Douglas Wayne Sahm (November 6, 1941 – November 18, 1999), was born in San Antonio,Texas. Sahm was a child prodigy in country music, but became a significant figure in other genres. A multitalented musician, Sahm was proficient on dozens of musical instruments and a songwriter who reveled in a variety of styles, mostly C&W, R&B, Blues and Tex-Mex or Tejano Music. In the mid-60’s he leaded The Sir Douglas Quintet. He also performed under his own band. He would later co-found the Texas Tornados with Augie Meyers, Freddy Fender, and Flaco Jimenez. For the last years of his career, he formed The Last Real Texas Blues Band. Today, Sahm is considered one of the most important figures in what is identified as Tex-Mex music. He was also a lifelong baseball fan. Sometimes he is called Douglas Saldaña.
He grew up in San Antonio and, as a teenager, Sahm put together the first white local R&B band, including tenor saxophonist Eracleo “Ricky” Morales and recorded regularly for the tiny Harlem record company, from 1958 to 1964, when he was discovered by record producer Huey Meaux, with whom he signed for his Tribe record label. Under the influence of the British invasion, Meaux transformed the image of Doug Sahm and promoted him nationally as The Sir Douglas Quintet, including organist Augie Mayers, Jack Barber, John Perez, and Frank Morin. One of his first hits under the new record label was “She’s about a mover”, released in 1965, which reminds The Beatles’ “She’s a woman”:
In the late 60’s, he moved to California, releasing the hit “Mendocino” in 1969, but Sahm wasn’t a regular hit maker and, in 1971, he went back to Texas, setting up in Austin.
In 1973 Sahm signed with Atlantic Records, releasing his first solo album under his own name, “Doug Sahm and Band”. Perhaps, one of the best recordings by Doug Sahm, other than Sir Douglas Quintet and Texas Tornados. A blend of C&W, Tex-Mex and Texas Blues performed by such great musicians as Sahm, Bob Dylan, Dr. John, Augie Meyer, David “Fathead” Newman, David Bromberg, Wayne Jackson, Flaco Jimenez, Jack Walrath, to name just a few, and produced by Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin (who also plays electric piano on the recording) and Doug Sahm. From the opening title “(Is anybody going to) San Antone”, every single track is great. “Blues stay away from me”, with Bob Dylan sharing vocals with Doug Sahm and playing a guitar solo is superb. “Poison love” has great solos by Augie Meyer on piano, Flaco Jimenz on accordion and David Bromberg on dobro. Dylan’s own recording of one the tunes, “Wallflower”, is available on the Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3. However, the album didn’t sell very well.
During the rest of the 70’s and the 80’s, Sahm recorded and toured extensively, whether under his own name or as the continuous line-up changing Sir Douglas Quintet. The first incarnation of The Texas Tornados, took place in the mid 70’s too. In October 1975, Doug taped his first appearence on Austin City Limits, which was broadcasted in the spring of 1976. 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. 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.
In the second half of the 80’s, Doug moved to Canada and then returned to Texas in 1988. In the mid 70’s Sahm had formed a band called Texas Tornados, that included Mayers on keyboards, Atwood Allen on guitar and vocals, Uncle Mickey Moody on acoustic guitar, Harry Hess on pedal steel and slide guitar and harmonica, Jack Barber on bass, George Rains on drums, but they split up after two albums. In 1989, Sahm along Flaco Jiménez, Augie Meyers and Freddy Fender formed the definitive line-up of The Texas Tornados, that Doug pitched as the Tex-Mex reincarnation of The Beatles. They recorded six albums, one of them entirely in Spanish.
According to Doug’s son Shawn: “Pop was always telling me about this dream he had of forming the Mexican Beatles. John, Paul, George and Ringo–he had it all planned out. Soon the world was going to be talking about Augie, Flaco, Freddy and Doug”. Besides the four principals, The Texas tornados included at one point or another other musicians such as Louie Ortega and Derek O’Brian on guitars, Speedy Parks, Louis Terrazas and Jack barber on bass, and George Rains, Ernie Durawa and Mike Buck on drums, as well as a horn section led by Ricky Morales. They won a Grammy Award in 1990 for “Best Mexican/American Performance with the song “Soy de San Luis”.
Tired of The Texas Tornados, in 1995 Sahm formed The Last Real Texas Blues Band and toured with them before his passing in 1999. A Grammy nominated and one of the last projects and recordings by Doug is the self-titled album. It includes Texas blues and New Orleans R&B, sung by Sahm’s great and driving forceful voice and backed by a powerful horn section. Great set of stomping Louisiana and Texas Blues and R&B standards with new brilliant arrangements, such as “Reconsider Baby” (Lowell Fulson), “My girl Josephine” (Fats Domino), “Bad Boy” (Louis Armstrong), “Honky Tonk” (Bill Doggett) or “T-Bone Shuffle” (T. Bone Walker) to name just a few. Some of the tracks have been recorded live at Antone’s Nightclub in Austin, Texas. Doug Sahm sings, plays guitar and piano and produces the album with Derek O’Brian, who also plays guitar on some of the tracks, sharing the role with guitarist Denny Freeman. Great instrumental solos throughout the whole album and lots of Hammond B-3 organ too. In Sahm’s own words, this album is dedicated to Clifford Antone, Jerry Wexler and all the real blues dudes.
Sahm died of a heart attack in his sleep in a motel room in Taos, New Mexico, on November 18, 1999. He was 58.
Freddy Fender passed away in 2006, but Augie Meyers and Flaco Jiménez reunited with Doug’s son, Shawn Sahm in a new recording by The Texas Tornados, that includes five previously unreleased vocal performances by Fender. The collection, entitled “Esta Bueno,” includes new songs written by Fender such as the swamp pop ballad “If I Could Only,” an instant new Tornados-style classic written by Doug and Shawn Sahm “Who’s to Blame, Señorita?” and several Augie Meyers songs recorded for the first time by the Tornados, such as “Velma from Selma” and “My Sugar Blue.” The album was produced by Shawn Sahm and was released nationally by Ray Benson’s Bismeaux Records on March 2, 2010.
In 2012, a radio broadcast from 1973, “Inlaws and Outlaws (All Access), Doug Sahm and Band 1973” was also released.