Saturday Single No. 247

Yesterday’s post about the Billboard Hot 100 of July 24, 1965, featured “The Tracker” by the Sir Douglas Quintet.  As I researched that post this week, I started digging – not for the first time – for traces of the Sir Douglas Quintet in my memory and on my bookshelves and my record shelves.

I recall hearing “She’s About A Mover” at the time it was heading to No. 13 in the spring of 1965, but beyond recalling the record – with its insistent organ riff – there was nothing special about it; it was just another one of the records on the radio that the other kids were listening to and I wasn’t. I remember hearing the name of the group – the Sir Douglas Quintet – and vaguely thinking that it sounded like another of the English groups that all my friends were listening to: Herman’s Hermits, Freddy & The Dreamers, the Kinks, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and more.

I was wrong, of course. But I didn’t notice the SDQ’s follow-up hits – “The Rains Came” went to No. 31 in early 1966 and “Mendocino” went to No. 27 in early 1969 – and so I didn’t think about the band and my assumption of its British origins for years. I’ve mentioned at least once the LP bonanza that came my way in March 1991: The student radio station at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri – where I was teaching journalism – cleared its shelves of unwanted albums and offered those albums in boxes outside the station’s studios. Very few of the young women who passed by were interested in the records, and eventually, the station’s faculty adviser told me that I might as well take everything in the two boxes.

One of those records was Border Wave by the Sir Douglas Quintet, and the first track was a cover of a tune I knew I’d heard before: “Who’ll Be The Next In Line.” It took me a little digging to find out that the tune had originally been recorded by the Kinks and had gone to No. 34 in September 1965. But as Border Wave played on, something else was nagging at me, something I’d read about the Sir Douglas Quintet in recent years.

I liked what I was hearing on the album, so I let it play on as I rummaged through my music reference library, and I finally got to a 1989 volume I’ve mentioned in this blog many times: The Heart of Rock & Soul by Dave Marsh. In his piece on “She’s About A Mover,” Marsh notes that the British Invasion of 1964-65 was tougher on some types of American music than on others, specifically “the marginal, the regional and the eccentric.”

He relates the tale of Huey Meaux, a man of Cajun descent whom Walsh describes as “a barber, promotion man, independent producer, label owner, talent scout, and prison inmate.” By the time of the British Invasion, Marsh notes, Meaux had already made successful records with Dale & Grace and Barbara Lynn and would go on to make records with Roy Head, the Hombres and Archie Bell & The Drells.

“So,” writes Marsh, “when Meaux found a new group from San Antonio, a batch of rowdy Tex-Mex border types whose hair was longer than the worst dreams harbored by the parents of Rolling Stones fans, he knew just what to do: Give ’em a vaguely English-sounding name and call their sound Merseybeat, no matter what it really was.”

The ruse worked, obviously, with “She’s About A Mover” going to No. 13. Marsh adds: “Merseybeat, my ass – “She’s About A Mover” just juices up norteno’s two-step polka beat; what counts is Doug Sahm singing the hell out of it alongside Augie Meyer’s ultrainsistent organ riff.”

Sitting at the desk in my dining room/study in Columbia, I put down Marsh’s book and went to the stereo. I picked up the Border Wave jacket and scanned the credits. Sahm was there of course, and so was Augie Meyer. (So, for that matter, was drummer Johnny Perez, who was also an original member of the group.) And after the record played through, I shelved it, moved on to other music and thought about it very little.

But this week, I looked over that Billboard chart from July 1965 and saw the Sir Douglas Quintet at No. 118. As I dug into that chart, I also dug into the stacks and my reference library (both appreciably more crowded than they were in 1991). And I found Border Wave and then looked to see what All-Music Guide had to say about it.

The opening sentence of the AMG review of that 1981 album reads: “How someone as old wave as Doug Sahm hooked into the new wave of the 80s is not exactly so mysterious if one examines the rich stylistic makeup of the Sir Douglas Quintet repertoire, and how so many of these grooves were finding their way into the sounds of the so-called new wave era.”

As Dave Marsh might say, “New wave, my ass!” Doug Sahm, Augie Meyers, Johnny Perez and the new guys sound like the classic Sir Douglas Quintet from the 1960s. And that’s why the quintet’s version of “Who’ll Be The Next In Line” is today’s Saturday Single.

Peak chart position for “She’s About A Mover” corrected after original posting.

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4 Responses to “Saturday Single No. 247”

  1. porky says:

    Great post. Augie Meyers is a national treasure as was Sahm. Mr. Meaux (found out it’s pronounced “Moe” like that most violent of Stooges) recently passed away. He was an old time record guy the likes we won’t see again but had a nasty record (the non-musical type) that involved child pornography.

  2. whiteray says:

    Thanks for the note. Yes, Meaux was a nasty piece of business, and I debated getting into that, obviously deciding against it. I’m still not entirely sure about that decision.

  3. Paco Malo says:

    Though I don’t always agree with Dave Marsh, he sure nailed a lasting analysis tool with “New wave, my ass!” Homegrown faux-Mersey Beat — I learn something new everyday.

    As far as this murky journalism decision about Mr. Meaux’s rap sheet, whiteray, I agree with your original decision. I’m glad I know what porky shared with with your readers, but in my opinion it’s too easy to take the rap sheet information out of context in 2011. Standard’s have changed.

    Anyway, this is another fine, informative post. Thanks, gentlemen.

  4. […] Meaux in Jackson, Mississippi. (Meaux, a seemingly unavoidable figure in the history of R&B, popped up in this blog a few months back; a bit of his unsavory legacy was recounted in the comments at that […]

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