Borderline. A place, a way of being.
This mix has at its centre, a tribute to the mighty Doug Sahm. A true legend. Doug was Texan through and through, but not in that John Wayne way, more Paul Newman in 'Hud'. An outsider, an outlaw to straight society, with a lot of friends in the same boat, a massive musical talent and a man of controlled excess.
Doug, or Sir Douglas, as he was known through his super hot band the Sir Douglas Quintet, had his first success with the fab single, 'She's About a mover' in '64
Doug teamed up with Huey P. Meaux, the 'Crazy Cajun', producer of some renown, to produce his personal fusion of Western Swing, Cajun, Tex Mex and, and this is the BIG and, The Beatles and their rabid ilk, descending on America and their airwaves like a hoard of locusts, turning on America, turning on a very turned on guy (he'd been in showbiz since he was like 6 - you know what I mean?) to new ideas in sound. The SDQ released two great albums of excessively loose, driving Tex Mex, Blues fueled 60's pop, with buddy Augie Myers pumping the Vox organ in wild Tex Mex stylee, mixed with the Zombies and the Animals.
Doug Sahm continued on with the SDQ for a gang of amazing albums on Smash, with the single and album 'Mendocino', being probably the biggest sellers. He continued unabashedly to create excessively honest and cool music. Moving to the San Franciscan Summer of Love at its zenith, funneling all those good times and merry madness as well as the mad times and badness, splitting back to Texas when the dream had ended. Back in Texas he continued in his almost reporter like way about the most intimate details of his life, about the walls he's going to build. to "keep the Pole eeese Men out" , about smoking pot, life on the rock highway and about his intimate extramarital affairs with teenage chicks. Doug played himself in the film Cisco Pike, worth checking out. Doug was a cat that embodied that tear away spirit that embraced every nuance of the cultures surrounding him, with no racial boundaries in his personal and musical life, just wanting to rip it up and enjoy life to the fullest.
With Doug Sahm as the centrepiece of this mix, I went outwards, collecting various people he was interconnected with, such as the great Flaco Jiminez and then outwards to connected elements of his music, Western Swing, Cajun and rockin' Country. The musics of Texas, Mexico, New Mexico and Louisiana - Borderlines.
I've included a good many selections of Louisiana sounds in this mix. Louisiana has a long long wild and sordid history, which in short, it has been Indigenous, Spanish, then French and then American. So you had Spanish people and their African slaves, French people and their slaves and then American people, and their slaves, all co mingling culture within culture. And then you had the French emigrants who'd been living in Canada for a heap of time, till they got kicked out. The long and the short they weren't welcome down south either and they split to wherever they could find land which for some was based around the endless swamps of that fine damp land. These people are known generally as Cajun, originally French Arcadian, speaking an old French dialect, one they were forbidden to speak for decades. Their culture continues in its' dreamy pagan waltz, forever outsiders, living amongst the other runaways, the indigenous, the ex-slave the ex-runaway slave and the Alligator.
I've included some monster tracks from this sphere with 'The King of the Accordian' Lawrence Walker, the stompin' Link Davis and the fiddlin' fiend Harry Choates.
There is also the African American equivalent of music form found in Louisiana called Zydeco which creates its cultural gumbo of German, French, Polish, Spanish and the other for mentioned outsider societies and their sounds. So what cha get is a Bluesy, Polka like waltzy, rockin thing, that when you get practitioners like Clifton Chenier working the pearly keys.....oochymama it's hot!
Other sounds from that state include N.O. artists Fats Domino, Ernie K Doe, Cookie and the Cupcakes and Larry Williams. A tiny inclusion from one of the most influential cities on the planet.
New Orleans is home to the Congo Square. An infamous grounds in the centre of the French Quarter, where the local peoples of colour were allowed (?) to celebrate there own culturally rich heritage, their music, dancing, and stories, for a day, a day a year.
The expanse of great music that has been made in that wondrous city, dating back to before the birth of Jazz is mind blowing. Jumping forward to the mid 40's the studios of Cosimo Matassa began pumping out a mind blowing array of ace R and B and Rock and Roll sides for labels such as Specialty and Imperial. Then there's Joe Ruffino's Ric and Ron labels, Joe Banashak's Minit Records, where a young Allen Toussaint developed his chops to record the next wave of N'awlin's massive musical history.
There's also a whole world of crazy sounds emanating out of sheds and backrooms around the backwoods of Louisianna , such as J.D. Miller's, from which I've included Joe Carl, Tony Perreau and Clifton Chenier, as well as Eddie Shuler's magnificent Goldband label.
Jerry Lee Lewis, the Ferriday Fireball one of the wildest and most notably borderline characters on the mix is featured hear tearing 'Me and Bobby McGee' to shreds, wailing his backwoods Louisiana howl, thrashing and extending the 88's till they're left smoldering. Decades spent pounding those keys, sneaking into the local tents and halls, Diggin' Roy Hall and his Jumpin Cats, jumping up to play when he gets a chance, dancing with the devil in honky tonks. By the time he made 'Great Balls of Fire" he was already a veteran. That was a long time ago. I saw him perform in N.O. in '92 at a white boot scootin' honky tonk bar / barn called 'Mudbugs'. God darn he was good! He had managed to maintain an existence of extreme living, yet when called upon to deliver he could sing and play with such potent force that it was like the musical equivalent a turbo engine in your face.
Some other characters don't fit the topography but do share the outsider tag, notably Charlie Feathers, a man of great fire and talent, who is noted to have created the rock-a-billy hiccup, an early member of the Sun fraternity. Charlie was the centre point of my hillbilly bop and rockabilly single hunting days. If asked "what like?" I'd say "like Charlie Feathers". Just ask the Cramps - Borderline.
Getting back to Texas, the ultimate borderline state, bordering Mexico. The border there being one of the most fiercely guarded borders in the world. Mexicans, many of whose ancestors had lived for generations in the then unnamed North American continent are not welcome to cross the border. Though ironically the bulk of the services industry in the US is powered by illegal immigrants, without whom the economy would collapse (a bit like the abolition of slavery). Texas, like New Mexico has had a long and mixed relationship with their bordering friends, as well as their resident aliens. But amongst all this mess there is an intermingling of cultural musics, food, art and personality. One of the finest cases of a mixed smorgasbord of ethnic musical cultures is Western Swing, a term created as Texan Swing became a smash on the west coast with the advent of the Western movie. A great many early westerns featured roles or cameos from Western Swing stars, such as Bob Wills, Spade Cooley or Roy Rodgers, formerly of the hot swing combo the Farr Brothers. Western Swing combined the sounds of Ellington, Basie and Henderson with Django Rheinhart and Stephan Grappelli's Hot Club of France. Infused that with Blues, Country Blues, Polkas, German waltzes, Cowboy ballads (that's a book in itself), Hawaiian guitar and old time carnie hokum. Bob Wills, with his Texas Playboys, was a leading light, though the competition was fierce. These guys were the best, the hottest the fastest. Their cutting sessions would leave you breathless. If you lay down the bucks for just about any damn record from a band of that period and you can be guaranteed a smoking ride, whether its Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies "Is my razor just for shavin'? Yes sir" or the Night Owls, featured here performing a Tex Mex classic, or the Texas Wanderers and the Lightcrust Doughboys, just slam the money down, you won't be taking many chances.
So here's to the Spanish people who had formerly traveled and settled in the great northern lands, mostly to create monasteries. Who were destroyed by the American dream (death march) The many indigenous civilisations that were also decimated. The African: abducted, enslaved, brutalised and humiliated, their every culture outlawed, excessively. To the so called White Trash left outside of society.
Here's to the all the outcasts, those forever living on the borderline.
1. Sir Douglas Quintet - Nuevo Laredo - Smash
2. Link Davis - Slippin' and Slidin' Sometimes - ACE
3. Flaco Jiminez - Tu Nuevo Carinito - Arhoolie
4. Clifton Chenier - Night and Day My Love - Flyright
5. Doug Sahm - Just Because - Renner
6. Willie Egans - Chitlins - Mambo / Krazy Kat
7. Sunny and the Sunglows - When I Think of You - Krazy Kat
8. Cookie and the Cupcakes - Mathilda - Judd Records / ACE
9. Fats Domino - Hey La Bas Boogie - ACE
10. Jerry Lee Lewis - Me and Bobby McGee - Mercury
11. Tony Perreau - Kissin' Kin - Flyright
12. Sir Douglas Quintet - Michoacan - Smash
13. Charley Feathers - Let's Live a Little - Redita
14. Maddox Brothers and Rose - Water Baby Boogie - Arhoolie
15. Dorse Lewis (the Scared Coalminer) - Mexican Rock - Cozy / White Label
16. Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys - Rose of San Antone - Kaleidoscope Records / Tiffany Transcriptions
17. Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies - Yes Suh - Western
18. The Nite Owls - El Rancho Grande - Old Timey
19. Roy Hogsed and the Rainbow Riders - Cocaine Blues - White Label
20. Harry Choates - Jolie Blon - Gold Star / Arhoolie
21. Lawrence Walker - Lena Mae - La Louisianne Records
22. Clifton Chenier - Hey Ma Ma - Flyright
23. Joe Carl - Rockin' Fever - Flyright
24. Ernie K Doe - Free, Single and Disengaged - ACE
25. Larry Williams - Oh Babe - Specialty
26. Big Sambo and the House Wreckers - At the Party - Candy
27. Johnny Dove and the Magnolia Playboys - Looking For Money - White Label
28. Doug Sahm and Band - Poison Love - Atlantic