If you don’t count Elvis, Sam Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash sitting around a piano at Sun Records, The Texas Tornados could be considered one the best Rock & Roll Super groups, sort of a Tex-Mex Travelling Wilburys. Formed in the 1990’s the group consisted of Freddie Fender, who already had released his monster hits “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” and “Before the Next Teardrop Falls”, Doug Sahm who is widely referred to as the father of the Tex-Mex music scene, Augie Meyers, a founding member of The Sir Douglas Quintet with Sahm, and Flaco Jiménez, a pioneer of the Mexican style conjunto music and a master of the conjunto accordion.
While all four of the artist’s magnetic personalities and talents contributed equally to the success of the Tornados, the band’s sound most closely resembled the earlier works of Dog Sahm and the Sir Douglas Quintet. The blending of Rock, Country, Tex-Mex, and Cajun styles along with doo-wop, electric blues, soul, and a dash of British invasion, was earlier heard with the songs “Mendocino” and “She’s About a Mover”, both big hits for The Quintet.
The groups first Album, The Texas Tornados, was released in both English and Spanish in 1990 and is considered to be a landmark Tex-Mex album. The critics loved the album as did country music fans with the disc peaking at number 25 on the U.S. Country charts.
The Tornado’s infectious style hits you right between the ears with the first accordion riffs along with Doug Sahm’s soulful vocal turn on the opening track “Who Were You Thinking of”. “Who were you thinking of when we were making love last night?” sets the musical and lyrical tone for the album, a fun upbeat, if there is such a thing, lover scorned type of song that makes you want to take another tequila shot and hit the dance floor to forget your troubles.
The second song, “(Hey Baby) Que Paso” gives us our first introduction to the band’s use of the Spanglish blending of both the English and Spanish languages that would become an essential element of the band’s sound. The song is almost a companion piece with our hero from “Thinking of” saying “hey, what’s up? I thought I was your only fella” in a voice so forlorn and love-struck he doesn’t know whether to speak English or Spanish so he does both.
The third song has our love scorned hero visiting “Laredo Rose” to drown his sorrows. Laredo Rose your garden has the scent of cheap perfume the sun is a stranger to you, how is a rose supposed to bloom? He asks leaving couple of bills on the dresser, the father confessor knows the wages of sin.
“A Man Can Cry” let’s Freddie Fender take the vocal spotlight with an excellent “Teardrops” style song that really showcases Freddie’s immense talent.
“Soy De San Luis” is one of two full-on Spanish compositions on the album giving Flaco Jiménez a vocal turn. Surprisingly for me as a non-Spanish speaker, the song is so infectious that I don’t realize the words are in Spanish until about ½ way through the song.
In “Adios Mexico” we go back to the Doug Sahm “Mendocino” song style with the accordion matching the drum beat with some surf guitar in the background. Almost makes you want to put on a sombrero and dance “The Swim”.
The 8th song on the Album “She Never Spoke Spanish to Me” is my favorite song on the album and really shows their songwriting chops with Spanish style acoustic guitar picking and all of the Tor’s jumping in on background vocals with Doug taking center stage. The accordion on this song acts almost as another voice which makes the song takes on a slightly different character and is an excellent change of pace. The Joe Ely version is also an excellent representation of this song.
“Dinero” is the second all Spanish song on the album and has a Texas Swing character to it, all it needs is a little Bob Wills “a-ha” in the background.
The finale of the album is the excellent “Baby! Heaven Sent Me You” and is a fitting send-off for the album with all four trading verses in both English and Spanish. Our love lost hero from the beginning of the album that has been lied to, cheated on, and is forced to flee the country after paying a visit to a local brothel, finally after looking, seeking, searching, has finally been sent his one true love.
Who knew that along with being a genre busting album and one of the best efforts by a Super group you will probably hear that The Texas Tornados is also one of the better concept albums? I didn’t know, but in the end it doesn’t matter. Listening to this album is a fun joyride and a great initiation into the world of Tex-Mex music. It almost makes me want to don my sombrero, put on my bandolier, have a couple of shots of mescal, eat the worm, and head for the border.
- “Who Were You Thinkin’ Of?” – 2:27
- “(Hey Baby) Que Paso” – 2:58
- “Laredo Rose” – 3:12
- “A Man Can Cry” – 3:38
- “Soy de San Luis” – 3:46
- “Adios Mexico” – 2:42
- “If That’s What You’re Thinking” – 3:51
- “She Never Spoke Spanish to Me” – 3:19
- “Dinero” – 2:47
- “Baby! Heaven Sent Me to You” – 2:29
- Freddy Fender – Guitar, Vocals
- Flaco Jiménez – Accordion, Vocals
- Augie Meyers – Accordion, Harmonica, Organ, Organ (Hammond), Vocals, Vox Organ
- Doug Sahm – 6-String Bass, Arranger, Bajo Sexto, Bass, Guitar, Piano, Vocals
- Jack Barber – Bass
- Richard Bennett – Guitar
- Mike Buck – Drums
- Lewis Bustos – Sax
- Jimmy Day – Guitar
- Ernie Durawa – Drums, Tambourine, Timbales
- David Grissom – Guitar
- Charles McBurney – Trumpet
- Rocky Morales – Sax
- Derek O’Brien – Guitar
- Louis Ortega – Guitar, Vocals
- George Rains – Drums
- Speedy Sparks – Bass
- Oscar Tellez – 6-String Bass, Bajo Sexto, Bass
- Louis Terrazas – Bass