More tributes to Doug Sahm
Tourism vs. TV
Dear Mr. Black:
In your article "A Full Plate" [Nov. 19], there appears to be more carbohydrates than meat and potatoes. The article discusses "diverting" of some of the bed tax, which incidentally is collected from hotels in the city and by law is to be used specifically to fund the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau for the promotion of tourism in Austin.
The Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau is described as being "a city department that ironically provides staff support for the music commission." This is not the case. The Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau is not a city department but an independent nonprofit corporation that is charged with promoting tourism in Austin. The bed tax specifically funds the Bureau, and while it has a department that promotes and supports the music venue in the city, it does not provide the staff support for the Music Commission.
And yes, I'm sure the Music Commission is in favor of the bed tax funding the losing Austin Music Network -- why wouldn't they be? But let's focus on the stated purpose of the bed tax. Will the Network really promote tourism? Do you believe that tourists come to Austin to sit in a hotel room and watch the Austin Music Network? I don't think so!
O. Philip Breland, Jr.
ACVB Director & Founding Board Member
I have some comments re: Rob D'Amico's public service piece on how to avoid bike theft ["Stop, Thief!" Nov. 26]. First, with regard to the prospect of policemen pounding out driver's license numbers or social security numbers on bicycle frames, owners should consult with manufacturers first to make sure that this act does not violate any warranty. If the frame is made of solid steel, there is probably little to fear. But owners of aluminum and alloy bicycle frames should exercise more caution.
D'Amico also reports the puzzling police view that the bicycle's serial number is usually an inadequate means of identifying a stolen bicycle. If the police do a good job of filing and cross-referencing a bike serial number and owner, it's inexplicable why the serial number shouldn't be adequate by itself. Even if a bicycle owner has lost the serial number of a registered bicycle, a competent police force would maintain a record of it.
I was also disturbed by the D'Amico information the local Web sites urge bike riders to lie about their identity when pressed by police. But the police always detain suspects long enough to radio this information in and check records. Though you may have not committed a crime before giving your name, if you name is not in the police system you will now become a suspect to the police for falsely identifying yourself. You will be handcuffed, taken in the back of a squad car, detained, and fingerprinted at the police station and identified. You will then be released downtown. I know this is true because it has happened to me.
Save Me a Seat, Doug
Oh man! I have watched the TV and newspaper. But I am not down as you would not want me to be! It's cold here in this prison cell in Huntsville. I am laying here on my bunk, thinking of all the good times we had from 1957 when you came to Winnie to see me. I was a barber then, doing local acts in my spare time. I thank you for all that. But I would like to hear you one more time as I walked in clubs saying "I want to send this to my producer Huey P. Meaux," and you would fire up "Mover," "Rains Came," "Mendocino." No one will ever play the intro on those songs like you, Doug! You had a feeling on that guitar that was yours only! I had a letter from Augie Meyers, Bobby Smith, Joe Gracey, and Doug Hanners this week. I also sent you a Xmas gift I had made for you on Nov. 15. Don't know if you got to see it or not. Last night as I lay on my bunk, this came to me:
"Appearing Tonight -- Doug Sahm and Friends: Papa Link Davis, T. Bone Walker, Joey Long, C.L. Weldon, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ritchie Valens, Bobby Fuller, Buddy Holly, Little Jr. Parker, Lightning Hopkins, Johnny Copeland --"
The list went on until the billboard ran out of room. You brought the world to Austin -- you left us your music to enjoy! So you will live on forever, Doug! Save me a seat right next to you, as I will follow you someday soon.
Bon voyage, mon ami -- I love you and miss you.
Huey P. Meaux
Memories of Doug
In the summer of 1972, the summer when I turned 10, my older brother Dave was drafted. I was devastated. He was my brother and road map to all things "adult" to my 10-year-old mind. Now he was going to fight in the Army. To allay my fears, and to assure me that he would be coming back, he entrusted me with the care and upkeep of his extensive record collection. To me, the youngest of four boys, this was like Christmas Day and every birthday I had ever had rolled into one.
