In his own time, he was appreciated a precisely the level he deserved: as an artist who recorded two kind of okay garage singles: Mendocino and She's a Body Mover. When those songs came out, they struck me, at least, as kind of lame and a little uncooly retro (not to mention muddily recorded). Sahm sounded like a follower, not a leader or innovator. If you'd just consider what else was going down at the same time those two songs were hits, you'd realize what small potatoes Sahm actually was (do I have to recite the monumental list of one-hit wonders, not to mention reliable hitmakers and plain, outright geniuses who were at work from 1964 to 1969? There just wasn't enough attention OUT there for all these incredible artists). I mean, Sahm had a few not entirely unlistenable songs, but the Kit Kats were better; for that matter Honey Bus was better -- and I can pretty much guarantee that you never heard of them. Here we go, Texans: the 13th Floor Elevators one song "You're Gonna Miss Me" is worth the entire Doug Sahm catalogue. "You're Gonna Miss Me" actually IS innovative, and made the whole country sit up and take notice and say "Damn". I still get chills when I hear the opening notes of "You're Gonna Miss Me." When I hear the opening lines of "Mendocino" and then that lame: "teeeny-bopper" all I can think is how, for instance, Scott Mackenzie's "San Francisco Flowers in Your Hair" -- even though written by the child molesting, brain dead John Phillips -- is so much hipper (even with that ridiculous lyric), so much more adventurously melodic, such a joy to hear, even today... I mean, Doug Sahm is a harmless local enthusiasm, like Jimmy Buffet, who seems have been embraced by an inebriated subculture for purely non-musical reasons. I don't see the Doug Sahm school out there today. I mean, who did he influence... outside of Austin?
posted by Faze at 2:42 PM on November 15, 2009

"You're Gonna Miss Me" is of an entirely different genre of pop music than is Doug Sahm's work. I think you're in the wrong thread. You want to be in the thread where people are enjoying the work of the band Love, so you can trump their taste with your obscurities.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 2:51 PM on November 15, 2009

I know how this place just loves name-dropping but I was working in The Studio (the studio's name is The Studio) when the Bottle Rockets were tracking Songs of Sahm . I always seem to be crossing paths with that Bloodshot/ No Depression/ HighTone/ Goner scene.

I tell you, "Mendocino" is scary catchy.
posted by sourwookie at 4:01 PM on November 15, 2009

A recording of Doug Sahm with Jerry Garcia and Leon Russell at Armadillo World Headquarters from Thanksgiving 1972 is available here.
posted by fogovonslack at 4:02 PM on November 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

Faze: first of all, it's "She's About a Mover." Second of all, he did more than just about any rock artist (save, marginally Freddie Fender) to introduce Mexican music into the rock pantheon (and quite frankly that may be where the most interesting modern music is being made, BTW). Third of all, Doug had a great set of pipes that could handle bles, country and rock with equal aplomb.
posted by jonmc at 4:28 PM on November 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Faze: Come on. None of that is a particularly well-reasoned or logical argument.

First of all, as jonmc's already pointed out, it's "She's About A Mover," not "She's A Body Mover." Also, it's "Honeybus," not "Honey Bus." I have to interpret your rather snobbish suggestion that you "can pretty much guarantee that you never heard of" both Honeybus and the Kit Kats as utter nonsense, given that I grew up in Sarajevo, have only lived in America since the mid-90's (when I first learned to speak English), yet I've heard of both of them and own music by both of them as well.

Second, if you're going to argue with someone, it's best to start by refuting what they actually said. The post to which you replied talk about whom "we're ignoring who actually shaped the undercurrents of modern music," not changing the course of modern music. I'd argue that Sahm shaped much modern music in plenty of ways . . . but more on that below.

Third, I really like Honeybus. The Kit Kats are hit-or-miss for me, but I like them enough to have tracked their stuff down. These are subjective takes, obviously. But arguing whether or not either band was "better" than Sahm is a red herring. It might have been relevant if either band bore any resemblance to Sahm, but they don't. The bottom line is that Sahm is much better remembered - both here in the USA and overseas - than Honeybus or the Kit Kats. You may characterize Sahm as having "a few not entirely unlistenable songs" (great snark), but the fact of the matter is that his songs - despite being unknown to most people - are still pretty widely covered and admired today. This alone probably speaks better to the relative quality of the three artists more than anything else. I'd add also that Sahm was a remarkably consistent artist over his musical career. He had peaks and valleys like any other artists, but he had about a 35-year run of making great recordings, which is a hell of a lot longer than many big-name "legends" and a whole hell of a lot longer than Honeybus or the Kit Kats. Of course, in the opinion of other musical greats, Sahm's reputation looms much larger as well. There's a reason why Flaco Jimenez and Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson and Dr John asked to work with him, and it wasn't because he would help them shift units. Maybe the Kit Kats and Honeybus got a lot of calls too, but . . . I don't think so!

