All this national rhubarb over immigration issues has gotten me to thinking how much I enjoy the music of other countries. My current fave, one I am sure George Bush wouldn’t appreciate right now, is Tex-Mex. My fave performer of such music has always been the insanely talented and oft-overlooked Doug Sahm. The Sahm album I like the most: Groover’s Paradise, originally released in 1974 and recently reissued by Collector’s Choice.
First gaining national notoriety in the mid-60’s as a member of the Sir Douglas Quintet (suitably named after him and saddled with a fake British Invasion backstory to trick fans into thinking they were a British beat band) Sahm and his group had hits with She’s About A Mover, Mendocino and a few other classic ’60’s tunes. By the time he recorded Groover’s Paradise, however, the Quintet had temporarily split (they would split and regroup often over the years – right up until Sahm’s death in 1999) and his label had dropped him. Luckily, Sahm hooked up with the rhythym section of the recently split Creedence Clearwater Revival, Doug Clifford and Stu Cook.
Through this fortuitous alliance Sahm was able to record the best album of his career, in my opinion. Starting with the choogle-rific first cut and title tune Groover’s Parardise (a tune that sounds like John Fogerty stepped aside just long enough for Sahm to record a vocal with Creedence) the album sails on with wonderful song after wonderful song, Sahm and his new band jazzed and on a roll. As much as I like Sahm, a lot of his albums are cluttered with throwaway songs, but not this one. Used to working with Fogerty, the Creedence boys were well versed in brevity and playing great songs. Sahm was trying to recapture his career and he ably stepped up to the task. It is simply a blazing killer of an album! Hooking up with Capitol in part due to the participation of the Creedence guys, this album was put out to great critical acclaim….
but rotten sales. Sadly, this was Sahm’s last record for a major label until he teamed with Freddy Fender and a few other Tex-Mex refugees to form the country band Texas Tornadoes in the late ’80’s. Sahm did not sit still though. Thankfully, Sahm recorded like an old bluesman: if you gave him money, he would sing. Lightnin’ Hopkins had nothing on our Tex-Mex boy. In his near 45 year performing career Sahm made recordings on over forty different labels in many configurations. Solo, duo, group projects, it didn’t make a difference to Sahm. Not even genre mattered to Sahm. Blues, jazz, country, R&B, rock – he was good at all of it.
Funny thing is, recordings are still being unearthed and his legend and reputation grows every day. Everyone who loves music should have a little Sahm in their collection.
If you ever want to hear pure American music played by one of the most talented musicians on this green earth, check out some Sahm. Who knows, get this recently reissued classic and you could be living in Groover’s Paradise whenever you feel like it!
The Music Nerd knows……