Among his albums were the Beatles, Stones, CCR, and Doors titles that I recognized and knew from the radio and from his having played them almost religiously for what had seemed like my whole life. But there were also these other strange-looking albums by a band I didn't recognize. These guys looked weird, they looked like a bunch of hippie cowboys. They were the Sir Douglas Quintet.
For the next few years, while Grand Funk ruled the roost and Black Sabbath ruled the "smoking lounge," I could not shake the sound of the SDQ records. They were funky, sloppy, and gloriously loose. Country and rock & roll and rhythm and blues all poured into one big stew, and I was hooked.
I spoke to a friend the other night when he told me of the death of Doug Sahm. I was surprised and saddened and filled with memories of seeing the Texas Tornados in New Orleans at Tipitina's and being surrounded by dozens of Latino men crying their eyes out as Freddy and Flaco sang. Between sets (they played three long ones), I had my first conversation with Sahm. I spilled my story of childhood musical conversion, he was patient and gracious and then cackled, " Goddamn man, that's great. That's just goddamn great!" and then he was back onstage.
Fortunately, over the years of living in Austin and working at Waterloo Records, I've had many opportunities to tell Doug Sahm exactly the turning point that his music had provided for me in my life. Whether it was blues, BBQ, or baseball listening to his rapid-fire delivery and almost photographic memory, he was never dull and always funny as hell.
I'm just one of the countless people that he saw once every so often, who he never failed to greet like a long-lost family member. He was one solid citizen. Texas feels a little bit smaller right now.
If you take 5,000 battleships and remove all the empty space in the molecules, you would be left with an object the size of a baseball. If you take all of the Texas spirit in the world and remove all the empty space, you would be left with Doug Sahm.
P.S. FYI, it's Sarg Records, not Sarge Records.
The years I spent playing in Doug's bands (1975, 76 & 77, the Sir Douglas Quintet and Sir Doug & the Texas Tornados) were some of the most fun years of my life. Doug was a great musician, and I learned a lot about music while playing with him. The bands were always top-notch players and Doug always made it fun. I was the youngest in the band by 10 years. I learned how to "do it on the fly" while with Doug. Rehearsals were extremely rare. You had to know how to just play what you know and let it all hang out.
All of us who were part of the "Doug Sahm story" have lost our captain. Exasperating as he could sometimes be, he still always had our love and our respect of his awesome musicianship. None of us expected this to happen, he was the last guy you would expect to go like this. True to form, the Texas Tornado has blazed his own path.
Sahm as Songwriter
Thanks so much for your extended coverage about the passing of Doug Sahm [Nov. 26]. The world in general and Texas music in particular is a lesser place without him. One thing that has been neglected in the many tributes to this extraordinary talent is his skill as a songwriter. The catalog of published Sahm song titles surely numbers in the hundreds, ranging from the two-chord wonder "Mendocino" to the more intricate T-Bone Walker and jazz-inspired blues pieces. He could be a memorable lyricist as well. Check out "Be Real" or "Down on the Border" or "Juan Mendoza" or the ever-moving "At the Crossroads." Hopefully he'll get his due recognition as a songwriter someday.
Flying With Doug
Although I never got to hang with Doug [Sahm], I did get to know Doug, or at least I got to know Doug onstage. I was lucky enough to show up in Austin in 1974 with a rock & roll band which more or less promptly disbanded, leaving me with a really nice sound system. Having probably the nicest system in town at the time, I had many opportunities, but doing sound for Doug at Soap Creek was the high life. Whoa! What an incredibly seared memory. Oh god, those low ceilings, and with even a slightly elevated stage the volume careened to the back of the room, literally bouncing off the walls. The possibility for cacophony was keen. Doug's solution was to crank the mother up. His guitar would scream off that stage. It was always constant mayhem trying to match any of the other instruments to Doug's blazing guitar. My solution was the Doug Sahm monitor. I managed to create a solo channel just for Doug's monitor in which I would pump copious amounts of guitar so he would turn his amp down and I would have a fighting chance of achieving some semblance of a mix for the house. Jesus, in those clubs I always seemed to be flying by the seat of my pants, but with Doug, God bless him, I'd be flying with altitude.
Onward thru the fog,
Re: Walter Daniel's letter, "Postmarks," Nov. 12:
Where the hell do they charge $17.99 for my [Mad Cat Trio] CD? (I only see $10 of that myself, if sold on consignment.) I'd advise you get yer money back, or tape it and return it for credit or something. Hell, send it back to me and I'll cut ya a check myself. (You may forward my e-address to Walter if ya like.) But I'd appreciate a note explaining how economics and "punk" are related. I'm actually quite curious to know.
On an unrelated note:
I was profoundly saddened to learn of the untimely passing of Doug Sahm. Though I cannot say I was ever a fan of any his many oeuvres, I always admired his ability to make everyone he met a friend and his ability to encourage younger, up-and-coming musicians. Though I can count the number of times I talked with him on one hand, he always greeted folks like they were old pals and when he talked to you he made you feel like a trusted confidant. His seemingly boundless energy and overall positive, forward-motion attitude was simply awe-inspiring, a genuine tonic to the foul bitterness and backstabbing that is often attached to the music business. He was a Great man, and a first class mensch.
While I'm at it --
Who is responsible for this Gray guy? A story on horns in Austin music ["Blow Harder," Nov. 19] and not one word about the Big Boys? I mean "Hollywood Swinging" is the reason there was a funk revival in punk rock in the first place. I'm not that old, but where do ya get these kids?
All the best!
Thank you, Austin Chronicle!
Thanks for your world-class, nitty-gritty reporting of the Statesman's enviro-bashing ["Media Clips," Nov. 26, and "Page Two," Nov. 12 & 19].
Thanks for your exposé on the WTO ["The Profit Motive," Nov. 26] -- way to keep ahead of the mass media!
Keep up the good work!
UT Regents Ignorant
So the regents on the building committee at UT are dull-witted, bourgeois cowards ["Articulations," Nov. 26]. They are exemplary of the still-ignorant Texan mindset: If da paintin' don't match da couch, then it ain't no good. The UT committee wanted the new museum's design to be "compatible" with the existing, nondescript, blasé buildings on the UT campus. (Well at least this compromising would be compatible with the already mediocre arts and music scene in Austin). Should we then be surprised of Herzog & de Meuron and UT Architecture Dean Larry Speck resigning? Hello! Anybody home? When is Austin going to wake up and start recognizing and appreciating high quality and new ideas? When is the arts community and organizations going to stop gorging themselves on mediocrity?
Karl J. Lieck
Ahh, good old fundamentalism --
In reply to Richard G. Bailey II's letter, where he expressed concern that the cartoons about "Slaughter Me Satan" and Pat Buchanan's dog were anti-Christian ["Postmarks," Nov. 19]: Get a life! The cartoons were not directed at Christians in particular but at the right wing's intolerance towards fun and their vision of Satan and evil in -- anything.
Now in regard the issue of Hyde Park (with Erica Barnett's excellent article ["Grow and Prosper," Nov. 19], kudos!), let's have a little old quote from the Bible -- "No servant can serve two two masters. -- You cannot serve both God and money" (Luke 16:13-14). It is so sad that this church has to create this false idol of the Bigger Better New Improved Superchurch so its parishoners can worship in style.
