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TEXAS TORNADOS

The Texas Tornados
The Texas Tornados (front of stage, left to right) Augie Meyers, Doug Sahm, Freddy Fender, and Flaco Jiménez. Other longtime band members include Speedy Sparks (bass), Oscar Tellez (bajo sexto), Ernie Durawa (drums), and Louie Ortega (guitar). Photograph by Dan Flores, Ernie Durawa Collection, Wittliff Collections, Texas State University.

TEXAS TORNADOS. Started by Doug Sahm in 1989, the now legendary band, Texas Tornados, was originally fronted by Doug Sahm, Freddy Fender, Augie Meyers, and Flaco Jiménez. Hailed at the time as a “supergroup of Texas legends,” they were signed by Warner Brothers Reprise and recorded their first album Texas Tornados in 1990 at the Fire Station Studios in San Marcos. The album hit Number 5 on the country charts, and a song on that album, “Soy de San Luis,” won the 1991 Grammy for Best Mexican-American Performance. The album was also released in an all-Spanish version titled Los Texas Tornados.

Sahm and Meyers of San Antonio had first gained prominence in the Sir Douglas Quintet in the mid-1960s. San Antonio accordionist Flaco Jiménez was the son of conjunto legend Santiago Jiménez, Sr., and Fender (born Baldemar Huerta in San Benito) made early strides in rock-and-roll as “El Bebop Kid” in the late 1950s and struck gold as a country and cross-over artist in the mid-1970s. Together they brought a blend of Tex-Mex rock, country, R&B, and conjunto that defined their unique sound and garnered glowing reviews. Reprise released four more Tornados albums, Zone of Our Own (1991), which was nominated for a Grammy; Hangin’ on by a Thread (1992); The Best of Texas Tornados (1994); and 4 Aces (1996). A song on the 4 Aces album, “Little Bit is Better Than Nada,” was used as the theme for the Kevin Costner movie Tin Cup (1996). The band toured extensively to promote their releases. In 1999 the Virgin label released Live from the Limo, a recording of a 1998 live show at Antone’s club in Austin.

Listen to this group

The Tornados slowed down for a time when Doug Sahm died unexpectedly in 1999. Freddy Fender’s death in 2006 further depleted the front line complement. However, the 2005 New West Records release on DVD of the group’s 1990 Austin City Limits appearance, Texas Tornados—Live From Austin Tx, kept the group’s name in front of the public. During this time Doug’s son Shawn became a member of the band. Shawn began producing recordings by the Tornados, including unrecorded songs by Doug and new ones by Freddy. These recordings were released as an album titled ¡Está Bueno! in 2010 on Ray Benson’s Bismeaux label.

In the 2010s the Texas Tornados continued to perform, fronted by Shawn Sahm, Augie Meyers, and Flaco Jiménez. Several of the original sidemen were still with the band, including Louie Ortega (guitar), Speedy Sparks (bass), and Ernie Durawa (drums). Texas Tornados: A Little Bit is Better Than Nada—Prime Cuts 1990–1996, a two-CD set featuring remastered album cuts, rarities, and unreleased tracks, was released in 2015.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

All Music Guide (www.allmusic.com), accessed March 19, 2011. Jan Reid with Shawn Sahm, Texas Tornado: The Times & Music of Doug Sahm (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010). Texas Tornados (http://thetexastornados.com/), accessed August 28, 2015. “Texas Tornados,” ARTISTdirect (http://www.artistdirect.com/artist/bio/texas-tornados/500924 ), accessed March 19, 2011.

Gary S. Hickinbotham

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Gary S. Hickinbotham, "Texas Tornados," accessed November 23, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xgt03.

Uploaded on March 19, 2015. Modified on October 10, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.