Doug Sahm Day – Camargo Park / Tribute To Augie Meyers – Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (San Antonio, TX)
Following a set shared by Nicholas and Angela Strehli, who sounded stronger and more nuanced than ever on her signature “Big Town Playboy” and “It Hurts Me Too”, the Horns returned to augment Meyers’ band, which was bolstered by guest guitarists Shawn Sahm (Doug’s son) and Louie Ortega, whose California teen band Louie & the Lovers was produced by Doug in 1970. Augie’s regular guitarist Ruben V, who also fronts his own rough and rootsy band with Augie’s son Clay on drums, more than held his own against the guests, and Augie turned in rollicking versions of “Down To Mexico” and “Matilda” before turning the set over to Shawn four of Doug’s songs.
The night concluded with Little Joe y la Familia blaring through “Cumbia del Sol” and then “Rosita Mamacita”, a song Joe wrote to sing with Doug in the Tornados, which never happened because of Sahm’s death. By now the audience had grown a bit, clearly drawn there by Little Joe, whose yearning, angelic voice was an apt vehicle for ending a show inspired by the premature loss of a loved one. As Joe was finishing, the sky lit up with an impressive fireworks display. “He got higher than that,” Little Joe commented, looking upward, “but that’s cool.” Amen.
The next night, sponsored by the Chicano arts organization responsible for San Antonio’s annual Conjunto Festival, belonged to Augie, resplendent in black suit with pink tie, but Sahm was nonetheless there too. Part “roast” and part tribute, the show featured versions of pretty much every band Augie was ever involved with — with Meyers himself joining on keyboards, accordion or guitar — as well as some choice video footage. (Does anybody remember how hard Doug rocked the likes of “She’s About A Mover” on American Bandstand or Shindig? What an amazing singer.)
Though they only took a bow and didn’t sing, the procession began with members of the Goldens, Augie’s teen band, which was fronted by the Elvisesque Denny Ezba and at separate times including Keith Allison (later of Paul Revere & the Raiders) and Michael Nesmith (none of whom were there). But guitarist Publio Cassias, a member in Meyers’ Lord August & the Visions Of Light (!), fronted a trio (soon joined by Augie) for some restrained blues, which gave way to Ray “Wildman” Liberto, a San Antonio R&B legend and Johnny Cash’s first brother-in-law. With his big red face and big white beard, Liberto easily evoked his nickname on swampy, hard-rocking takes on “I’m A Fool To Care” and “Blueberry Hill” that Fats Domino probably couldn’t keep up with these days.
The Sir Douglas Quintet — consisting, for this occasion, of Augie, his son Clay on drums, original member Jack Barber on bass, and Shawn Sahm and Louie Ortega on guitars — may not have been the real deal, but that “She’s About A Mover” riff took on a life of its own years ago, and they rode it as well as anyone. Then came Augie’s ’70s outfit the Western Headband, cowboys with flutes, and former wife Carol Meyers singing lead on “Dusty Roads”. Old friends Mad Mountain and the Green Slime Boys, a bluegrass group that plays ZZ Top’s “La Grange” as a banjo breakdown, and Billy Joe Shaver, whose delightfully eccentric sets are more like performance art every day, paid their props, and then things got to rocking again.
Something called the Tornados Band, which didn’t even include Freddy Fender or Flaco Jimenez, let alone Sahm, still gave Augie faithful backup for several of his featured tunes from the Texas Tornados set list, including the immortal “Guacamole” (“I met her at the mercado/She was buying avocados” — who said Sahm had the monopoly on sublimely ridiculous lyrics?).
Most of the West Side Horns were around for the second half of the Augie show, but the real treat was hearing Augie’s old sidekick Frank “Wild Jalapeno” Rodarte blow tenor with several groups. Rodarte hasn’t appeared on secular stages often in recent years, but he’s very much in a league with Morales, Barnett and the others. It took Augie to get him out again, which confirmed that as long as Meyers and the West Side Horns are around, so is that classic San Antonio Sound of blues, country, conjunto and Tex-Mex, of accordions and tenor saxes. You’re certainly not going to find it anywhere else.