Sunday, January 25, 2015

Smash Records: Mendocino

Our fourth week label feature remembers Mercury Records’ subsidiary Smash, which was formed in 1961. While numerous country artists recorded for the label, and it was often characterized as Mercury’s country imprint, quite a few pop recordings were also issued by Smash during its initial run.

In 1970, Mercury discontinued the label; however, PolyGram, Mercury’s corporate owner, brought back Smash in the 1980s for reissues. From 1991 to 1996, PolyGram reinvigorated Smash as an R&B/Dance label for its final run. Our look at Smash will come entirely from its original catalog of recordings issued between 1961 and 1970.

For our first look at the label, we enlist the help of Doug Sahm and his band: Sir Douglas Quintet from San Antonio, Texas. The Sir Douglas Quintet featured a fusion of musical genres that included country, blues, Tex-Mex, and rock ‘n’ roll. Although not remembered as well as other artists from the era, the band had three US Top 40 hits: 1965’s “She’s about a Mover” (#13), 1966’s “The Rains Came” (#31), and “Mendocino.”

Recorded in 1968, “Mendocino” was the band’s first release on Smash; and in early 1969, it peaked at #27 on Billboard’s Hot 100. It was the band’s second highest performing single and it represented a recording comeback for the group who hadn’t had a single release since October 1966’s “She Digs My Love,” which had a dismal showing at #132. While “The Rains Came” from January that year did significantly better at #31, the band’s cover of Gary U.S. Bonds’ “Quarter to Three,” which was issued in May, only charted at #128.

Their apparent comeback is noted in the spoken intro on this studio cut with Doug Sahm stating, “Sir Douglas Quintet is back. We’d like to thank all of our beautiful friends all over the country for all the beautiful vibrations. We love you.”

“Mendocino” includes nearly all of the original members of the band with only bassist Jack Barber having been replaced by Harvey Kagan. Sahm played guitar and sang, Frank Morin is credited with vocals and playing a variety of horns, John Perez was on drums, and Augie Meyers hosted the keyboards.

Although not credited as playing keyboards on the album, Frank Morin played keys live. Since there are two keyboard parts on “Mendocino,” he may have contributed his talents in this area. The keyboard lead is courtesy of Augie Meyers and he probably played it on a Vox Continental combo organ.

The producer is listed as Amigos de Musica. Most folks believe that this was a nom de plume for Doug Sahm – who certainly was a friend of music.

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