Christopher D. Whitehead
Eli Kooris is an excellent example of the quality of students produced by Westlake High School. His article "Just Call Him "Coach'" [Nov. 19] was wry, witty, and very well-written. (By the way, it's Pearce that feeds into Reagan.) Coach Schroeder is the stuff of legends, and the article was a tribute to his contributions to high school football. I do, however, want to clarify the point made about the controversy over whether Westlake should have two high schools. I totally agree with Coach Schroeder that the decision to build a second high school should be based on academics and not football, and those of us who supported the second high school did so because we felt a smaller environment is superior academically and provides greater opportunities for students to find a connection with their high school. In fact, I'm not aware of anyone who supported the second high school who was motivated in any respect by a desire to destroy or weaken the Chaps football team as a means to achieve a better educational environment. On the other hand, those wanting to keep one high school had many reasons for their preference, but maintaining a powerhouse 5A football team was certainly a driving force for many, as evidenced by the obscene amount of money spent to defeat the second high school (greater than $100,000) by those actively involved in the football program. I hope that the direction we've chosen will allow us to continue to nurture the type of talent demonstrated by intern Kooris and not lose his likes in the crowd. The election is over, we have one great big and growing high school, and we're moving on toward the state football playoff game. Go Chaps!
Poetry at 3AM
I wanted to write a thank-you letter to Michael Ventura (who, by the way, is one of my favorite writers), for his column regarding poetry as an act of faith and courage ["Letters at 3AM," Nov. 12]. For those of us who are poets -- and I hope many poets see and read this column -- we need all the encouragement we can get, in a society that doesn't value poetry as it should. Thank you again, Michael Ventura, and keep up the good work.
More Canadian Quizzes
Hate to pick nits, but there were two errors in the November 26 issue, one of fact and one of style, that I wanted to point out. Lorne Opler's article ["Greetings From the Great White North," Nov. 26] was a nifty read for this American of Canadian extraction, but since he's moved here, Canada has acquired an 11th province. In March, a large chunk of the Northwest Territories joined Nova Scotia (where my mom's folks are from), New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia as the Province of Nunavut. The capital is Iqaluit, which, back when I was a kid (when they still sang God Save the Queen before hockey games, eh?) used to be known as Frobisher Bay. The intent was to provide an opportunity for self-governance for the (mostly) Inuit inhabitants.
Another fun question to pose to the Canada-challenged is the following: What's the largest city in the USA that's located on an international border? The answer follows my style problem: Ada Calhoun's otherwise well-written review of Ashes to Ashes ["Exhibitionism"] states that Kathy Catmull and David Stahl's previous appearances in Harold Pinter plays makes them "old hats when it comes to Pinter." Unless there's some kind of Rene Magritte or Oliver Sacks kind of thing going on here, I think she means to say "old hands." I'm a big fan of theirs, and their performances are always anything but old hat.
The answer is Detroit, Michigan (right across the river from Windsor, Ontario). Good one, eh? If anybody out there can tell me which is the only Canadian province that has two official languages (nope, it's not Quebec), I'll tell "em some really good Newfie jokes.
Keep up the good work.
Henry V. Fitzgerald, Jr.
Reading Sam Grimes' and Joy Williamson's letters concerning the spousal abuse scene in Being John Malkovich ["Postmarks," Nov. 19], I got the impression that they hold the belief that society would be a better place if we didn't have to see such graphic images of violence. Their letters reminded me of the public outrage over Hollywood that ensued after the tragedy at Columbine, when heavy blame was being laid upon the producers of violent simulations, while heavy denial and a general lack of discourse was rampant about actual displays of violence, like the daily bombing raids that occurred at the time. Spousal abuse occurs with disturbing regularity, but would it occur less frequently if we just didn't have to see it on our TVs -- or if we try to expose the reasons why it happens, like jealousy or neurosis, the way Being John Malkovich, in my opinion, so splendidly did? Reading their letters, I had to wonder if Grimes or Williamson even watched the movie. It would have been one thing if the movie was just a series of unexplained and fortuitous spousal abuse scenes, but it was rather a long tale of a man's tragic descent that eventually led him to the completely illogical act of locking up his wife in a cage. While there were numerous outbursts of laughter from the audience and myself throughout the movie, I didn't hear any during the scene you describe as "comic" where Cusack's character is holding a gun up to his wife. Why? Because it was a tragic scene. As for Williamson, who has grown tired of seeing women portrayed as weak and worthless -- who is the strongest character in the movie? And as for the overall concern of Diaz being caged, shouldn't you be wondering why the cage was there in the first place?
