Doug Rauch

Doug was such an inspiring and amazing talent I felt the need to write a little about him. I always loved his funky and frenetic playing even though it was always light years from my own. You’ve heard Doug on seminal Santana albums and maybe live with David Bowie and on great Billy Cobham and Lenny White records – for example Cobham’s Life and Times


Doug pioneered a highly rhythmic, funky double-thumbing technique in the 1970s and had a way of powering a band – I normally don’t go for notey players but Doug had such fantastic rhythmic precision it worked every time. He was also capable of playing less of course as on Santana’s Lotus blowout where he is solid, grooving and uncharacteristically simple and on the tour with Bowie which was captured on film.

Doug died tragically young in 1979 at only 28. He’d appeared on the New York scene and played with a range of local artists from 1969 to 1971. He played with Carly Simon, Voices of East Harlem and a guy called Buzzy Linhart who made an album with Doug. As a Doug aficionado, naturally I’ve sought out fellow fans. Luckily a great guy in Finland, Pekka regularly emails me with notice when some Doug stuff become available on youtube or elsewhere. That’s how I’ve come across such delights as the Buzzy album and the CD Doug made with Greg Errico, Giants in 1971.

Giants Recording Session

Michael Shrieve recomended to Doug that he relocate to San Francisco and he did so in 1971: working in the band Loading Zone and Gabor Szabo, both alongside the wonderful Tom Coster (Santana, Vital Information). Tom would later join Doug in Santana for some of the greatest fusion albums of all time. Doug and Carlos were both fans of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Doug joined Santana in 1972 in time to record the classics Caravanserai, Welcome and Lotus.

These are wonderful records. This was a time when jazz fusion or jazz rock was an experiment rather than a genre. It was a time where a year or so earlier Santana’s mainstream crowd had roared there approval at a live gig on recognising the opening strains of Miles Davis’ ‘In a Silent Way’. Can you imagine the equivalent of that today? It was a time with fewer boundaries.

Similarly cathartic and intense was the Santana-McLaughlin record Love Devotion and Surrender in 1973 which also features Larry Young and Billy Cobham. I recently got hold of two CDs full of out-takes from these sessions which have to be heard to be believed!

There are a number of clips on Youtube of the band’s Japan tour of 1973. These were released on video in Japan I think but are hard to get hold of. They show the band having fun and playing some wild, vital, exciting music. Sadly much has been recently blocked by youtube despite being unavailable elsewhere but enter Doug Rauch into Youtube and see what you find.

Doug left Santana at the end of 1973 and played on some great records and gigs before his death (reportedly of an overdose) in 1979. He toured the US with David Bowie in September 1974 (Diamond Dogs tour) of which unofficial recordings are around and a film was made which has appeared on several TV channels.

Moonage Daydream

In 1975, Doug played on one of my favourite records: Venusian Summer by Lenny White – surely overdue a re-release on CD. This has some of the funkiest fusion in existence and features a lovely cameo by Jimmy Smith, unsung guitar hero Ray Gomez and the some of the most gorgeous grooves ever laid down.

Venusian Summer sample

Another Venusian Summer sample

In 1974 and 1975 Rauch had brief stints with both the Cobham/Duke band (later to feature Alphonso Johnson and the young John Scofield) and the Jan Hammer group.

He played on one more great record: Life and Times by Billy Cobham. This is a splendid record and worth seeking out. I play my copy a lot.

Guys like Victor Wooten and Marcus Miller use up and down thumb technique now but it’s notable that Doug was using a version of this as early as 1971. His technique is impressive but it’s the sheer life affirming energy and joy of his playing that always grabs me.

Sad that Doug’s life was ended so early by drugs. He was a great musical force – if you don’t know of him, now’s the time to check him out.

