Excerpted from Texas Tornado: The Times and Music of Doug Sahm , by Jan Reid, with Shawn Sahm. Published with permission from the University of Texas Press.
Doug Sahm and his band, the Sir Douglas Quintet, were enjoying a phenomenal year in 1965. Thanks to the hit singles “She’s About a Mover” and “The Rains Came,” the San Antonians were sharing stages with the Rolling Stones, playing for national television audiences, and winning high praise from Bob Dylan. But just before New Year’s they were arrested in Corpus Christi for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The Texas legal system, then as now, was tough on pot smokers; though the band managed to avoid prison time, parole conditions forbade one member from leaving the state, a brutal turn of events for a rookie band that would have gotten a boost from a national tour. Taking advantage of the resulting vacuum, other bands across the country masqueraded as the Sir Douglas Quintet, while the genuine article was stuck playing small gigs in Texas backwaters.
It was during this fallow period that the Kappa Sigma fraternity at Midwestern University in Wichita Falls put on one such show. I was a member of that fraternity; we had been kicked off campus for some shameful deed, and as first-time rock promoters, we were trying to recover our finances and reputations. The Sir Douglas Quintet was the biggest name we could get with the money we had in hand. We booked them in a low-ceilinged hall called the MB Corral, which belonged to members of the western swing band the Miller Brothers, one of whom, the trumpet player, had been my next-door neighbor when I was growing up. Most evenings the hall was a country honky-tonk, but on Thursday and Sunday nights it was sometimes rented to black promoters, who brought in rhythm and blues acts. Cops swarmed the MB the evening of the Quintet’s show. The youths packed inside were refused alcohol, even those who were of legal age to buy it. But they made do; Doug later remarked that he’d never seen so much glue sniffing in his life.
The MB had a low stage, and the band mikes were no more than fifteen feet from where I found myself in the writhing, leaping crowd. The band tore through the two sets they performed. Doug scooted around, playing the fire out of an electric guitar but keeping his mouth close to the mike, the better to project his raw baritone. He offered no patter between the numbers, other than occasionally giving credit to some songwriter he idolized. As he sang, his gaze flicked back and forth, as if he were afraid that some sort