The Best of The Sir Douglas Quintet
Sir Douglas Quintet
Throughout their years in the spotlight, the Sir Douglas Quintet has moved effortlessly between most of the root forms of popular music: rock, blues, country, soul, Mexican and jazz, usually inflecting their hundreds of recorded sides with elements from all those sources, then adding their individual touches. It's a formula that has endured worldwide over thirty years, and which for a time was even annexed by Bob Dylan for his "Rolling Thunder Revue".
Born November 6, 1941 of Lebanese-American parents, Doug Sahm waited until 1948 before he began performing, beginning as a steel guitarist billed, naturally enough, as "Little Doug Sahm". His hometown of San Antonio was a melting pot of country, blues, polka, jazz, soul and Mexican music, styles Sahm had fully absorbed by the time rock and roll emerged in his mid-teens. He switched to guitar during this period and started forming bands, even recording local hits whilst still in high school with one early entry being his first record, "A Real American Joe", in 1955. Another attempt, the Little Richard-influenced "Crazy Daisy", didn't break far beyond the Bexar country line in 1959.
He moved to California and enjoyed modest success there, beginning a vagabond life that has since taken him all over the world. In these early days his traveling was confined pretty much to bouncing back between Texas and California but this kept him in close touch with the music developments in both areas. During the early '60s both Austin and San Francisco were busily distilling their own indigenous and original music "scenes" that broke away from the fashion of the day which was for bands to play sets of 100% cover tunes.
In 1965, Doug gathered up childhood pal Augie Meyers and a few other San Antonians (Francisco Moran on sax, Harvey Kagan on bass, Johnny Perez on drums) and prepared to record with Houston record mogul Huey P. Meaux. After years of shrugging off a chance to record Sahm, Meaux saw the effects of the "English Invasion" and decided he needed a group like the Beatles or the Stones. He told Doug to let his hair grow, find some weird clothes and "write a rocker with a Cajun two-step beat". Meaux dubbed them "The Sir Douglas Quintet" and presented the band to the public as English rockers. After a false start with "Sugar Bee" in 1964, the Quintet returned with an insistent, Vox-organ powered ode to a high-stepping babe, "She's About A Mover". The song raced to #13 on the national charts in 1965 and, though no one knew it at the time, it kicked off a run for the SDQ that has endured throughout the '60s, '70s, '80s and even '90s, decades which saw the group release albums in Canada, England, Sweden, Yugoslavia, Norway, Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Australia and Japan, in addition to U.S. releases on Tribe, Smash, Philips, Mercury, Atlantic, United Artists, Crazy Cajun, Takoma, Varrick and Nonesuch Records (source of the band's 1994 release, “Day Dreaming At Midnight”). In 1998 Dutch-based Munich America Records released “Get A Life”, billed as "Doug Sahm aka The Texas Tornado" and featuring longtime Sahm crony Augie Meyers' signature organ sound.
The Quintet tallied a Top-30 hit with "The Rains Came" in 1966, got busted, moved to California, split up, then reunited and returned triumphantly with "Mendocino" in 1969, reaching #27 and lasting fifteen weeks on the pop charts.
These accomplishments alone would be enough to cement the reputation of band leader Doug Sahm in the music history books but, remarkably he has also fashioned a career as a solo artist as well as hatched yet another successful venture as a leader of Tex-Mex supergroup, The Texas Tornadoes, which again reunited him with keyboard ace Meyers and was augmented by the heart-tugging vocals of Freddy Fender and the accordion wizardry of San Antonio Hispanic legend Flaco Jimenez. The Tornados enjoyed success in the Southwest and Mexico, toured in Europe and earned a Grammy Award in 1990 for a track on their self-titled debut album.
If anyone has ever met and chatted with Doug Sahm they will instantly understand how he has been able to successfully juggle a solo career and two separate bands for over three decades. Doug is pretty much always a blur of motion and words, continually making plans, talking a mile-a-minute, usually while carrying on several other chores simultaneously, the epitome of what is called "a Polyphasic personality". Those of you who have followed his career closely saw these characteristics displayed on screen in 1972 cult movie, “Cisco Pike”, with Sahm playing a fast-talking pot dealer in the film, directed by B.W.L. Norton and featuring early starring roles for Kris Kristofferson, Karen Black and Gene Hackman.
As you might expect from such a fast and loose character, Sahm has mixed and matched personnel on his solo recordings - and the Quintet's lineup, with the exception of Meyers, has fluctuated over the years, - thus it's sometimes hard to distinguish striking differences between recordings credited to Sahm or to The SDQ. In the case of these recordings, the deadline arrived long before any information detailing recording dates, session personnel, production credits, liner notes or songwriting identification. Nevertheless one can reasonably posit that the recording dates extended from the 1965's "She's About A Mover" until at least 1977 (due to the presence of material originally appearing on Crazy Cajun's “The Tracker” album then).