Discography (courtesy Wikipedia):

* Bunky & Jake: L.A.M.F. (1969)
* Music: s/t (1970, re-released as “Buzzy Linhart is Music)
* Carly Simon: s/t (1971)
* Papa John Creach: s/t (1971)
* Giants: (recorded 1971, released 1978)
* Santana: Caravanserai (1972)
* Betty Davis: Betty Davis (1973)
* John McLaughlin & Carlos Santana: Love Devotion Surrender (1973)
* Santana: Welcome (1973)
* Santana: Lotus (1974)
* Jose Chepito Areas: s/t (1974)
* Shigeru Suzuki: Bandwagon (1975)
* Lenny White: Venusian Summer (1975)
* Billy Cobham: Life & Times (1976)

Doug Rauch Appreciation Group on Facebook
Wikipedia article on Doug
Thread about Doug on the Talkbass forum

John McLaughlin and Doug

Tom Coster interview about Gabor Szabo where he talks a lot about Doug

11 thoughts on “Doug Rauch

  1. Hi,
    Nice site about Doug Rauch! I just watched him on a DVDr with Santana in Japan 73. If you want I can send you a copy. If you happen to have a cdr with Lenny White’s (whom I heard live in Köln this spring) Venusian summer, I’d love to have a copy.

  2. …I was hanging out at the Paisley Penguin in mid to late 1972,which is where Santana was rehearsing the band to prepare for the release of “Caravanserai”…the band rehearsed an average of seven to eight hours a day,five days a week during this period…I heard Doug for the first time then…

    …I remember the day the test pressings of the new record were delivered to the Penguin…I took them to an upstairs living quarters where there was a stereo,and we all had a good listen…I’d heard the tunes live,but never the recording and I wanted a copy then and there,but Carlos wouldn’t give me one…

    …Doug’s playing could be thunderous,as well as gentle and melodic,and he was very respected by the other players…funnily enough,I met Bobby Vega a few years later,and he reminded me of Doug in a way,given his right hand slap technique and overall feel…

  3. I am so happy to see this information on Doug. He was for sure one of my inspirations as I was starting to play in the early eighties and have heard most of his playing then. I was sad to know that he died so young, but his sense of groove will forever stay in my mind and heart. He sounded so good on the Caravanserai, Love , Devotion and Surrender and the recording by Betty Davis. I do hope that more people will become aware of this great bassist who was inspirational to us all. Peace and love, Jamaaladeen Tacuma. ps Any music, dvds of Doug please let me know.

  4. Pingback: What Doug Did: A Retrospective on Doug Rauch

  5. Santana’s ‘Caravanserai’ was my first ‘instigator’ to want to play guitar. Now that I’ve learned more about his backing band, Doug Rauch’s playing is now what I listen for on that album! Amazing and unique playing for sure. Please keep me posted of any new updates on Doug. I live in San Francisco, CA, where D.R. spent lots of time and also, unfortunately, where he passed on. Interesting to be in the place where all this music happened! Keep up the good work and thanks for the posts and articles.

  6. In the late ‘60’s thru to ‘73, Santana rehearsed at the Paisley Penguin which was at 2249 Fillmore St. , quite literally next to the Clay Theater ( the building that housed the Penguin was razed years ago and a new building was constructed in its place ).
    I was 18 and hanging out there because of my musical relationship with an early mentor, Billy Roberts ( composer of Hey Joe ).
    I was around when the band rehearsed the live presentation of the new Santana recording, Caravanserai.
    I was there practically every day for the 2 months they spent rehearsing for their 1st show which was at Winterland, so I heard and saw Doug a lot, even during a rehearsal with Betty Davis.
    He was very un-rockstar like personality, and any exchanges I had with him were pleasant.
    There were so many things to tell about those days, but there isn’t enough space here.
    (Bobby Vega is another bass player that played that up and down style, and he’s still around and playing well.)

  7. Thank you for giving informations and sharing your love for this extraordinary musician.
    I remarked him for the first time in Caravanserai’s Santana album, and in particular, All the love of the universe.
    I said to myself, wow what a great bass player!
    Who is that guy?
    Peace, love and understanding.

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