Whom did he influence? Interestingly enough, Roky Erickson of the 13th Floor Elevators was (and remains) a fan, and I actually hear a lot of Doug Sahm in some of their stuff. Liverpool postpunk groups like Echo & the Bunnymen and Teardrop Explodes championed them. Joe Strummer was nuts about them. I know they played a big role in some of the "back to roots" albums bands starting making after hippie / psychedelic experimentalism got to be a bit much. Bob Dylan's copped to Sahm's influence, which is audible on stuff like "The Basement Tapes." Willie Nelson gives him lots of credit for expanding his horizons beyond what he termed "Nashville country." The whole "Americana" thing perceives him as a sort of spiritual godfather - not just the Bottlerockets, but much of the Bloodshot roster, from Neko Case to Jon Langford. The guys in Son Volt and Wilco. The Meat Puppets.

But as jonmc points out, his biggest single bit of influence was in introducing Mexican music into the rock pantheon. Here, Sahm is undersold . . . he's also seen as a big influence in introducing rock music into the pantheon of contemporary Mexican music. Few musicians in any genre have had such a unique both-ways influence. When I hear some odd but great tejano covers of songs like the Pretenders' "Brass In Pocket," they always have a little Doug Sahm in the sound.

I'm sorry you don't like him; I think you're missing out on a lot of great stuff.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:47 PM on November 15, 2009 [5 favorites]

jonmc is exactly right (except it's Freddy Fender) about Sahm's influence combining Mexican and rock musics (along with Cajun and a few other styles), ultimately resulting in him becoming a leader of the first Tex/Mex supergroup. (With Freddy, of course, who to me was always the guy who combined Mexican with American country music.)

I’ve been a huge fan of Sahm’s ever since he tried to pass himself and his band (including two Mexicans, no less) off as a British invasion group over 40 years ago. And with people like Bob Dylan, Dr. John, David ‘Fathead’ Newman, David Bromberg, and Flaco Jimenez showing up on his first solo album, you know he was no musical lightweight.

It is strange that more attention isn't given to Sahm...

I think the real reason is that Mendocino is 1,880 miles away from ‘San Antone’; Sahm was a unique hippie/cowboy combination, so he's not totally revered by either bunch.
posted by LeLiLo at 5:54 PM on November 15, 2009

Joe Strummer was nuts about them.

I realize this "them" is a bit of a non-sequitur. By "them," I mean the Sir Douglas Quintet, Sahm's most famous outfit . . . even though I tend to see all these different bands as just him and his buddies, and wonder how much more traction his career would have had if he'd kept it a little simpler for those of us who trawl through record shops.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:54 PM on November 15, 2009

Interestingly, this clip of "She's About A Mover" from an old NBC show is introduced by another — maybe now mostly forgotten — Tex/Mex rock star of the early 60s, Trini Lopez. And (as BitterOldPunk says), if you don't enjoy this mid-70s, live version, we can't do much for you....
posted by LeLiLo at 6:14 PM on November 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I saw him play once, at the awards show which kicks off SXSW, they were probably giving him a "You Are A God To Us And We Want To Have Your Baby" award; he is in fact loved here, as noted above. A huge stage presence, huge, all smirky and strong and happy, standing there wearing sunglasses, smiling. I'm like "Who the fuck is this guy?" -- unlike so many in this thread, I'm more a tourist in the 'Who sang what with who?' world. But this guy was supercool, brazen, damn sure stood out in a crowd. A song or two and they were gone but it was fun and I'm not sure I remember anything else from that night but his presence comes across the years strong.

Cool post -- thanx!
posted by dancestoblue at 8:10 PM on November 15, 2009

A hero to me. I saw him play several times with the Tornadoes. Thanks for the post.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:15 PM on November 15, 2009

I got to see Doug Sahm play once. I was at a happy-hour show at Antone's when it was down on Guadalupe across from the record store. Teddy and the Talltops were playing and Sahm just stopped by to jam for a while. Lucky me!
posted by battleshipkropotkin at 7:31 AM on November 16, 2009

Is this thread gonna die before someone reminds us all that Richie Valen's "La Bamba" was one of the first meetings of Mexican music and rock n 'roll? (I guess it'll be Lou Diamond Phillips fault if we blocked that fact out.)
posted by jeffen at 11:26 AM on November 16, 2009

Before this thread — which brought back many pleasant memories — dies, we might also mention that the original name of Sahm's famous song apparently was, of all things, "She’s a Body Mover," a title changed because it was too racy for Texas in the 60s. This recent article on Augie Meyers from the Austin paper — in addition to the one linked above by Dee Xtrovert — has him saying, "So Doug called a few days later and said, 'Bring your Vox and come to the Blue Note.' I did. A few weeks later, he wrote a song about a couple that used to dance there, called 'She's a Body Mover.' They said you can't put it out; it was too risqué. It was late '64. We changed it to 'She's About a Mover.'"

The same story is repeated in a 2004 Texas Monthly article that listed the song as #1 (!) of the "100 Best Texas Songs" of all time. (I love the song, but that ranking seems a little high.) "... his delightfully cockeyed lyrics and title... make more sense, actually, if you know that the song was originally called 'She's a Body Mover,' an offhand comment Sahm had made about a girl dirty-dancing at one of his shows."
posted by LeLiLo at 1:17 AM on November 17, 2009

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