Monday, January 30, 2017

Favorite Albums Volume 7-The Texas Tornados by Peter Reum

If there was to be a Latino Supergroup, these guys and Los Lobos would get my vote. Both groups have musicians who have integrity, longevity, and proven musicianship. I have several favorite Los Lobos albums, but today I would like to express my admiration of the Texas Chicano Supergroup The Texas Tornados. The lineup of this group reads like a who's who of Texas/Tejano music. Regrettably, the group's longevity was cut short by the untimely deaths of Doug Sahm and Freddy Fender. With Augie Meyers and Santiago "Flaco" Jimenez, these guys could play anything remotely approaching Tex-Mex music.

I will spend a little time talking about the various members' histories. If you have remotely listened to Tejano music from the Sixties forward, you have heard these guys on their own, or in the Sir Douglas Quintet. Freddy Fender's work has been on the Mexican Music Charts, Country Western Charts, and probably some others of which I am not aware. Augie Meyer and Doug Sahm shared a history of playing together for over thirty years, dating from the mid-Sixties up through Doug's untimely passing in 1999 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The history of any of these guys would parallel any of the rockers from the Sixties and Seventies. Doug Sahm's history in music dates from 1952 when he began singing. He eventually migrated to Texas in the early Sixties. The Sir Douglas Quintet formed in Texas, uniting Sahm with Vox Organ Master Augie Meyer. Their music was unique, and was noticed by Bob Dylan. Their first album, which is simply titled "Texas Tornados," begins right out of the starting block with Augie Meyer's Vox Organ, and Doug Sahm's vocal is immediately recognizable to any who has listened to Tejano music the last 50 years.

The Texas Tornados 1990 - Their First Album

Who Were You Thinkin' Of is a tune that follows the inner thoughts of a couple that have been together for awhile. Apparently their love life has fallen stale, and when his wife suddenly becomes reengaged in lovemaking, the first question that comes to the husband is "Who were you thinkin', of when we were makin' love last night?" It is unclear as to whether this an internal conversation in the husband's mind, or whether the confrontation is directed at the wife. Many men have had this experience, whether married or in a long-term relationship.

Doug Sahm in His Trademark Hat

A Young Doug Sahm With Hank Williams Sr. December 1952

Doug with Bob Dylan in the Early Seventies.

Hey Baby Que Paso follows, a tune that features Flaco Jimenez prominently. Like the previous tune, the singer focuses on a troubled relationship, asking his female friend not to leave him brokenhearted. The song has the feel of perhaps the singer (Doug Sham sings lead) getting drunk the previous night and pleading with his main squeeze, who knows what's up, not to leave him. Doug enjoyed life immensely, and was known to mood alter with some regularity during his life. Freddy Fender contributes several excellent guitar solos on this first album, including this one. Doug Sahm was an early performer, even playing with Hank Williams Sr. in late 1952, some 18 days before Mr. Williams untimely passing.

A Younger Flaco Jimenez

Flaco Jimenez in Concert Wearing Traditional Tejano Performance Regalia

Flaco Jimenez with the Grammy Awards He Has Won Through the Years

Laredo Rose, is a tune that reaches out to a woman of the night for whom the singer has feelings. The lead vocal is a Doug Sahm led group vocal, and Flaco Jimenez contributes fine accordian throughout the tune, including the song's bridge. The lyrics asks in "mancode" why a woman that lovely leads a life involving prostitution, asking "The Sun Is a Stranger to You, How's a Rose Supposed to Bloom?" The overall feeling is that the tune's protagonist views Laredo Rose as a golden hearted woman, slowly losing her own self-respect and inner and outer beauty.

A Man Can Cry, written by Freddy Fender (Born Baldemar Garza Huerta) and Wayne Duncan, is a lament from a man who has given up on any sort of intimate love.  The song is a form of blues, or as close to blues as Tejano Music gets. The narrative is a monologue with the singer explaining that he cannot abide another failed relationship. Freddy's life story reflects some of the emotions expressed in A Man Can Cry. Like Doug Sahm, he was a childhood performer, beginning at age 10 in Texas. Freddy's life reflected hard work, serving prison time for a pot possession charge. Freddy had a distinguished solo career, and finally reached the recognition as an artist he so richly deserved.

An Early Freddie Fender Album Recorded in 1959

Freddy Describing the Feelings in A Man Can Cry

Freddy Fender and Doug Sahm Texas Tornados

Soy de San Luis is a tune presented initially in Spanish, then changes to English on the second and fourth verses. The song's melody is carried nicely by Flaco's accordion, with a simple drum beat behind it. The song's narrator describes what sounds like a whirlwind courtship which morphs into marriage. Somehow, the new wife runs to places away from her new husband, probably meeting up with new pigeons to con. In the end, the narrator laments the stupidity of his impulsive marriage, saying his former wife "belongs to the devil, I don't want her any more." It seems that her "wave bait, catch naïve man, fool him with short term false adoration, run to another pigeon, and get the old pigeon to send money" scam is as old as creation itself.

Adios Mexico, which on the old album began side 2 of this record, is the tune on this album that can be considered the track that most closely resembles some of the mid and late Sixties Sir Douglas Quintet. The song is a straight ahead mid-tempo boogie number with Augie Meyer's organ playing a part that would probably be played by a rhythm guitarist. The tune is not complicated lyrically, and it appears to be a tribute to the lead vocalist's family home in Mexico.

The Sir Douglas Quintet-Augie Meyer top left

Augie Meyer Early Nineties

Sunset, Lake Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico

If That's What You're Thinking is a very appropriate tune for Freddy Fender to sing, as he is the most prominent of several Tejano musicians who sing songs about heartbreak in a way that cannot be duplicated. In this case, Freddy is not the author of this tune, but owns it in this performance. The mood that this fine interpreter put forth is something similar to the old  sawhorse "once burned, twice cautious." There is a dignified quiet power in Freddy's delivery of a cowboy lamentation that is unique and heartfelt.

She Never Spoke Spanish to Me is a song about unrequited love, as are many of the great songs of Tejano Music. In this case, a young customer has fallen in love with a prostitute who lives in a small room presumably attached to a larger house of ill repute. Although this woman seems to have a personal interest in Doug's character in this song, what the john perceives as genuine attraction is simply part of the woman's mood setting for her job. Doug's character overhears her speaking Spanish to a few customers, and interprets this action as her being intimate. Of course, this action is again part of the mood setting for her job. Doug's character seems to think that if this woman spoke Spanish to him, that the feelings between them would be the intimacy he so badly craves.

Young Woman in Business for Herself-Mexico

Dinero-The final two tracks on this fine example of Tejano music reflect the two aspects of this supergroup of the Tejano style. Dinero, track nine, is an all out rocker that features excellent examples of the mixture of Spanish and English words to form Spanglish. Doug rips a fine guitar part and lead vocal for Dinero, which was a staple of the Tornados' live set for their entire time together.

Baby! Heaven Sent Me You- This tune goes back to the early days of Freddy Fender's career, to New Orleans and songwriter/producer Huey P. Meaux. This song is a beautiful love song, and is a fitting close to the album, which brought The Texas Tornados international sales and acclaim. Freddy's vocals are always sincere and highly emotional, which explains why so many women fell for him at his concerts throughout his distinguished career.

Text Copyright 2017 by Peter N. Reum - All Rights Reserved

Monday, January 16, 2017

Riding Life's Roller Coaster by Peter Reum

She presented as a wounded bird
Her gifts were plentiful nonetheless
He was looking for something new
How things would go he could not guess

She was complex--a female Rubik's Cube
Her moods were chimerical yet sad
He could not deny his new feelings
Nor curb his passion--emotions reeling

His marriage ending--a deeper void
Than any comfort could  redeem
New raging attraction left him annoyed
Breaking sacred boundaries it seemed

It began before the divorce was final
Appearances were horribly awry
The ex dropped hints he was a cheater
No wins for him, the picture bleaker

She found him wandering-so lost
Offering him herself, a high cost
Her health--waning he did discover
His heart grew deeper as her lover

The relationship gave them a brief time
To flow together in sickness and health
He learned to offer his whole self
Death stalked her quietly in stealth

She died quietly on an October day
Her heart, weakening, gave away
Alone once more, no sunshine there
Whether he would live or die he didn't care
Dazed and more dead than alive
He swore never again for love he'd strive

Several years passed, comfortably numb
To again be in love he thought dumb
Living through such pain wasn't wrong
Because what didn't kill him made him strong
Perhaps in the future he'd take a chance
If serendipity brought romance

Copyright 2017 by Peter Reum-All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 13, 2017

It's a Small World After All by Peter Reum

The world of music has brought me so much richness that it is difficult to express how music has broadened my life. Today, I celebrate 50+ years of being a follower of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. I know nearly every song they recorded, and I love singing with their recordings.

I started out playing old jukebox singles my dad bought from a guy who serviced jukeboxes. My vintage Capitol Records phonograph played those worn 45s when other stereos wouldn't.

One batch my dad bought for me had a few Beach Boys and Jan and Dean singles. I played them obsessively, learning different vocal parts, and sang enthusiastically and loudly to my favorites. I loved Surfin' Safari and Surf City, and those two tunes were the beginning of a love affair with music that continues to this day.

The Beatles and Motown were late to arrive in the little town in which my family lived. Our town's radio station, KDCE (Que Dice) played Spanish and Mexican music until one hour before. sunset, when they would play roughly an hour of top 40 music.

I would drag out my little transistor radio at bedtime, use my ear plug, and listen to Wolfman Jack play records in between doing ads selling baby chicks, phony "bulk up" muscle tonic, and hair restorer for the folically challenged. The clear channel radio stations were my musical beacons. There was XERB from Mexico, KOMA in Oklahoma City, and KFI for Los Angeles Dodger baseball games, with the great Vin Scully announcing the games.

As things evolved with my getting older, I realized there were big records, called albums. The drug store in our small town carried some lps, and I became a die hard fan of The Beach Boys, Beatles, The Four Seasons, Nat King Cole, Henry Mancini, Bob Dylan, and Dave Brubeck.

As time went on, my interest in music grew, and I learned to play piano, and several brass instruments. What we played was not pop music, and some of the music we played made me sleepy. But there is a certain feeling of satisfaction when everyone played their parts well, and as a school band we blended well together.

As time went on, and I left school and got married, I spent about six years in the retail music business, and as we played complimentary promotional albums, I got very familiar with all sorts of musical artists and styles. The great informal exposure to all sorts of musical styles, and also artists was irreplaceable. Those years were invaluable and I found artists in most music genres that I really liked.

Over the years, I developed one of the most comprehensive archives of Beach Boys music, record company promotional materials, and photographs in the world. I developed lasting friendships with some of The Beach Boys, their families,  people who wrote books about the group, and Brian Wilson in particular. In the late 80s and early 90s I was able to help separate Brian from his abusive psychologist by figuring out what excessive psychotropic medications were causing Brian's trembling, eyes rolling back in his head, and inability to follow basic conversations and instructions.

We had assembled a team of Brian's friends and relatives to separate Brian from his highly controlling and abusive psychologist and attendants known as "The Surf Nazis." The movie Love and Mercy is a partial segment of the story. Thanks to his current wife, then his female love, we were able to present my findings to his brother Carl, and his mother Audree.

Music today is a companion and support for me that I treasure and keep close to me. I have sung in choirs, giving me a chance to use my voice to make music. Most of my kids and step kids have excellent voices, and they sing almost without thinking about it. My youngest daughter has become a big Brian Wilson fan, and sings enthusiastically when I play Brian/Beach Boys music in the car stereo. A new generation of my family loves music just like her parents.

Fine arts like music and drawing pictures have been found to assist children's math and science abilities in school. They certainly have enhanced my life from childhood. It will be tempting to remove Art and Music from elementary and secondary schools. That would be a terrible mistake. The joy in life offered by music, art, and being outdoors in nature is irreplaceable in my experience.

Copyright 2017 by Peter Reum - All rights reserved