Thursday, June 20, 2013

Song of the Week: Sir Douglas Quintet - I Don't Want

I don't know a whole lot about the Sir Douglas Quintet. They were always a bit of an enigma to me. Particularly when viewed through my garage and punk glasses that filtered much of my view of life many years ago. They were always in the same record bins with groups like the Left Banke, Jefferson Airplane and The Byrds, but they never seemed to have that stuck-in-time sound those other bands had. In other words, in my self defeating myopic way I couldn't easily peg their song as being from 1966 (cool) or 1969 (not cool). Maybe with one or two exceptions. The organ heavy She's About a Mover was obviously a cool gem that appropriately reeked of it's recording date. Despite their unpredictability, I would occasionally pull out the Mendocino album and put it on. Oddly it has the aforementioned She's About A Mover re-recorded 4 years after it first charted. It has the quasi-hit Mendocino with Augie Meyer's up-front organ pounding away and a number of other odd tunes with horns, fiddle, steel guitar and accordion that don't fit obviously together to form "a sound".

It should be clear to you by now that I am not being critical of the album or the band, but rather my way of trying to fit them into a category. The Sir Douglas Quintet were led by San Antonio, Texas child music prodigy Doug Sahm who began his recording career at the age of 9. He called upon country and western, swing, cajun, rock-n-roll, blues and Mexican norteño to form what would become the corner-stone of the flowering Tex-Mex scene. A style of music that pulls together a mosaic of sounds to form a wholly new one.

Despite repeated listenings, the album never quite grabbed me. Then one day a San Diego drummer named Dave Klowden suggested to his bandmates, The Tell-Tale Hearts, while sitting in a Winchells Donut shop at 1am that they cover I Don't Want from the Mendocino album. I couldn't even think of the song. I went back to listen to it and realized it was a brilliantly understated song. Sahm's powerful vocals are matched by Meyer's smooth coating of organ and Sahm's own gentle doubled guitar work that is as melodic as anything you'll hear. And at the 3:28 mark, the song takes a decidedly different avenue to wrap the number up. The guitar pushed to the fore, the drums mixing up the beat. Way cool. As were other songs on that album like, If You Really Want Me To I'll Go, At The Crossroads and the pushing the VU into the red song, Texas Me. And the European version has other cool songs such as the New Orleans soul inflected gem, A Nice Song.

Give I Don't Want a listen and let us know, by way of comment (below), how you like it. We love hearing your thoughts. Below is a video of the San Antonio quintet performing their 1965 hit She's About A Mover. I do believe that this is one of Jack Hayden's favorite songs ever.

Have a great week. We'll see you on the flip-side.


  1. I dig Sir Douglas Quintet for their stylistic range and the blend of genres. Morgan, I like how you described the style: calling ‘upon country and western, swing, cajun, rock-n-roll, blues and Mexican norteño to form what would become the corner-stone of the flowering Tex-Mex scene. A style of music that pulls together a mosaic of sounds to form a wholly new one.‘

    They are a tight band and what they do they do well. Plus, it looks like they had a good time doing it! I quite like Doug Sahm’s voice, he can really belt it out. The She’s About a Mover video is so hot! His circular leg move followed by a subtle hop is so groovy and his psychchedelic expressions (and cotton mouth?) are priceless. The shaker guy does his job in style too. I think Jack may have taken some dance lessons from the keyboardist. And those back-up dancers! In my next life I want to be one of them.

  2. This, along with At the Crossroads, is my favorite song on Mendocino, but I actually like the whole album a lot. i have it on cd with some interesting bonus tracks as well. The whole Texas-boys-in-freaky-SF theme on a lot of it is kinda funny too, though Doug seems to think it is a lot more interesting than most of his listeners did i bet. Between these guys, Janis Joplin, and the 13th Floor Elevators (for awhile), there was a real trend of Texans going to the Bay area for musical and personal freedom. Not surprising when you think about what Texas must have been like for longhairs at the time.

  3. At The Crossroads is killer. I just learned all three chords of the song. So much of that song is the melody and the mood. A Nice Song is another gem.

    Thanks for checking in Mazz.