Tex-Mex pioneer Doug Sahm, a decade later
Ten years ago today -- on Nov. 18, 1999 -- the pop music world lost a bona-fide original, Tex-Mex innovator Doug Sahm. First as frontman for the Sir Douglas Quintet in the 1960s and 1970s, through his solo work in the '70s and '80s and then through his musical and spiritual leadership of the Texas Tornados in the '90s, Sahm helped break down walls between rock, country, soul, R&B and norteño music.
Earlier this year, Vanguard Records put out a spirited salute to the San Antonio-based singer, songwriter and guitarist, “Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm.” It’s worth seeking out for empathetic versions of his music by admirers including Los Lobos, Dave Alvin, Jimmie Vaughan, Joe “King” Carrasco with surviving members of the Tornados, longtime friend and collaborator Flaco Jimenez, Delbert McClinton, his son, Shawn Sahm, and several others.
He’s best known for the Sir Douglas Quintet’s signature hits “She’s About a Mover” and “Mendocino,” but his legacy extended well beyond those brief encounters with the pop mainstream. Bob Dylan once said he considered Doug Sahm a kindred spirit in his innate understanding of music and his ability to find the heart and soul of a song.
Here’s a clip of Sahm during his Tornados days doing the song that usually springs to my mind first whenever his name is mentioned: “Is Anybody Going to San Antone,” built on one of his irresistible, border-defying Tex-Mex grooves. He died, far too early, at age 58, apparently of natural causes.
-- Randy Lewis