Whenever a bully is confronted, he always attempts to portray himself as the victim. What Richard C. Burley ["Postmarks," Nov. 26] fails to understand is that, to many people, his own beliefs are an obscene affront to humanity. Whether it's the Crusaders, or the Spanish Inquisitors, or the heavy-handed tacticians of the Hyde Park Baptist Church, it is typically the religious (and xtians in particular) who assume a belligerent posture. Those who choose to learn with an open mind must struggle continually to keep from having this myriad of mystical, paranormal, faith-based belief-systems (and their inherent, money-hungry institutions) thrust upon them.
In the very edition of the Chronicle in which Mr. Burley complains of bias, an advertisement on page 14 depicts a xtian symbol as though anyone seeing it would actually be encouraged to make a purchase, and not be offended by it. Given the damage done by the xtian church to science in particular, and to the rest of the planet in general, I find it disgusting. Yet, neither the advertiser nor the Chronicle give a second thought to this iconic display. I am forced to accept the fact that several generations must yet pass before societies realize that, like the training wheels on a bicycle, religion has become an obsolete impediment to development.
While Mr. Burley may take umbrage at what he perceives as an anti-xtian bias, I'm always heartened just a little when someone in the small but ever-growing secular community finds the courage to depict pie-in-the-sky-pilots in a realistic light.
I just had my first-ever vegetarian Thanksgiving Dinner at Mr. Natural. It was good. What I thought was interesting was all the cars with "Meat is Murder" bumper stickers parked in the no parking zone bike lanes. Holier than cow, eh?
A home-boy Californian, the year 1973, present for a Doug Sahm performance in West L.A., on the Eastern periphery of Beverly Hills, Calif., in a small venue originally known for being the major folky haven (and years later curiously enough the local spot to be seen and heard if you were on the total alternate side of metal) of Southern California, the Troubadour Night Club. Being into vintage music (record) collecting to a certain degree (a fairly high level for one who had entered into formal "adulthood" a mere three years prior to the moment), one obscure disc out of Luling, Texas, would sit on the consciousness for much of the set. The record on the Sarg label was a rather fun (read "all entertainment") spin, by one "Little Doug" (with a small type sidebar label credit to "vocal by Little Doug Sahm"), was what one could only term as good "shit-kickin' hillbilly" music. It was a sound not at all unappreciated in general for a young, long-haired (tie on the Hawaiian shirt and basic low-key un-fashion-based lifestyle) who floated around parts of West Hollywood and L.A., uncovering "finds" (old records, via then truly "thrift stores" and like of the days) which would provide plenty of inspiration to live for in such a precarious time (unofficial end of the Sixties) and place. So the vital comment/query to present that evening if there would be the op., would then be something on the disc, background-wise (a high-spirited disc with great steel playing, along with a good title and novelty sentiment, "An All American Joe" -- sides due for new reissue soon). Positioned at the rear of the room by a pathway which would have the performers passing through the audience to access the dressing rooms (vice versa the stage), I would go for the moment to toss one quicky at the quaint Mr. Sahm as he stepped down from the stage "Doug -- how old were you when you cut the record on Sarg?" (Note also, I am easily entertained by the various "surprise responses" I could expect out of those who I might be able to occasionally encounter with a similar "obscure first" recording history, as with the likely "wow -- how you know about that?!," etc.).
