Ernie Durawa of Texas Tornados : Modern DrummerHi, folks, Ernie Durawa here from the Texas Tornados. Just want to say it’s great to have spent over fifty years of my life playing drums. Not too many people get to do their passion and still survive in this business. I first started playing in Mexican conjunto bands in San Antonio, Texas, when I was eleven years old. Soon after that I discovered Jimmy Reed, Little Richard, Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Max Roach, and Elvin Jones—so my whole concept of music went from Mexican to blues to jazz. And growing up in Texas, I heard a lot of country music.

Texas—especially Austin—is a great place for a versatile musician to live. There are so many different cultures in Texas, and along with that comes the music and the food. It was 1975, and I had decided to come to Austin from Chicago, where I had spent three years studying with the great drum teacher Roy C. Knapp. I had good gigs in Chicago, like the Playboy Club, The Sears Tower, and many other cool jazz opportunities around the windy city. But the cold weather finally drove me back south to Texas. It was tough times when I first got here—my first gig in Austin only paid $3. I said, “What’s this”? and the guy said, “We played for the door and that’s your share!” Ha! I knew I was in trouble then.

Soon after, I started playing with my childhood friend Doug Sahm, and then later was offered the gig with Delbert McClinton. I went on the road with Delbert from 1977 until 1981, and we did Saturday Night Live, Solid Gold, and Austin City Limits—it was great fun!

After I left the band I rejoined Doug Sahm in the Sir Douglas Quintet. We received a gold record from Scandinavia for our CD Scandinavian Years. After several European tours, in 1989 we went in the studio and the Texas Tornados were born. Our CD went on to win a Grammy for Best Mexican American Performance.

In 1999 we lost our leader, Doug Sahm, to a heart attack, and then in 2006 we lost our other main front man, Freddy Fender, to cancer, so the band parted ways after that.

The good news is that Doug’s son Shawn Sahm has brought us together again, and we went in the studio to cut a new CD, Esta Bueno: It’s Good. It was one of the last recordings that Freddy Fender sang on before he passed away. We still have Augie Meyers and Flaco Jimenez and the original Tornado band members Louie Ortega and Speedy Sparks. The results are amazing and the reviews have been awesome!

I want to thank Modern Drummer for letting me write this blog, and I send my best wishes to all my fellow drummers.

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