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There were two bands from Texas with long hair in the mid-‘60s: Roky Erickson’s 13th Floor Elevators and the Sir Douglas Quintet. Sahm claimed his band was unfairly set up for its drug arrest and that he was really just being harassed for his rebel-hippie stance. Soon after, Sahm decided to move with wife Violet and their two young sons, Shawn and Shandon, to the more tolerant environs of Northern California. Living in Salinas and spending much of his time in San Francisco during its ‘60s heyday, Sahm immersed himself in the liberated lifestyle of the Haight-Ashbury elite.
“When I met Doug, his little son Shawn walked in while we were talking and Doug handed him a joint,” says Denny Bruce, a producer and manager who now runs the Takoma label. “It was the first time I had seen an adult give pot to a kid, and Shawn took a toke and his eyes started spinning. Doug was a real free spirit and probably took advantage of the hippie thing. He liked the notoriety and the acclaim.”
Reforming the Quintet without Meyers (who initially stayed in Texas), Sahm began what many consider his most adventurous musical period. Performing at the Fillmore Auditorium and the Avalon Ballroom with the likes of Big Brother & The Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service and the Grateful Dead, Sahm became close with Jerry Garcia and partied with fellow Texpatriots like Chet Helms and Janis Joplin.
Thriving in San Francisco, Sahm was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1968 and again in 1971. George Rains, a drummer from Fort Worth, played for the SDQ during this time. “Doug was such a promoter of San Francisco,” says Rains. “He considered himself a hippie, the whole thing of getting loaded and free love. He felt it was just heaven, and for a musician, it was. That’s all he talked about, ‘Man, you gotta go up to San Francisco.’”
His first California album, 1968’s Honkey Blues, was credited to the Sir Douglas Quintet + 2. The record displays a jazzy, experimental and strangely psychedelic R&B that was undeniably brilliant, but it confused both his record company and his fans. Sahm reunited with Meyers and his Vox for the Quintet’s next effort, Mendocino.
The California edition of the SDQ recorded two more masterful albums (Together After Five and 1+1+1=4, both from 1970), but Sahm was ready to move back to Texas