What Doug Did: A Retrospective on Doug Rauch

Doug Rauch (14 September 1950 – 23 April 1979)

Doug RauchI’m a huge fan of Doug Rauch, a unique bassist who sadly was taken from us at a young age. He had a funky, bubbling, percolating style based on 16th notes which never failed to ignite the music. I wrote a blogpost about him and am always pleased (and a little satisfied) that it gets daily traffic which implies that there are people out there that love what Doug did and want to find out more. Only a few years ago there was little about him on the net and a few tireless souls have spent a good deal of time rectifying that.

Doug was active in music from 1969 until 1976 – an exciting and special time in popular music. Racial barriers were breaking down and funk was everywhere. This was a time when jazz fusion or jazz rock was an experiment rather than a genre. It was a time when Santana’s mainstream crowd roared their approval at a live gig on recognizing the opening strains of Miles Davis’ ëIn a Silent Way’. Can you imagine the equivalent of that today? It was a time with fewer boundaries.

Doug played his modified pre-CBS Fender Jazz in a unique and highly funky style. He was capable of laying down a solid fingerstyle Latin line as on Santana’s Lotus or playing funky lines with fast chromatic runs as on Billy Cobham’s Life and Times and Santana’s Welcome. 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.

Doug’s trademark Fender Jazz was heavily modified. It had an additional Gibson EB-pickup (a.k.a “mudbucker”) in the neck position anf the original jazz bass neck pickup was replaced with a P-bass pickup. There were a number of additional non-original knobs and switches. He also used a stock pre-CBS era Precision Bass for some of his work with Santana.

For me the greatest example of Doug’s animated funky grooving is on Lenny White’s Venusian Summer – outrageously out of print at the moment, this is one of the greatest fusion records made. The rhythm section of White, Rauch, Jimmy Smith (on some tracks) and Doug Rodrigues on guitar combine with the creative playing of guys like Hubert Laws, Larry Young, Onaje Allan Gumbs, David Sancious, