In the early seventies Doug Sahm put out a 45 with a song called “Be Real” on the A-side. It was released under the pseudonym of Wayne Douglas (Sahm’s Sir Douglas Quintet was riding the psychedelic wave in San Francisco at the time), the thinking being that disc jockeys would never let a fiddle-fueled two-stepper get on country radio if they knew the singer was some “fahr-out” hippie who thought paisley went well with cowboy hats. The record flopped anyway, but Sahm was doing what came naturally: revisiting his roots as a steel guitar and fiddle sensation raised on kicker music around San Antonio. Of course, he also possessed exceptional skills as a rhythm and blues guitarist, a big-band leader, and a pop confectioner. All of which makes The Return of Wayne Douglas a fitting bookend to such a storied career. Sahm sure didn’t know he would die last November during the mixing of the CD, but a sense of premonition is written all over it. His return to genuine country is the ostensible theme, and Sahm gets straight to the point by dusting off some old originals such as “Cowboy Peyton Place,” his paean to the Austin of 25 years ago, and “Texas Me,” his homesick complaint. He also pays tribute to songwriter Leon Payne, covering his little-known country chestnut “They’ll Never Take Her Love From Me.” But because he’s Sir Doug, he can’t stay on one track, which is why the recording also includes a kiss-off of his adopted hometown, “I Can’t Go Back to Austin,” as well as a stunning send-up of his old friend Bob Dylan’s “Love Minus Zero / No Limit.” It’s Sir Doug logic, as I call it, the kind of covering-all-the-bases attitude that made him such a joy to hear. And a beautiful epitaph, to boot.
From the August 2000 Issue Subscribe