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Doug Sahm and his band PHOTO COURTESY SHAWN SAHM Sahm suggested that there was utter, joyous magic that connected the to his bluesy TnInnnetor aching gritos echoing inside Lerma’s on Zarzamora Street. The doo-wop rock of Rudy and The Reno Bops. The blues chants that bounced off the floorboards of Mr. Johnny Phillips’ Eastwood Country Club. Sahm was a master alchemist who understood how rich Texas music wasand how so much of it was tied by fate, history and poetry. It was one big, underappreciated gumbo-menudo for him. So rich, so deep, that every ingredient should be seen as a necessary link in the cosmic continuumand treated with the same respect as the bedrock flavors of New Orleans. Jan Reid’s biography, written with Sahm’s son Shawn, is the first full-length portrait of a tripped-out illuminatus who had a reverence for his region’s musical history, as well as a full comprehension of the crossroads where those sounds were married. The book definitively underscores how Sahm’s glorious originality stemmed from keeping so many traditions alive, from focusing respectful attention on the masters who had been forgotten, and from making everybody at the party join the band. He suggested that there was utter, joyous magic that connected the bajo sexto to his bluesy Telecaster, and that connected his pedal steel guitar to the full-throated roar from a Texas tenor solo by the late Rocky Morales. An intuitive savant, it all made sense to Sahmeven if he struck some strangers as edgily unhinged, talking a mile a minute. “Part of the difficulty in understanding Doug was that your mind had to register and process as fast as he talked,” the authors write. It was that way when you tried to call him on the phone. He yakked like a triple-espresso Beat poetnot someone slowed down by the ton of good weed he smoked. He also wasn’t, ahem, really into a lot of the protocol and compromises that define what passes for the “modern music business.” His famous answering machine mes sage basically told callers that if you weren’t calling him to talk about baseball or Guitar Slim \(two obvious Texas Tornado hits the ground running as briskly as Sahm did, almost until he died at 58 on a road trip to New Mexico. The book barrels through his formative years in the San Antonio music scene and heads for the meat and machinations of his long performing career. With Janis Joplin and Johnny Winter, he exported the big Texas beat to the formative ’60s ,and ’70s scenes in California and New York, and blew the minds of admirers like Bob Dylan and Jerry Wexler. Sahm had once gone into the Big Pop Music wonderlandscoring a top-20 hit with “She’s About A Mover” while being packaged as a faux British band called The Sir Douglas Quintet. Yet he emerged as a stoned immaculate, Big Red-sipping, soul brother hippie, right in the heart of tough Texas. The book becomes a convincing roadmap for Sahm to be voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fameand, hell, plenty of other halls of fame. The authors wryly note that Sahm “had refuted the notion that persons of any single political ideology and affiliation could monopolize country-western.” If you look closely around some corner of Austin or San Antonioand on the occasional unpaved road that still snakes beside Boerne or Banderayou might see a bumper sticker that says the driver is a “Doughead.” It’s like a good cult, if there is such a thingso give the driver the peace sign when you see him. To this day, to hear Doug Sahmto really listen to himis to get Texas at the most soulful level possible. LI Observer columnist Bill Minutaglio is a journalism professor at the University of TeXas at Austin. His latest book is In Search of the Blues: A Journey to the Soul of Black Texas. WATCH SAHM PERFORM CI “She’s About A Mover” at APRIL 16, 2010 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19