Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hwy 14, Middleton, WI The Bunny Hop April 25, 1966: The Sir Douglas Quintette

Some intriguing research finds only lead to more intrigue, which may never be resolved. The above ad is from the April 25, 1966 edition of the Capital Times in Wisconsin. On a Monday night, San Antonio's answer to the British Invasion, the Sir Douglas Quintette (sic) are playing a fairly large venue called The Bunny Hop. The ad says there is seating for 599, and the address is "2 Mi. W. of Middleton-Hwy 14" suggesting a rural rocking roadhouse.

The ad also says "Bring Your Wis. ID Card." I am fairly certain that Wisconsin had a drinking age of 18 rather than 21, and Middleton was a suburb of Madison, so many University of Wisconsin students would be expected. I assume the reference to "Wisconsin ID" cards was to discourage out-of-state drinkers from Northern Illinois, but perhaps there was a different reason. In any case, the musicians of the original Sir Douglas Quintet had been schooled in tough rhythm and blues sounds before the British Invasion arrived, so they knew a little bit about keeping a crowd of beered-up kids dancing all night long.

The Sir Douglas Quintet had scored a huge hit with "She's About A Mover" in Spring 1965, and they had a modestly successful early 1966 follow-up, "The Rains Came," and they had appeared on TV shows like Hullabaloo and Where The Action Is, so they were certainly well known enough to play for University of Wisconsin students on a Monday night. On the other hand, Doug Sahm and other members of the group had been busted for marijuana at the Corpus Christi airport in December, 1965, and as a result their movements were restricted by court dates and probation. If the Quintet was restricted by probation, did they actually play Wisconsin that Monday night?

The answer, apparently, is probably not. The Sir Douglas Quintet were a hugely popular American group in the British Invasion era, when beyond a hit single no one really knew what a group was like. Initially, the Quintet was encouraged to let everyone think they were actually English. However, the Quintet's promoter was a shady, fascinating character named Huey Meaux, and his business dealings were always suspect. It appears there was more than one group touring the country under the name Sir Douglas Quintet, possibly even before the bust. Somewhere on the web (I can no longer find it), there is an hilarious memoir by a group called Larry And The Bluenotes, which includes lengthy memories of impersonating the Sir Douglas Quintet out on the road, under the direction of various doubtful operators.

Of course, its possible that the Wisconsin show was played by Doug Sahm and some Texan variation of the Quintet, but its unlikely. When Sahm moved to San Francisco in about May 1966, it was because his court case was settled with 5 years probation. However, organist Augie Meyers was apparently unable to leave the state for his probation. As a result, by mid-66 there were at least two versions of the Sir Douglas Quintet: Doug Sahm led one in San Francisco, (along with drummer Johnny Perez and saxophonist Frank Morin), and Meyers led the Texas version (along with bassist Harvey Kagan). Then add in Larry And The Bluenotes, and who knows who else, and it appears that the Quintet were movers indeed.

Probably the band that played the Wisconsin show doesn't remember it, and probably had a vested interest in forgetting it: they were impersonating a band, or they were breaking probation, or something. Oh well--as long as the band played "She's About A Mover," and all the UW students got their Monday night beer on, it was probably fine.

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