Backing Doug Sahm

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Sorry! I took a couple of days off mid-week because I was busy. That’s okay, though, since Bob Dylan essentially took off the whole year of 1972 and left me almost nothing to write about this week.

The third instalment of our tour of Dylan playing back-up for other artists finds us in the land of Tex Mex music, with Dylan singing, playing guitar and harmonica at one of Doug Sahm’s recording sessions in October. Dylan had praised the Sir Douglas Quintet in the 1960s, and here joins with Sahm on his third album as a solo artist, Doug Sahm and Band. Augie Meyers and Flaco Jimenez, both of whom would join Sahm (and Freddie Fender) as The Texas Tornados in the 1990s, also performed during this session.

Four songs with Dylan were recorded this day, according to Bjorner, including the best known one “(Is Anybody Going to) San Antone”, which was released as the first single from the album in December 1972. The song had already been made famous as a number one hit in 1970 by Charley Pride. It would be hard to dislike this version of the song, just as it would be hard to really pick out Dylan’s voice as one of the back-up singers if I wasn’t telling you that it was him. Much as I like Pride, this version is just an order of magnitude better than the earlier version.

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Sahm’s next album, as The Sir Douglas Band, included a second song from this session: Bobby Charles’s “Tennessee Blues”, a slow waltz that has also been recorded by Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge. Dylan plays harmonica here, but it is often hard to make out because of the prevalence of the saxophone – it’s really not much more than a series of fills on his part.

The final two songs, both by Hank Williams, “On the Banks of the Old Ponchartrain” and “Hey Good Looking”, are also nice covers. Dylan plays guitar on these, and so is even more hidden among the band. Both of the songs were only released on the double-album Doug Sahm: The Genuine Texas Groover in 2004, five years after Sahm passed away at the age of 58 from a heart attack.

I have to say that I had never listened to Sahm much at all before getting Genuine Texas Groover (which contains all four of these songs), and that was a mistake on my part. I was much more familiar with Fender and Jimenez, for example, than with Sahm. I’m happy to have had that rectified.

Here’s “San Antone”. Listen closely for Dylan singing harmony (along with Atwood Allen):

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