Headneck Bonanza: Doug Sahm live in 1972 with Leon Russell and the Dead

Sir Doug and Jerry Garcia, onstage in Austin. Photo: Steve Hopson

Our celebration of recently departed hippie-country music pioneer John “Marmaduke” Dawson of the New Riders of the Purple Sage’s legacy started a conversation about the history of “headneck” music: tunes beloved in equal measure to cowboys, hippies, bikers and all varieties of stoner hicks, country heads and longhaired rednecks.

Beyond the New Riders and the Dead, the consensus seems to be that Commander Cody, Asleep at the Wheel and Doug Sahm (in his many incarnations, from dusty Texas boogie, accordion-flecked Tex-Mex and sun-dappled Mill Valley country) represent some of the pinnacles of this rowdy sound. After a bit of digging around in the Google crates, we found one of the holy grails of headneck history over at The Adios Lounge: a bootleg recording of an impromptu 1972 Doug Sahm, Leon Russell, Jerry Garcia and Friends show at the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, Texas.

On Thanksgiving weekend in 1972 the Dead were in Austin, on tour of course, and they joined Sir Doug and country-time piano genius Leon Russell — you know his rollicking keys from session work with The Byrds, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, his oft-covered song “Superstar”; and you really should seek out the riches of his 1971 solo album, Leon Russell and the Shelter People, as the psych-out cover art is just the beginning — on stage for a couple hours of once-in-a-lifetime country grooves.

Genuine Texas groover Sahm with spliff and brew

At our request, Lance — the gracious proprietor of The Adios Lounge — has re-upped the whole two-and-a-half hour jam session full of songs from Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, Robert Johnson, Bob Dylan and Hank Williams, among many others. It’s a soundboard recording (A-/A for the tapers out there) full of Garcia’s lush pedal steel, Phil Lesh’s noodly bass, and fiddle duties handled by Marty Mary Egan and Thirteenth Floor Elevator (!?) Benny Thurman. Vocals are traded between Sahm, Garcia, Russell and what sounds like a room full of rowdy Texan headnecks having the time of their lives. “Holy shit” is right.

This is music for hot afternoons, sitting shirtless in the sun, chasing shots of green dragon with econo-brews and popping off at the empties with your “blaster of choice.” Many thanks to Lance for the re-post. Click here to go download yourself a copy.

Now who’s got the hook up on some vintage Commander Cody bootlegs? And “muchas Garcias” once again to longtime Arthur compadre Michael Simmons for initiating my search for this music.

Also: BONUS HEADNECK JAM after the jump …

We highly recommend that you grab Doug Sahm’s overlooked 1976 classic Texas Rock for Country Rollers while you’re visiting the Adios Lounge. Lance has done a song-by-song annotation of the whole album that establishes its reputation as a standout in Sahm’s already overflowing back catalog. It includes such gems as “Cowboy Peyton Place” and “Texas Ranger Man,” the story of a stoned Texas gigolo pining after a “lonely-looking Pisces” in some honky-tonk, his affections kept at bay by her father, the cop of the title. Get it here.

14 thoughts on “Headneck Bonanza: Doug Sahm live in 1972 with Leon Russell and the Dead

  1. Fantastic! Thank you, brother.

    One error: it’s Mary — not Marty — Egan. She’s also known as Sweet Mary Egan and fiddled for Greezy Wheels (Austin headneckers), Jerry Jeff Walker & the Lost Gono Band, and Kinky Friedman & the Texas Jewboys. She’s one of nicest people on earth — hence her name “Sweet Mary”.

  2. I gotta propose Canned Heat
    for this category.
    “Going up the Country” and “On the Road Again” were definitely out of the psychedelic groove.

    I might argue that it all started with Dylan’s 1968 “Nashville Skyline”.
    In fact I would. Post-psychedelic took rock in a new direction (which also including Prog and Garage-punk) that also pulled in bands like CSNY.

  3. Maybe not shit-kicking like some other “Headneck” music, but I think Hoyt Axton’s My Griffin is Gone deserves some props. The reissue has a demo version of “The Pusher” which is far-out-o-control.

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  7. I’m not sure I’d call this recording an A / A-. It’s more of a low B or a C quality recording. I’ve gone thru several versions and they’re all way over on the vu meters and too much on the mix. At times it’s barely listenable.

  8. Pingback: Heavy "Primal Dead" from October 12, 1968 | Arthur Magazine

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