In an environment of "always high" on something other than life of L.A. record industry folks, and in an immediate setting where an audience would routinely be half talent reps of same (it's another "story," but one Elton something would be up on the same stage a year or so earlier, likely his path to the big-time label contract), general cool and shallow hipness abounded. Maybe Sahm was cruising on some of the same white snow cloud that others on or off the stage were that night, but it seems unlikely, as I vaguely recall aspects of the moment, except that there would be a snap-of-the-finger response to my query; "age 11" -- no fanfare, unfazed, a short thank-you of sorts from both directions. It's a moment I have enjoyed sharing over the years.
I had met only a couple of Texans prior to the occasion (one of which had also spent a good deal of time in Austin and did have an immediate impact on me), but for some odd reason it would take me 14 years more to make the first trip here, the place I would find more soul than would have been conceivable (this from one who got a taste of 1950s California growing up when there was a relatively fair amount of that since-elusive element). Now it feels the soul wants to slip away in large chunks from this place. Doug moved around to a handful of places on a regular basis, living his style of an eclectic music and people complex. Had he been queried on what would be his preference if having to choose only one place, Austin would surely have been one of two to duke it out (along with his hometown San Antonio, with its certain but still soulful alternating character).
In Austin, try to do what you can to pace your life at a level where you can continue to appreciate things beneath the fashion-based gloss being piled on in doses from the Starbucks, et al. -- there are ways to do it without it being some kind of "nostalgia" thing. It's not for me to say, but Doug Sahm may have given it up in part out of depression; one of his favorite places lost too much too fast.
Here is a relacion of the latest accommodations during last month, at UT, AISD, and elsewhere: A Scott Heard from San Diego, 10 more from around the state to sign into UT's baseball team. In softball, tres mujeres from California, Virginia, and one from Texas will be playing next year. Mr. Forgione is doing it again, by bringing in a Larry Throm from Lubbock, for $125,000 plus extras, into the AISD administration. Dr. Edward Racht received the mention of EMS director of the year, and he came from Virginia, and he's making a bundle. Henry Fluck just got to Cedar Park from El Paso as police chief for $5,400 a month. My sympathies go to the local prostitutes toiling for their kids' welfare, to the mom I saw asking for money at a busy intersection the other day, to all the local school dropout mariguanos in my barrio, for whom UT is off limits, to the homeless, burglars, and thieves, to the guys in prison struggling to clean up their act, to the hardworking people that create culture. And to those who profit from lies and betray this land, may their names and fortunes burn to ash by the Texas heat next summer.
2001: The Real Millennium
I am so tired of seeing so many different people and the media claiming that we are at the end of the 20th century and that the next millennium is about to begin. One example (of many) was during the World Series, the claim was made that this was the last series of the 20th century. Ain't so! In fact, Jan. 1, 2001 will be the beginning of the next century and the next millennium.
Why is this true? Simple answer. There was no year zero! The Gregorian calendar began with Year 1. There was no zero in Roman numerals so they had no way to write it down. What this means is that 1, 101, 201, 301, 401, 501, 601, 701, 801, 901, 1001 and 2001 etc. are the beginning years of the respective century or millennium.
R&SA uno: Hey, what's new?
R&SA dos: Did you hear that a Scott Heard from San Diego is coming here, to play for UT's baseball team?
R&SA uno: How come?
R&SA dos: Because, according to the coach, you're too pendejo to play.
R&SA uno: No, I'm not, he's never asked me.
R&SA dos: You have to be enrolled at UT first.
R&SA uno: Damn!
R&SA dos: Where'd you get that roach?
R&SA uno: At the corner store. Here, man.
R&SA dos: They're looking for a chancellor too. I bet you won't be called up.
R&SA uno: I doubt it.
R&SA dos: You know what? My sisters are getting pissed off because the softball coach is getting girls from California, Virginia, and Tomball, Texas to play next year.
R&SA uno: They've got to get enrolled at UT first, right?
R&SA: Raised and Schooled Austinite.