The Night Doug Sahm Died

"It was awful, man," recalls Ernie Durawa, who began playing with Doug Sahm in 1957 while the two were still teenagers in San Antonio and later settled onto the drum stool with the all-star Texas Tornados in '89. "I don't even know how I drove to the studio that night."

And yet, going to KUT that night to see Larry Monroe, who was already spinning nonstop Doug Sahm and commiserating on the air with Margaret Moser, seemed like the only thing to do. Chronicle editor Louis Black, KGSR's Jody Denberg, and myself were already there when Durawa, ashen-faced and crestfallen, appeared.

"I'd been giving [drum] lessons at Brook Mays [Music Company in South Austin] that afternoon, and all of a sudden, I got this really bad, bad stomachache. So, I told the lesson coordinator to cancel my last two students. I felt bad enough that I needed to go home.

"After I got home, around 5:30 or 6pm, I told [my wife] Ginger I was gonna lie down and take a nap, I didn't feel too hot. So, I lay down, and five minutes after I lay down, the phone rang. It was Shauna, who works at the Iron Works barbecue, and she says, 'Someone here wants to talk to you.' So she puts him on, and it was Clifford Antone, which I thought was weird, because Clifford Antone never calls me for anything.

"'Hey Ernie, did you hear about Doug?'

"And I go, 'No. What about him? I know he went somewhere, 'cause he called me.'

"'They found him dead.'

"I found out later, about the time that I was having those severe stomachaches, was about the time they discovered him -- about the time the maid found his body ...

"I knew that something was really, really wrong, because of the way I was feeling, physically, mentally. My gut was telling me something's wrong, something has happened. After he told me that, I could hear him: He was crying. He loved Doug! I felt so sorry for him at the funeral when I saw him. We were all crying, but I don't know, I could just see the pain Clifford was going through.

"After he told me, I turned the radio on. I wanted to know if Larry [Monroe] knew about it. He knew about it. There's Margaret Moser talking about it on the air. I called him up, and he said, 'Can you come over here right now?' I was so numb at that point, but I wanted to memorialize him. After you guys left the station, I just broke down. I was in shock. The next day, and the day after, it just kept hitting me harder and harder. Even today, a year later, I still find it very hard to believe and accept."

Durawa pauses.

"The other night, on the night of the one-year anniversary of his death, Ginger and I decided to go over here to the thrift store, the Goodwill. We like to shop there. Well, the minute I opened the door, the minute I walked into the store -- boom! -- 'She's About a Mover' came on the radio. As I open the door, that tune started playing from the first measure.

"I'm walking around the store, and I'm hearing it, I'm hearing him sing 'She's About a Mover,' and it's just like ... like ... oh man, I was on the verge of tears. Ginger's looking at me, and I'm looking at her. I don't know if it was the radio, because it was a whole bunch of oldies tunes playing one after the other, and I never heard anybody talk. Maybe it was a tape. But out of all the coincidences, walking into the store, and then that tune, of all tunes. As soon as I opened the doors.

"So this lady, I got a bunch of e-mails from different places -- people trying to console me. One of them was from Switzerland, a lady, and when I wrote her back and told her about that incident, she wrote me back and said, 'Hey, that's Doug speaking to us. That's Doug telling us, Hey, I'm still here.'"

Do you believe that?

"Man ... yeah. I went to his grave Sunday in San Antonio. We had a tribute concert for him down at Casbeers, so on the way there I stopped at the grave. There was a drumstick, a Chicago Cubs coffee cup -- you know how he loved baseball. There was also a little wooden horse, and a little wooden cross. And a whole bunch of flowers that said, 'Adios Texas Tornado.'"

  • More of the Story

  • A Man and a Half

    Hanging with music industry legend Jerry Wexler

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Raoul Hernandez
Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
Aubrey Hays, Rod Gator, and the Bright Light Social Hour headline our recommended shows

Sept. 22, 2023

Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
HAAM Day, Ron Carter, and Pecan Street Festival lead our recommended shows

Sept. 15, 2023


Doug Sahm

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle