“When I play with Shawn `Sahm`, all I see is Doug,” Augie Meyers told me shortly after the release of ¡Está bueno! (2010), the first Texas Tornados studio album since 1996. It’s the first album without Doug Sahm, Shawn’s dad and the group’s heart and soul, who passed away in 1999. But Augie’s right.
After taking over as producer of the group, Sahm is showing himself to be just like his dad: a little tornado of energy and enthusiasm. He’s the Tornados’ guitarist, but he’s more than that: he’s their de facto PR rep as well.
“It’s going great, man,” Sahm said about the current tour that brings the Tornados to Gruene Hall this Friday. “The guys are playing at the top of their game, the crowds have been great, and from the bottom of my heart I can say that we have been very surprised and humbled by the reaction from places well outside of our backyard. It’s been awesome, there’s a universal vibe about the Tornados that just blew me away. People are getting it.”
The surviving members of the original Tornados (Flaco Jiménez on accordion, Augie Meyers on keyboards and vocals), are being complemented by Louie Ortega and Sahm on guitar, Ernie Durawa on drums, Speedy Sparks on bass, and Nunie Rubio (Flaco’s band’s singer). And while everything is going great with the Tornados now, reaching this point wasn’t easy.
For starters, original Tornado Freddy Fender, who wrote and recorded five of the album’s songs, passed away in 2006. However, legal disputes with Fender’s estate made it impossible to include those songs on the record for several years. When the legal (and personal) differences were all solved and the album was released in 2010, Meyers got the news that he needed an urgent kidney transplant two months after the tour had begun. Dates had to be cancelled, including some in San Antonio and California.
“It was brought up to me to do the shows without Augie, and I didn’t want that to happen,” said Sahm. “It was never an option.”
So the Tornados waited, Meyers got his kidney, and the ball is rolling again.
“The band is smoking, man,” said Sahm. “We’ve gotten so tight in this last year, we got the show down. At this point, when we do ‘Mendocino,’ or ‘Hey baby qué pasó?’ or ‘She’s about a mover,’ man, we’re like a well-oiled machine.
“You don’t replace Freddy Fender and Doug Sahm, that’s not even in my vocabulary. But you celebrate them and you have a good time. That’s what it’s all about.”
San Antonio’s Krayolas, who have themselves just released the fine Tipsy Topsy Turvy, open the show.
“We just wanted to make a simple rock ’n’ roll record, and I’m very proud of it,” Krayolas’ singer/guitarist Héctor Saldaña told the Current. “Our opening song `‘Genuine’` says ‘I know the city/ I know the streets/ I can even tell you/ Where Esteban Jordan/ Packs his heat/ I ain’t no Cantinflas, baby/ I ain’t no matador/ I am a genuine Mexified/ San Antonio rock ’n’ roll star.’ That’s the message of this record.”
It could very well be the message of the night as well.
“It all makes perfect sense,” Saldaña added. “Augie `who produced the Krayolas’ return in 2007` brought us back to life, and Doug keeps us going. They’re our heroes.”
The Texas Tornados w. The Krayolas
$15, 8pm Fri, Mar 25
1281 Gruene Rd. (New Braunfels)