AUSTIN, Texas Anyone within Doug Sahm's enormous circle of compadres remembers his phone calls.
They would come out of the blue and hit, literally, like a Texas tornado, a powerful blast coming through the receiver, leaving nary a chance for response.
In hindsight, Tommy Detamore is grateful for those verbal invasions. As producer of Sahm's new, all-country album The Return of Wayne Douglas, Detamore said the Sir Douglas Quintet bandleader and real-life Texas Tornado unknowingly provided the blueprints to finish the record before he passed away. Sahm died suddenly of heart disease on Nov. 18. He was 58.
"I think the record has turned out the way Doug wanted it," said Detamore, whose studio out in the brush country south of San Antonio was hand-picked by Sahm. "Before he died, he would take all these tapes of rough mixes and listen to them out on all his road trips. Then I'd get this call from God knows where, and it would be him talking a mile a minute, 'OK, I think we need to do this, and I think this will sound good.' Luckily, I scribbled a lot of that down."
The disc which is expected to hit stores next month following some delays wasn't supposed to be his last album, but Sahm's The Return of Wayne Douglas still makes a fitting closure to the Texas music legend's four-decade-plus record career. Its title uses the stage name Wayne Douglas that Sahm sometimes used when playing country.
With a new version of his classic song "Texas Me" (RealAudio excerpt) as a cue, the new album proudly shows off those real, old Lone Star country roots that Sahm yearned for even back in his Haight-Ashbury hippie days of the late '60s.
"He was on a mission," said Shawn Sahm, the late musician's son. "Dad thought a whole generation of country fans was getting screwed, and he was going to do something about it."
Shawn Sahm was one of a handful of musicians who added bits to the album following Sahm's death, per the singer's requests in those phone calls to Detamore. Other posthumous contributors included Quintet and Tornados member Augie Meyers and Ray Price's fiddler Bobby Flores.
About three-quarters of the album, though, was completed over two one-day sessions, with Sahm leading the way. And, said guitar veteran Bill Kirchen, who worked with Sahm for the first time in those sessions, the music legend led with the same sort of hurried passion he brought to everything.
"He'd say, 'Hey guys, let's do this one,' and I wouldn't have time to tell him I didn't even know the song," said Kirchen, a solo artist and alumnus of Commander Cody's Lost Planet Airmen. "It was exciting but hair-raising, because he always kept you on your toes. I can honestly say I don't think I ever saw anyone more genuinely enthusiastic about making a record."
"He felt he had never made a real, 100 percent-Texas country album, so this is it," said Bill Bentley, one of two Warner Bros. Records executives whose new label, Tornados Records, is issuing the record.
New Material, Old Grit
The album includes countrified versions of the Sahm classics "Dallas Alice," "Yesterday Got in the Way" and the honky-tonk soap opera about Austin, "Cowboy Peyton Place." Also included are a cover of Bob Dylan's "Love Minus Zero/No Limit," and the old Leon Payne classic "They'll Never Take Her Love From Me."
Also included are three new Sahm compositions, the most telling of which is "Oh No! Not Another One," in which Sahm ridicules Nashville's bumper crop of new male-model acts. In it, he sings, "I turned on my CMT today, man, my mind was blown away/ There's a young guy walking across the stage like a gazelle/ Man, I bet he's never even heard Lefty Frizzell."
"Dad felt real passionate about that song," Shawn Sahm said. "To him, it was insulting calling that stuff country music."
For the younger Sahm, who performed with his dad in latter-day versions of the Sir Douglas Quintet, hearing that song and others on "The Return of Wayne Douglas" is predictably difficult. "It's hard for me to think of it as his last album," he said. "It was supposed to be the start of another of his cycles. Honestly, Dad was becoming more prolific than I'd ever seen him. It was almost like he knew he would be making his last go-round sooner or later. I know, though, he didn't think it would be this soon."
Appropriately enough, the album ends with Doug Sahm's final answering machine message.