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The Secret History of Texas Music

“Hey Baby, Que Paso?” (1990)

Written by: Augie meyers Recorded by: the Texas Tornados

Once upon a time, Augie Meyers and his childhood friend Doug Sahm were rock stars with the Sir Douglas Quintet. That time, of course, was the sixties. But by 1986 Sahm had decamped to Canada and Meyers was sleeping on his son’s couch in San Antonio, playing the accordion with friends and dating a woman who didn’t share his taste in music. “Why are you always playing that Mexican music?” she’d ask. “I like it,” he’d respond. After their inevitable falling-out, Meyers kept hearing a phrase running through his head: “Hey, baby, qué pasó? ” He began writing lyrics around it, incorporating both Spanish and English words, as well as a sort of pidgin that he created as he wrote. Fifteen minutes later, he had a new song: “Kep Pa So,” a nod to his recent time living in Sweden, where he’d often found himself communicating phonetically. Meyers released the song on his own label, Super Beet; soon after, it was rereleased nationally by Atlantic Records and got airplay all over the country. 

In 1988 Sahm returned to Texas with an idea: a Tex-Mex supergroup, with friends Flaco Jiménez and Freddy Fender joining him and Meyers. The group would be called the Texas Tornados. For their first album, they redid Meyers’s song, though Fender told him his neologisms weren’t going to work. “These were words I made up,” remembers Meyers, “and they were trying to sing them but kept saying, ‘What does this mean?’ ” He converted everything to English or Spanish, and the retitled “Hey Baby, Que Paso?” was once again a hit. It also became, as Sahm introduced it at live shows, “the National Anthem of San Antonio.”

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