1968-1969 were the two years I was with Doug Sahm in the San Francisco music storm.
I was raised in Laredo and moved to San Antonio at age 13. While in high school I started playing with bands and working joints as Doug had been doing since age 10. The Texas liquor laws forbid under age access to the joints…..except, if the joint had a cabaret license which exempted age limits on live entertainment. So we could go into any club and sit in with the entertainment. Being in high school and earning regular money playing clubs, dances, sock hops at the Catholic churches and social functions afforded a lifestyle that was considered by some to be admirable.
I have seen Doug play guitar, bass, fiddle, sax and steel guitar on recordings and live.
He had great bands in high school and was recording on regional labels at an early age.
In 1961, I was drafted and whisked away. Five years later I surfaced in San Francisco and kept hearing this hit record by the Sir Douglas Quintet. It was Doug….. He was appearing at one of Chet Helm’s concert halls where I met up with him.
At that time he had returned from Europe and Augie Meyers left the group for a while so Doug needed to replace Augie. At the time I was playing organ, guitar and harmonica at a San Jose club where he came to see me and for the next two years I worked with Doug as a driver, band member and he got me signed with Mercury/Philips in Europe.
The group’s name was Prince Albert & The Cans.
We did road tours, concerts and recording. Doug introduced me to recording studios.
His hit records were teeny bopper crossovers of a sort with “Rain Rain,” “She’s About A Mover” and “Mendocino.” However the true music of Doug Sahm was vindicated by his two albums for Mercury; The Honky Blues, and, the Sir Douglas Quintet 2+2 Honky Blues. I played guitar and harmonica on both albums. It was a big band with 5 horns and mostly all Texas players.
The Honky Blues album was recorded at the newly installed 8 track recorder (one of the first in San Francisco) at the Columbus Towers studio owned by Frank Weber who recorded the original Kingston Trio there. Both albums were shelved by Mercury due to label wars. The President of Mercury, Irving Green, was replaced overnight and all current projects halted so the Honky Blues never received any attention from the label at all. Too bad. Wonderful albums. Early hippie Blood Sweat & Tears from Texas.
Doug also had a production agreement with Mercury as Irving Green had signed some older, established artists and loved Doug’s studio players. All from Texas of course….. The first was Chuck Berry who signed a one album deal to record with his eighteen year old daughter with Doug producing. The very first session was miked up and ready for Chuck, who with daughter in tow, came swooping through the control room door to be engulfed in the smoke of the gods. Chuck does not indulge and stays miles away from it.
Consequently, Chuck roars over to the Mercury office and kills the deal. Next he agrees to continue but now he will be producer. Only two players of the Sir Drugless (lol) studio gang survived to actually play on the album that was not released. That would be myself on harmonica and Hershey Freeman on bass. Otherwise all new players. Chuck went on to overdub two and three guitar solos playing over the top of everything. Oh yes, and Chuck was supposed to pay Hershey and me….. Next came Little Jr. Parker from Bobbie Blue Bland fame. Nice sessions.
Mercury signed Screamin’ Jay Hawkins who left his home in Hawaii to come tour and record. Roy Head, from San Marcos, Texas, was signed and Doug produced nice sessions for him. Roy was not into the smoke of the gods but stood in the hallway drinking from a whisky bottle to get his head together.
Doug had a unique way of auditioning players both in the studio and live. Get hooked up and one-two-three-four into whatever is playing in your earphones. The idea is to immediately start playing into something you have never heard before and let’s see how you do while we record one take and play it back. Anyone who played with Doug had to “Groove” on the spot……..