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Native son Doug Sahm dies 

By Jim Beal Jr. 
Express-News Staff Writer 

Texas has lost part of its music history.

 Doug Sahm, the leader of the Sir Douglas Quintet and one of the principals of the Grammy-winning band the Texas Tornados, was found dead about 1:45 p.m. Thursday in a room at the Kachina Lodge in Taos, N.M.

 The 58-year-old Sahm was vacationing alone. 

A representative of the Taos Police Department said the death appeared natural. Sahm's body was transported to the medical examiner's office in Albuquerque and is awaiting an autopsy.

 "Musically speaking, this is the end of an era," said Sahm's oldest son, Shawn, 34, a guitarist who worked frequently with his dad in later incarnations of the Quintet.

 "If you didn't know him, you don't know what I'm talking about. But he went from sitting on Hank Williams' knee to being an English rock star to doing the Texas Tornados.

 "From T-Bone Walker to Roky Erickson, he played it all," Shawn said. 

Sahm, a native of San Antonio and a graduate of Sam Houston High School, started playing music when he was a toddler. A regular performer on San Antonio radio stations before he was 10, he was a steel guitar prodigy who also was proficient on fiddle, mandolin and guitar.

 "He was playing before I started to walk," said Augie Meyers, Sahm's musical partner for 35 years in various projects including the Quintet and the Tornados.

 "He left his mark in the world. The good Lord wanted to hear some Quintet and they weren't playing enough on the radio, I guess," Meyers said.

 Friends and family members all talked about Sahm's energy and commitment to health.

 "I'm just stunned," Meyers said. "He was always so healthy. He always had his bag of ginseng and vitamins."

 Meyers met Sahm about 1960, but the pair didn't start making music together until 1964. When Texas record producer Huey P. Meaux decided to look for an American answer to Beatlemania, he found the Sir Douglas Quintet.

 The group started charting hits in 1965 with the song "She's About A Mover," becoming the first representatives of the British Invasion to hail from South Texas.

 Sahm was not the type of person to stay in one place or mine one musical style. As a youngster, he performed country music on the Louisiana Hayride and sat in with Hank Williams in Austin.

 He played rock 'n' roll and R&B with teen groups such as the Pharaohs and played bass and guitar at the storied East Side nightspot, The Ebony Lounge, with saxophonist Spot Barnett. 

He continued to explore country and rock as a performer and as a record producer, and played blues with the Last Real Texas Blues Band

 "Doug had his own personal hang-ups, but they didn't have anything to do with music," said Barnett, 63, who was a mentor to the teen-age Sahm and worked with him in the Tornados.

 "First of all, he was the consummate professional. No one else got it like Doug got it. He knew the chord progressions, the melody progressions, and he knew how the horns were supposed to sound."

 When the Texas Tornados were formed in 1989, Sahm, Meyers, vocalist/guitarist Freddy Fender and accordionist Flaco Jimenez already had known each other for years.

 "I know that the whole world, those who knew about Doug, this has been like a shock for the whole world, especially the music world," Jimenez said. "We had a lot of plans: to go on a European tour, to do a movie soundtrack. There were a lot of things in store for us."

 Fender met Sahm four decades ago.

 "He was always talking and moving," Fender said. "The fact is, he had a mind of his own and he was a very independent individual and very insistent on how he wanted to do his music. He was a talented guitarist, and he had songs that only he could sing well.

 "He was one of the most talented guys I have ever seen. We all pray for him, and hope he is in heaven with God."

 Sahm is survived by three children, sons Shawn and Shandon and daughter Dawn, and two grandchildren.

 Funeral arrangements are pending.

 "We're not sure yet what we're going to do," Shawn Sahm said, "but we're going to give him the send-off he deserves." 

Staff writers Ramiro Burr and Amy Dorsett contributed to this story.

Thursday, Nov 18, 1999

© 1999 San Antonio Express-News