Augie Meyers: The Sounds of Lone Star
Augie Meyers’ style and his Vox Continental has become one of music’s most distinctive keyboard sounds around. Augie can be heard with the Sir Douglas Quintet, Texas Tornados, Meyers’ solo efforts as well as on landmark albums by Bob Dylan (”Time Out of Mind” and “Love and Theft”) and John Hammond (“Wicked Grin”). Echoes of the Meyers’ style and sound can be heard in the music of the Doors, the Kinks, the Animals as well as the Beatles just to name a few. Rolling out of San Antonio, Texas in the early 60’s, the Sir Douglas Quintet, a musical partnership formed with Doug Sahm, brought such hit tunes as “Mendocino” and “She’s About a Mover.” By fusing Tex-Mex, Conjunto and soulful rock together along with the power of Meyers’ distinctive Vox organ, an impact that is still being felt in rock ‘n’ roll today. While the Sir Douglas Quintet never broke up and never succumbed to the lure of the oldies circuit, when Meyers and his musical cohorts decided they wanted to do something different, they did. That led to the formation of The Texas Tornados and a Grammy award-winning South Texas sound. Meyers worked steadily with Sahm until the kinetic guitarist/vocalist passed away in 1999. Meyers has always pursued projects that interest him as an individual and as a collaborator and has long refused to lock himself into one style of music.
Interview by © Michael Limnios
What does the blues mean to you?
What The blues mean to me: When I was 14 years old, I rode my motor scooter 200 miles to see Jimmy Reed, he was one of my idols and yes, I got to meet him. I have his whole record collection. When I was 22 years old, I opened the show for Jimmy Reed for 3/nights. He was riding in my tour bus every day and we stayed at the same hotel for 5 nights. During the day we jammed on Our guitars. It was a dream come true.
Photo by Josh Huskin
What were the reasons that your generation started the Psychedelic Roots n’ Folk researches and experiments?
I don’t know, it was just there. Me and the late great Doug Sahm grew up together. I met him when we were 12 years old.
What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
By Jimmy Reed, he told me “It’s not how much you play-it’s how you play what you know”. And I’ll always remembered that.
Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
I met Albert King in New York. I was playing piano at the Blues Club and Albert King walked up to me and said “Man, I like the way you play them shuffle licks, you have great rhythm, come play with me tomorrow at the Lone Star club”. and I was there.
Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? How does it feel to be considered a legend and to have played with so many great musicians?
You meet people as you go along down the line and they’re just musicians … they’re just friends. My daddy was from rodeo people and one day at the rodeo I said, ‘Daddy, that’s Roy Rogers’ and he said, ‘Calm down, boy.’ And I said, ‘but that’s Roy Rogers, Daddy!’ And he said, ‘When you go to the bathroom, who wipes you?’ And I said, ‘I do.’ And he said, ‘They do the same thing, they wipe themselves, so they ain’t no different from you.’
What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
What I miss the most is the radio stations don’t play Jimmy Reed, Albert King and all them blues cats anymore and I wish they did.
If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
We need DJs who can pick a hit, not those Damn Big Companies that tell the DJs what to play.
Photo from the back cover of the 1973 LP Doug Sahm and Band, with Dr. John, Bob Dylan, Augie Meyers, David Bromberg, David Fathead Newman, Flaco Jimenez, and others.
What has made you laugh from Sir Douglas Quintet era?
I owned the first Vox Organ in America because the keys were different, the colors were opposite. When me and Doug went to England in 1965, John Lennon, Paul and George came to the TV show to see how I got my sound out of the Vox. England and Europe didn’t have a Reverb Amp. I own the first Fender Super Reverb Amp with the Vox. Man, it had a sound and it still does today.
What touched (emotionally) you from the sound of Vox organ?
Chuck Wood at San Antonio Music, we were looking through a catalog, I told him ‘I like this keyboard, can we get one?’ He said, ‘I’ll have to write them [Vox] a letter.’ He called me back about a month later, said, ‘I can get that keyboard, but it’s gonna cost a lotta money $285.’ I said, ‘I want one.’ The only reason I wanted one is because the black and white reversed keys. The Dave Clark Five came to town and my band The Goldens opened up and Doug’s band played. The Dave Clark Five were gonna cancel the show because they didn’t have a Vox Organ, and I said, ‘Well, I’ve got one.’ The only one in the US. That’s how we met Huey P. Mueax. Huey had a barbershop in Winnie, Texas, and he was putting records out already. He told me and Doug, ‘Put a song together.’ So, we went to the Blue Note. Women used to wear long dresses, petticoats, and this guy used to get on this girl and hold her from the back like, excuse my language, he was giving her head, and watching the way she moved Doug said, ‘Man, she’s a body mover.’ Well, that’s where ‘She’s About a Mover’ came from. ‘She’s a body mover.’ We had to change the title. Four weeks later we went to Houston and cut it. Our record was doing real good in England, we did a show called Ready, Set, Go! and George and John and Paul [The Beatles, duh] came in and said, ‘How do you get your sound on your Vox, we can’t do that?’ I said, ‘Super Reverb.’ Next week all the stores in England had it.
How has the Rock n’ Roll music and culture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
Rock ‘n’ roll didn’t influence me, it was Little Richard who did. Our group got to travel with Little Richard for 3 weeks.
What is the impact of the Blues and Tex-Mex on the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?
Well, the Blues and Tex-Mex music, if the radicals and political people like it-it was OK, and if they didn’t, that’s their problem-fuck em.
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?
Man, if it’s a Time Machine, I would love to go back and see Doug Sahm, Freddy Fender, Tom Petty, Elvis, my mom and dad and everybody that’s there before me and spend the whole day with them. Someday I probably will, until then, let’s keep on doing the do.
Flaco Jimenez, Augie Meyers, Doug Sahm and Freddy Fender of the Texas Tornado (Photo by Will Van Overbeek)