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A song for San Antone.

Another of the many things that makes the ARSA database of local radio airplay charts so cool: You never know what one of those charts might have meant to an artist who appeared on it.

I’ve been devoting some commute time in the past week or so to Texas Rock for Country Rollers, the 1976 album by the late, great, unquenchable Texas roots-music journeyman Doug Sahm.

I don’t like the record as much as most of Sahm’s biographers and fans seem to. There’s a certain lack of quality control, a stoned slapdash nature about the songs and the performances, that gets in the way of the cosmic-shitkicker good time the record was probably meant to be.

(If you want to get your Sahm on, I recommend Mercury Records’ The Best of Doug Sahm & the Sir Douglas Quintet 1968-1975. In Tex-Mex combo-plate fashion, it includes a few good bites of everything Sahm did well, from Western swing to T-Bone Walker to cheesy Farfisa-driven two-steps.)

But anyhow: Texas Rock For Country Rollers includes a medley of “Sometime/Cryin’ Inside,” two early-’60s hits by singer Gene Thomas.

Sahm, who never missed an opportunity to tell anybody where he was from, interrupts the medley to whip out a narrative with a little bit of chart-geek in its soul.

The story goes back 15 years, but the way he says “forever and ever and ever,” you can tell he’s still impressed:

“Yeah, I remember those times, back in those nightclubs in 1961 in San Antone … and ol’ Gene Thomas had a song that was Number One for ever, and ever, and ever. Goes like this.”

The airplay charts in San Antonio in 1961 would have been of more than casual interest to Sahm: As a roughly 20-year-old local musician, he was busy trying to get onto them. He made it a couple of times, under a couple of names.

(One of my favorite Sahm anecdotes involves him going to a high school dance in San Antonio as a teenager and hearing his own record get played, which must be among the coolest things ever to happen to any teenage rock n’ roller.)

What’s the ARSA database say about all this?

Well, San Antone’s KONO 860 shows Gene Thomas at Number One for the week of Aug. 4, 1961.  But the survey unfortunately doesn’t say how long the record had been there. (Note who checks in at No. 33.)

Gene Thomas also turns up at Number Two on San Antonio’s KTSA for the week of Aug. 10; Number One for a solid three weeks in July and August at Houston’s KILT; Number Two at still a third San Antonio station, KMAC, on Aug. 18; and Number One at Dallas’s KBOX a couple weeks after that.

A precise confirmation of Sahm’s narrative? Not quite, but it comes close enough. The charts certainly establish that “Sometime” must have been inescapable in Texas back in the summer of ’61. (I get the sense that precise fidelity to facts was never the point with Doug Sahm anyway.)

Instead, the story paints a charming picture of the artist as a young man — working his own musical schemes, cooling his heels in nightclubs, keeping an ear cocked toward the jukebox (and the radio), and probably thinking to himself, “Man, someday I’m gonna have a hit that big, and I’m gonna be on the radio in San Antone for ever, and ever, and ever.

And the best thing about the story?

He did.

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One response »

  1. Thanks for taking us down the rabbit hole with you. Nice work.

    Reply

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