Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Doug Sahm -- "Is Anybody Goin' to San Antone" (1973)

Here I am walking down 66
Wish she hadn't done me this way

A couple of weeks ago, 2 or 3 lines featured the original recording of "Is Anybody Goin' to San Antone," which was a #1 country hit for Charley Pride in 1970.  Today we're featuring Doug Sahm's cover of the song, which was released on his 1973 album, Doug Sahm and Band.

This is the seventh (and last) 2 or 3 lines post about my family's trip to San Antonio earlier this summer to attend a dinner celebrating my sister's wedding.  

We were in San Antonio for less than 36 hours.  I think it's pretty amazing that I was able to milk two weeks' worth of posts out of such a brief trip.

The Bexar County Courthouse:
"Go, Spurs, Go"
I took a lot of photos while I was in San Antonio -- most while I was walking or biking along San Antonio's wonderful Paseo del Rio ("River Walk").  I only used a small number of them in the previous six posts, so I'll cram as many of the rest of them as I can into this 2 or 3 lines

A detail from the Ace Mart mural
(from Southtown, San Antonio)
San Antonio is where Doug Sahm was born and where he is buried, and he is a product of the Alamo City's diverse musical culture.    

Sahm, who died of a heart attack when he was 58, was a remarkably versatile musician.

The Tower of the Americas (built for
the 1968 "Hemisfair" World Fair)
On the Doug Sahm and Band album, he not only handled the lead vocals but also played electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bajo sexto (a Mexican 12-string guitar tuned in fourths), bass guitar, organ, piano, and fiddle.  

A River Walk mosaic depicting
 the San Antonio skyline
Sahm has been one of my personal favorites ever since I found the Sir Douglas Quintet's 1968 Mendocino album in the three-for-a-dollar cutout bin at a discount store in my hometown several years after it was released.

I figured the band's two radio hits -- "She's About a Mover" and "Mendocino" -- were worth 33 cents.  But there was a lot more to like on that album.

A building on South Presa Street
in San Antonio's Southtown
Sahm's first three solo albums -- Doug Sahm and Band, Texas Tornado and Groover's Paradise -- were released while I was a college student in Texas.  They helped me survive my law-school years in Boston.  (I'm not sure which was worse -- going to law school or living in Boston.)

In memory of Doug Sahm:
"Ars Longa, Vita Brevis"
Here's an excerpt from Austin journalist Margaret Moser's tribute to Sahm -- one of the many that appeared in print after Sahm's death:

If Texas had such designation, Douglas Wayne Sahm would be the State Musician of Texas. Even before his death on November 18, the genial, 58-year-old musician had been making music for almost of his entire life, a Southwestern renaissance man for modern times.  He was "Little Doug Sahm," playing guitar, fiddle, triple-neck steel guitar, and mandolin in country dance halls and sitting on Hank Williams' knee.  He was the Sir Douglas Quintet, scoring three Top 10 hits in the late Sixties.

A great blue heron on the
San Antonio River
When he appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1968, Baron Wolman's photograph of Sahm wearing a cowboy hat and long hair with young Shawn Sahm on his knee, it single-handedly created the image of the cosmic cowboy for the nation and the world.  It's almost laughably quaint to explain today why the cowboy hat and long hair were such an anomaly back then, but dang if Doug Sahm, then based in San Francisco, didn't make the dread redneck look cool.  The Byrds and Burrito Brothers could wear all the satin Nudie shirts they wanted; Sahm and company were the real item. The cowboy hat and long hair became his lifelong look, uniquely Texas, uniquely Doug.

Waiting for some real San
Antonio breakfast tacos
Sahm was a revered figure in Austin.  But Austin eventually became much too crowded and a little too twee for Sahm's taste.  At heart, Sahm was a San Antonio guy, not an Austin guy.

Texas patriot José Antonio Navarro
Margaret Moser's tribute acknowledged Sahm's San Antonio roots:

If it seems odd to focus on Sahm's style of dress and choice of hats, remember that he was a native of San Antonio, and San Antonio style is like no other.  The lowrider culture he grew up around valued pampered cars as much as a well-cut suit and he rubbed shoulders with country boys whose idea of dressing up was a string tie and polished cowboy boots.  The black show bands that Sahm admired from afar and later joined wore matching suits and did dance steps with the music.  In time, these disparate influences all melded into Sahm's unique vision of Texas music, but it could have happened only in one place -- San Antonio.

Paseo del Rio flowers
San Antonio is a melting pot -- roughly equal parts white, black, and brown -- and its music reflects its population.  As Sahm's biographer, Joseph Levy, has written:

It’s almost impossible to classify Sahm and his music as one style or another.  Country, rock, Western swing, Tex-Mex, polka, and blues all form part of the Sir Douglas mix.  Sahm himself said, “I’m a part of Willie Nelson's world and at the same time I’m a part of the Grateful Dead's.  I don’t ever stay in one bag. . . .  I have all these aliases.  Wayne Douglas.  Doug Saldaña.  Saldaña is the name the Mexicans gave me. They said that I had so much Mexican in me that I needed a Mexican name."

Another River Walk artwork
Bob Dylan, who assisted with the vocals on Doug Sahm and Band, was a close friend of Sahm and a great admirer of his music:

Doug was like me, maybe the only figure from that period of time that I connected with.  His was a big soul.  He had a hit record, "She’s About a Mover," and I had a hit record ["Like a Rolling Stone"] at the same time.  So we became buddies back then, and we played the same kind of music.  We never really broke apart.  We always hooked up at certain intervals in our lives. . . . I’d never met anyone who’d played on stage with Hank Williams before, let alone someone my own age. . . . I miss Doug.  He got caught in the grind.  He should still be here.

Here's Doug Sahm's version of "Is Anybody Goin' to San Antone." 

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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