What do Guy Clark, Hank Williams, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, ABBA, and Freddy Fender all have in common? Apart from being icons in their own right, each legend's name has at one time or another been in the same sentence as one Texas musician you may have never heard of. Why? One documentary, Sir Doug and the Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove, explores this and more, and it's available to stream again this week.
"Has San Antonio lost its soul? Has Austin lost its groove? Dough Sahm is the answer," reads a recent release for the documentary ahead of its re-release.
Born on the same day as Guy Clark in 1941, San Antonio native Dough Sahm started singing at age 5, playing steel guitar at age 6, followed by the fiddle and mandolin at age 8. At 11, he joined Hank Williams at Austin's Skyline Club for what turned out to be Williams' final show before his untimely death. As a teen, Sahm had hit country western radio records before reaching international fame (and a nod from Bob Dylan) with his rock-and-roll, Beatles-inspired band, Sir Douglas Quintet.
Sahm started playing steel guitar at age 6, followed by the fiddle and mandolin at age 8.Courtesy of Arts+Labor
A bust up over cannabis possession sent Sahm to California right before the "Summer of Love" in 1967, where the band explored the psychedelic San Francisco scene. Returning to Texas in the '70s, he joined Willie Nelson on his Shotgun Willie record and became an integral part of the new Americana genre emerging out of Austin at that time. He moved to Sweden in the '80s, knocking ABBA off the top charts with the song Meet Me in Stockholm. And in the '90s, his new group, the Texas Tornadoes, featured fellow Texas musicians Freddy Fender, Flaco Jimenez, and Augie Meyers.
Sir Doug and the Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove explores the enormous variety of genres Sahm absorbed into his own music, and the impact he left behind in each genre in return. Originally screened at South by Southwest in 2015, the film's website summarizes its portrait of Sahm as an "artist who had so much music inside himself that he had to play all the varied sounds he was schooled in in order to satisfy his soul."
Directed by noted historian and author Joe Nick Patoski, who also co-wrote the film along with Jason Wehling, the documentary won multiple awards at film festivals around the world, landing on Amazon Prime before disappearing from circulation altogether in 2020 after initial music and visual licensing rights expired.
Thanks to the Society for the Preservation of Texas Music (SPTM), the documentary was re-released on November 6, 2022, in honor of what would have been Sahm's 81st birthday. For the re-release, SPTM partnered with Austin-based production company Arts+Labor and digital distribution platform seer.la, which also produced the groundbreaking Guy Clark documentary, Without Getting Killed or Caught.
A still from the documentary Sir Doug and the Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove.Courtesy of Arts+Labor
“The revival of the film comes at a critical moment for Doug’s hometown of San Antonio, and his adopted home of Austin,” says Patoski in the release. “Both cities have grown rapidly and are growing towards each other, becoming a single metropolitan area of five million people touted as America’s next great metroplex. Nowhere else in the United States are two connected metro areas expanding so rapidly. Folks who don’t know Doug Sahm from Houdini need to see this film to better appreciate why San Antonio and Austin are such special, soulful places with a groove that fostered and championed the artistry of the greatest single musician to ever represent the state of Texas.”
The documentary is available for worldwide streaming at sirdougfilm.com.