It is unfortunate that far too many people in this world recognize the Sir Douglas Quintet only from the 1965 hit “She’s About a Mover.” That top 20 song was pegged as an attempt by a gifted American band to cross over into British Invasion territory, but was actually a simple R&B progression with a terrific Vox organ riff-played by original member Augie Meyers. The unfortunate thing? It’s a great song, but there is more to the band, the sound, and the artists involved.
Meyers, who is appearing locally twice in April as a solo artist, joined with fellow original member Doug Saum to play music that evolved into a hybrid of Tex-Mex and Cajun blues, bringing these styles into the pop mainstream. Local musician Andy Rasmussen will be part of Action Andy and the Hi-Tones, backing Meyers at appearances scheduled for April 28 at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, and on April 30 at the Kensington Club on Adams Ave. Both gigs are presented by Rachac Rasmussen Productions; for the April 28 gig the doors open at 6 PM and the cover charge is $20 for an 8 PM show, that will also feature Los Fabulocos with Kid Ramos. The Coach House is at 33157 Camino Capistrano, 949-499-3930.
The Ken Club show on April 30 will open with the Sleepwalkers at 9 PM. Cover is $15, at 4079 Adams Ave.
For good measure, Meyers, Rasmussen, and the Hi-Tones will also play an Imperial Valley date on April 29, in Brawley, at Las Chabelas Lounge, 749 S Brawley Ave. at 8 PM. For more details, check the club’s website.
“He’s a Tex-Mex legend; he’s played with people from Bob Dylan on down,” Rasmussen says. “Every time I talk to him, he just has the most amazing stories. I’ve personally opened for the Texas Tornados on three separate occasions, so this is a privilege for myself and the band to actually back up Augie this time around,” says Rassmussen.
“He’ll include songs from the Sir Douglas Quintet, the Texas Tornados, plus lots of Latin, Tex-Mex, and R&B.”
Meyers played with Saum, whose lead vocal chops drew from Ray Charles and influenced many later artists, for decades as members of first the Quintet and then with the Texas Tornadoes. He has also made a name for himself both as a studio musician and solo performer, releasing over a dozen albums during a career spanning over four decades.
“He and Doug were always collaborating together,” says Rasmussen. “They were still playing right up till Doug passed away. Augie put out some records on his own in the early seventies.” Indeed, after four solo excursions in that decade, Meyers has continued to regularly release albums as a featured artist.
Born in San Antonio, Meyers got his musical start young; the story is that after he had childhood polio affecting his ability to walk well, his grandparents attached his leg to their piano to keep him from wandering off. Soon enough, he mastered the piano, then Vox organ, and piano-key accordion. He was in popular local bands by the 1950s, and ran into musical partner Saum. They eventually put together the Sir Douglas Quintet, which was aimed by their producer as a British Invasion copy, like many bands in 1965.
But the Quintet were a better band than that, soon transcending the Brit rip-off mold and developed a strong local and even national following, based on their Tex-Mex beat and ace musicianship. They released a series of highly praised albums that included 1969’s Mendocino and their 1970 classic Together After Five. Mendocino was a big hit in Europe, and throughout, the sound of Meyer’s Vox Continental organ with Saum’s soulful vocals was their musical signature.
Though the Sir Douglas Quintet never broke up or went on the oldies circuit, they did evolve. Meyers, Saum, Freddy Fender, and Flaco Jimenez got together almost by chance in 1989. They performed in San Francisco together and felt a genuine bond; they became a Tex-Mex super group. It revived their collective careers, as well as spawning an entity that has released five albums before folding with Saum’s 1999 passing. Meyers also worked in the studio with artists such as Bob Dylan and Tom Waits, as well as performing on John Hammond’s studio and road bands. He can be heard on the Dylan albums Love and Theft and Time Out of Mind, and Hammond’s Wicked Grin.
That he is respected by fellow musicians is probably best illustrated by this quote from Dylan, “Augie’s my man… he’s the shining example of a musician, Vox player or otherwise, who can break the code. His playing speaks volumes. Speaks in tongues actually. He can bring a song, certainly any one of mine, into the real world. I’ve loved his playing going all the way back to the Sir Doug days when he was featured and dominant. What makes him so great is that internally speaking, he’s the master of syncopation and timing. And this is something that cannot be taught. If you need someone to get you through the shipping lanes and there’s no detours, Augie will get you right straight through… Augie’s your man.”