Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page
Douglas Sahm (November 6, 1941 – November 18, 1999), was an American musician from Texas. Born in San Antonio, Texas, he was a child prodigy in country music but became a significant figure in blues rock and other genres. Today, Sahm is considered one of the most important figures in what is identified as Tejano music. He was the founder and leader of the 1960s rock and roll band, the Sir Douglas Quintet. He would later co-found the Texas Tornados with Augie Meyers, Freddy Fender, and Flaco Jimenez as well as Los Super Seven.
Sahm was proficient on dozens of musical instruments and was a lifelong baseball fan.
Country prodigy: 1940s and 1950s
Sahm began his musical career singing and playing steel guitar, mandolin and violin as "Little" Doug Sahm. He made his radio debut at the age five and released his first record "A Real American Joe" at age eleven. On December 19, 1952, he played on stage with Hank Williams Sr. at the Skyline Club in Austin, Texas. It was Hank Williams's very last performance. Williams died 13 days later (New Year's Day 1953) on the road to his next show in Canton, Ohio.
He is said to have been offered a permanent spot on the Grand Ole Opry, but his mother wanted him to finish junior high.
One of Sahm's earliest recordings was rejected by Mercury Records in 1953. Also in the mid-1950s, he started sneaking into San Antonio R&B clubs such as the Tiffany Lounge and the Ebony Lounge, and he was soon performing at the same venues.
Sahm formed his first band, the Knights, in 1957. Later in the decade, Sahm joined up with Spot Barnett's band playing mostly black San Antonio blues clubs. In 1960, Sahm travelled across the country promoting a record.
He met Freddy Fender around 1958 and Roy Head of Roy Head and The Traits from San Marcos, Texas, in 1959 when they shared the stage at a sock hop in San Antonio's Municipal Auditorium.
Sir Douglas Quintet: 1960s
Main Article: Sir Douglas Quintet
In 1965, prompted by record producer Huey Meaux, Sahm formed the Sir Douglas Quintet with childhood friend Augie Meyers. They chose the group's name in an effort to make the band seem British to benefit from the British invasion. This image had its problems, particularly Sahm's Texas accent and that two of five band member were Hispanic. Some early publicity photos were shot in silhouette to hide this fact.
The band had a top 20 US hit with "[[She's About a Mover]]" and a lesser hit with "The Rains Came," the former also reaching the Top Twenty in the UK Singles Chart.
The band broke up after a bust for marijuana possession in Corpus Christi, Texas. Sahm moved to San Francisco and formed the Honkey Blues Band, then later re-formed the Sir Douglas Quintet with a new lineup. Eventually Augie Meyers rejoined the quintet and they released the successful single and album "Mendocino". The record contained the song "At the Crossroads" with the Sahm line "You just can't live in Texas if you don't have a lot of soul".
Atlantic years: 1970s
"Then in October 1972, Dylan was in the studio with Doug Sahm... Dylan having been friendly with Sahm since the mid-sixties and having expressed enthusiasm for the Sir Douglas Quintet on more than one occasion"
Sahm continued recording both as a solo artist and with the Sir Douglas Quintet. During this period, Sahm also had a couple of minor motion picture roles. In 1972, he and the Quintet appeared with Kris Kristofferson in Cisco Pike and in 1979 he was featured in More American Graffiti.
Sahm was also a sought-after session musician, appearing on releases of other artists, including The Grateful Dead. He sang backing vocals on Willie Nelson's 1977 gospel album, The Troublemaker.
About a Mover: 1980s
In 1983, Sahm and Meyers signed with the Swedish Sonet label, and made several extensive European tours that revitalized their careers. The single "Meet Me In Stockholm" from their Midnight Sun LP went platinum and was one of the biggest selling records ever in Scandinavia. After an accident in 1985, Doug moved to Canada and then returned to Texas in 1988.
A Texas Tornado and more: 1990s
In 1990, Sahm formed the Tex-Mex super group, the Texas Tornados, with Freddy Fender, Augie Meyers, and Flaco Jimenez. The original group recorded seven albums (including 2 LIVE ones, and a "Best of" collection) and won a Grammy.
Throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, besides touring and recording with The Texas Tornados, Sahm also played and recorded with several other bands including The Sir Douglas Quintet, The Texas Mavericks, The Last Real Texas Blues Band, The Amos Garrett - Doug Sahm - Gene Taylor Band, Doug Sahm & Sons, The Mysterious Sam Dogg and The Cosmic Cowboys, and others, including his last band, The Cherry Ridge Riders.
Sahm also appears on the 1993 Uncle Tupelo album Anodyne on the song "Give Back the Key to my Heart". Sahm recorded a Grammy-winning solo album, The Last Real Texas Blues Band and recorded with yet another new formation of the Sir Douglas Quintet for SDQ '98.
Death and legacy
Sahm died of a heart attack in his sleep in a motel room in Taos, New Mexico, on November 18, 1999.
A posthumous album, The Return of Wayne Douglas, was released in 2000. Sahm's son, Shawn Sahm, continues in his father's footsteps as the leader of his band, Shawn Sahm & The Tex Mex Experience. Father and son appeared together on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1968. The surviving members of the Texas Tornados (Augie Meyers and Flaco Jimenez) reunited with Shawn Sahm on the 2010 release, Esta Bueno. Doug Sahm's other son, Shandon, played drums for The Meat Puppets from 1999 to 2002, and is their current drummer as of 2010.
In October 2012, a group of musicians—including Dave Alvin, Steve Earle, Delbert McClinton, Boz Scaggs, and Jimmie Vaughan among others—played a tribute to Sahm at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park. The group, performing under the name "Doug Sahm's Phantom Playboys," commemorated Sahm's lasting impact on the Americana music scene by playing several of his songs.
Sahm appeared as a fictionalized character in the 2011 Stephen King novel 11.22.63.