Thursday, February 28, 2013

Doug Sahm -- "Catch Me in the Morning" (1974)

Catch me in the morning 
When I'm feelin' better
The gig was really hard on my head last night

For the grande finale of this year's "29 Posts in 28 Days," I'm featuring a song by one of my all-time personal favorites -- Doug Sahm.

Earlier this year, I found out that Sahm had died of a heart attack in a Taos, New Mexico hotel room in 1999, when he was 58 years old.  For some reason, it really bothered me that it had taken almost 12 years for me to become aware of that fact.  

For me, Doug Sahm was the ultimate Texas musician.  Shortly after his death, an Austin newspaper had a story about him titled "State Musician of Texas," and I think that's a very good title for him.

Sahm was a jack of all trades -- his music is a mix of rock 'n' roll, country, blues, R&B, and Mexican conjunto music, and that eclecticism is the essence of Texas popular music.  Texas is a great big melting pot of musical cultures and styles, and Sahm's records epitomized that.

"Little Doug" Sahm
Sahm was never anything but a musician.  He began performing at age six and released his first record when he was 11.  (In fact, he was on stage with Hank Williams, Sr., in Austin, Texas, on December 19, 1952.  That was Williams's last performance -- he died in the back seat of a car on New Year's Eve.)  The story goes that Sahm was offered a chance to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry, but that his mother said no -- she wanted him to finish junior high school.

Doug Sahm was never a big star.  I'm pleased to see that he still has many loyal fans, and I'm glad that he has been honored by (among others) the city of Austin, which named a hill in a city park "Doug Sahm Hill."

Sahm's friends raised money to commission this memorial marker, which they placed on the hill.  (Texas may have more than its share of rednecks, but it has plenty of hippies, too.)

The artist who created the memorial, Kerry Awn, is perhaps best known for the many concert posters he created.  Here's one he did for a Willie Nelson-Doug Sahm show:

Here's another Awn poster for a Sahm show:

Awn also did the cover of the Groover's Paradise album:

One of Sahm's most popular albums, Groover's Paradise was released the year I moved to the Boston area to begin law school.  After four years attending college in Texas, Massachusetts was a shock to my system, but this record helped.

"Catch Me in the Morning" is the last song on Groover's Paradise, which features nine Sahm originals plus the Mexican-American polka, "La Cacahuata."  The musicians who accompany Sahm on the album include Doug Clifford and Stu Cook, who played drums and bass (respectively) for Creedence Clearwater Revival.  

Clifford and Cook comprised perhaps the steadiest and least narcissistic rhythm section in the history of rock music -- they were great, but always seemed to be content to stay very much in the background.

Stu Cook, Doug Clifford, and John Fogerty
of Creedence Clearwater Revival
"Catch Me in the Morning" isn't a complicated song.  The singer -- presumably Sahm himself -- is a musician who isn't at his best after a performance.  He's tired and irritable and he's guilty because he's taking his tiredness and irritability out on his woman, who deserves better.  He knows from long experience there's not much to do in such a situation except to wait.  Catch me in the morning, he says -- hopefully I'll be myself after a little quiet time on my own.  

The music that accompanies the song's verses is country -- the drums are kept in the background, and most of the instrumental load is carried by the piano and steel guitar (shoutout to steel player extraordinaire Gary Potterton).  The chorus goes all rock 'n' roll on us -- the tempo doesn't change, but drummer Doug Clifford pounds out a driving back-beat rhythm and Sahm belts out the chorus at about twice the volume of the verses.

That's it for this year's "29 Songs in 28 Days."  I already have a tentative for next year's version -- and the 2015 "29 Songs in 28 Days" as well.  (I'm not too obsessed with my wildly popular little blog, am I?)

Here's "Catch Me in the Morning":  

Click here to order the song from Amazon:

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