AUSTIN, Texas — A week and a half after he was buried in his native San Antonio, Texas, music legend Doug Sahm was raised in spirit for two tribute shows over the weekend in the adopted city where he found his “groover’s paradise.”
“Doug inspired us all,” said country-rock veteran Joe Ely, who joined a lineup of Texas blues, country, rock and Tex-Mex musicians in celebrating Sahm’s music Friday and Saturday at a jam-packed Antone’s Nightclub.
The guitarist and singer/songwriter, who founded the Sir Douglas Quintet
in the 1960s and the Texas Tornados in the 1980s, lived the latter half
of his 58 years in Austin after paying homage to it on the 1974 album
Groover’s Paradise. Until he died of a heart attack Nov. 18, Sahm
could hook up with a blues band, sit in on a Mexican conjunto dance, book
a gig at a country bar, plug in as a rock act or, best of all, mix any
and all of his influences on a single night.
And that’s what happened at Antone’s Nightclub — where, a year earlier, Sahm recorded his final album, the Tornados’ Live From the Limo, Vol. 1.
All facets of the Austin music scene turned out to honor him, starting with the conjunto band Los Pinkys on Friday. Austin stalwarts such as Ely, rocker Charlie Sexton of the Arc Angels and bluesman Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds also joined the Friday tribute.
Ely recalled coming into Austin from Lubbock, with Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock — his bandmates in the celebrated country band the Flatlanders — in the early ’70s, and always being welcomed at Sahm’s house, which was up a hill from a cosmic cowboy club called the Soap Creek Saloon.
On Friday, Ely, joined by longtime Johnny Cash pianist Earl Poole Ball, churned out some of the country classics Sahm loved best, including Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”
Ely also joined Sahm’s organ-playing sidekick, Augie Meyers, and son Shawn
Sahm for a rousing version of the Sir Douglas Quintet’s 1965 hit “She’s About a Mover” (RealAudio excerpt) and the 1973 gem “Dealer’s Blues,” a Sahm solo track that originally featured Bob Dylan on guitar.
Blues would rule the rest of the evening, as Meyers, Wilson and Lazy Lester tore through several of the blues standards Sahm often covered, including “One Night of Sin” and “Next Time You See Me.” Sahm’s trusty West Side Horns, also from San Antonio, joined in as well. Their saxophonist, Spot Barnett, was an early mentor of Sahm’s.
On Saturday, the mood was more country, with honky-tonk acts the Texas
Mavericks (not to be confused with the more famous country-rockers the
Mavericks) and Alvin Crow. Veterans Joe “King” Carrasco, Little Joe
Hernandez and the “Tejano jazz” outfit Los Jazz Vatos played up the
Tex-Mex influence on Sahm’s music.
“Pop would have loved this,” Shawn Sahm said.
Doug’s older brother, Victor Sahm, said, “The Sahm family has been very humbled by this.”
He said the $20,000 or so raised by the tributes would go toward building a statue of Sahm on Town Lake, in downtown Austin, which already bears memorials for Stevie Ray Vaughan and Uncle Walt’s Band leader Walter Hyatt.
With or without the statue, as long as there’s a music club in town, Austin will always feel Sahm’s presence.