“Rise”: The Spirit of Sahm

It was hard not to get swept up in Ed Ward‘s enthusiasm in his October 1, 1970 Rolling Stone review of an up-and-coming Texan band (by way of Prunedale, California) that had been “discovered” and mentored by Doug Sahm.  The band’s debut, a masterpiece in Ward’s estimation, had been released on almighty Columbia’s imprint, Epic, and described as a curious collision of sounds — “Creedence meets The Byrds” (as others have since quipped), with horns, steel guitar, fiddles and a healthy amount of Tex-Mex thrown in — but in a unified and cohesive way, Ward assured us.

I was reminded of Ward’s original review when I read James ‘Bigboy’ Medlin’s tribute to the Texas Tornado himself – Doug Sahm – in this year’s ‘Southern Music Issue’ of the Oxford American, so imagine my complete disbelief when I switched on the Internet to learn more these renegade rockers … only to discover not a single trace of their existence!  Unfathomable.  How could this be?  Even trusty ol’ Discogs.com was bereft of any info about the one and only long-playing release by “Love and the Lovers,” as they are clearly named in the review (as well as the index of The Rolling Stone Record Review, where Ward’s piece had been reprinted).

As it turns out, heh heh, it was just a typo.  If you type the phrase “Louie and the Lovers,” a veritable floodgate of information spews forth.  At the top of the list, interestingly enough, is Ed Ward’s piece for National Public Radio about the 2009 release of the band’s complete recordings by pioneering reissue label, Bear Family, of Germany.  How fascinating to learn from Ward’s NPR piece that, after the band’s experience with Epic, Atlantic’s Jerry Wexler (at Doug Sahm’s urging) would pick up the baton.  At great expense, Wexler would fly Louie and the Lovers in his private jet – their first ever plane trip – for recording sessions in Miami, as well as Hollywood, only to release one single and then shelve a (“long-rumored”) second album that had been planned for release.

Title track “Rise” would lead off their debut Epic album on which the band would be backed by Doug Sahm’s band, The Honky Blues Band:

Not to be confused with Little Louie and the Lovers, who would release one single in 1962 before vanishing.

Even with major label backing and support from A-level musicians during the Miami recordings sessions – Dr. John, Joe Lala, David ‘Fathead’ Newman, Flaco Jimenez – as Ward notes in “The Slow ‘Rise’ of a Lost Treasure,” the band’s recordings would fail to make a dent in the marketplace, a situation undoubtedly exacerbated by their decision not to tour.  Over time, however, the music’s reputation would grow — to the point that Sony UK, in 2003, would reissue the band’s debut on compact disc, followed by Bear Family’s decision six years later to release the band’s entire 27-song output.

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