Texas Musician Doug Sahm Dies at 58

Doug Sahm, of the Grammy-winning Tex-Mex group the Texas Tornados, was found dead in a motel in Taos, New Mexico on Thursday, November 18. He appeared to have died of natural causes, possibly a heart attack, Taos police said. Sahm was 58.

"Texas has lost part of its heritage," the San Antonio Express-News eulogized. The Texas native had a prolific career, recording a variety of genres for Mercury, Atlantic, and other labels. Sahm grew up in an ethnically mixed area of San Antonio, where he absorbed musical influences ranging from rock and blues to Cajun, country, and western. He was a childhood prodigy on steel guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and guitar, and made his first radio appearance at the age of five, on San Antonio's KMAC. At eight, he was a regular performer on the Louisiana Hayride show. Hank Williams took the young Sahm onstage with him in Austin in 1952.

As a teenager, Sam was offered a regular spot at the Grand Ole Opry, but his mother preferred that he stay home and finish high school. In the early 1960s he played gigs throughout Texas with his band, the Markays, and in 1964 formed The Sir Douglas Quintet with his longtime musical partner, Augie Meyers. Sir Douglas Quintet had a monster hit in 1965 with "She's About a Mover," an infectious tune that combined bluesy lyrics and a Cajun two-step beat with rock instrumentation.

Sahm went to northern California the following year, where he and his band became part of the exploding rock-music movement. The Sir Douglas Quintet album Mendocino, whose title track went to the top of the charts, was a big commercial success. From the early 1970s on, Sahm pursued a number of collaborations with other musicians, including Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, and Dr. John. In 1989 he founded the Tex-Mex supergroup the Texas Tornados, with Meyers, Freddy Fender, and Flaco Jiminez. The group has six CDs to its credit, and won a Grammy in 1991.

Sahm reformed the Sir Douglas Quintet in 1994 with his sons Shawn and Shandon, recording the hard-rock disc Day Dreaming at Midnight. Sahm was showcased the same year on a Tex-Mex/country project, The Last Great Texas Blues Band. "He went from sitting on Hank Williams' knee to being an English rock star to doing the Texas Tornados," said Shawn Sahm. "Musically speaking, this is the end of an era." Said Freddy Fender, "He was one of the most talented guys I have ever seen."

It's unclear what will become of the Tornados' plans for a European tour. They had also contracted to do a movie soundtrack. As of Sunday, November 21, funeral plans were still pending. Fans can enjoy Joseph Levy's biography of Doug Sahm by clicking here.

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