The story of Sarg Records is a simple tale of minor enterprise in 1950s small town America. A town called Luling, Texas, a place so small that it's barely on the map and certainly not on any tourist route. The nearest city is San Antonio, 40 miles away. Luling's decline began in the late 60s when they built Highway 10 between Houston and San Antonio, effectively isolating Luling from through traffic. From then on, the only people who went there were its residents, a few oil-workers and folks who'd lost their way.
Raymond Topping described it admirably in the liner notes of our original vinyl release: "As you drive down the Main Street, you get a definite sense of going back in time to one of the old Western towns you sometimes see in the movies. The town is divided by the railroad which runs down the centre of the main thoroughfare, Davis Street. Most of the houses and shops are single storey wooden buildings which are dwarfed by the huge noisy diesel trains that pass slowly through the town at regular intervals. Across the tracks on East Davis Street is a small wooden store with a sign above the door announcing the Sarg Record Company. As you enter, you are confronted by a display of old 40s and 50s jukeboxes bearing such legendary names as Wurlitzer and Seeburg and behind the counter stands the friendly proprietor, Charlie Fitch."
Other visitors paint a less romantic picture of Luling's main drag. The skyline is dotted with oil rigs and small oil pumps - so-called 'nodding donkeys' - set in perpetual motion. Fitch's store was positioned near a poultry farm which gave off a putrid stench in the blazing heat of the Texas sun. This, combined with air thickened by the noxious vapour of crude oil, impeded normal respiratory function. Not that the locals seemed to mind. His TV repair shop and record store did good business from the moment it opened, as leathery-faced men wearing Stetsons and dungarees popped in to get their TV pictures de-fuzzed, purchase the odd 78 or simply exchange gossip.
Fitch got into the record business after he'd been discharged from the US Air Force in 1950. He began selling records from the small store at 311 East Davis Street and also operated a jukebox round serving Luling and surrounding towns. This inevitably led to other record-related ventures, including the formation of his own label. He began issuing records by local hillbillies as well as waltzes and polkas which sold particularly well in the San Antonio area, a legacy from the time when German settlers arrived in the 1840s after the Battle of the Alamo had been fought there in 1836.
Fitch was the first to record Doug ('Sir Douglas') Sahm who cut a country novelty disc as Little Doug for Sarg at the age of 14 in 1955, though the label copy attempted to pass him off as a 12 year-old. Later that year Fitch recorded another San Antonio artist, a friend of Sahm's named Eddie Dugosh who fronted the oddly named Ah-Ha Playboys. Originally a country outfit, they switched to rock'n'roll for their second release, recording Strange Kinda Feeling, an Elmore James blues reworked rockabilly style. This marked the start of Sarg's involvement with the burgeoning rock'n'roll market. Fitch pretty much gave artists their head in the studio, exercising no control over the end product other than deciding whether to release it or not. This made for great rock'n'roll records but not necessarily ones that were commercial in the cosmetic sense. There was a tough, raw edge to them, plainly evident on TEXAS ROCKABILLY which contains the cream of Sarg's rockabilly and rock'n'roll output. You can almost smell the hickory smoke and hear the slap of leather as these Lone Star cowboys strut their way through 28 hard-edged rockers. Not for cissies!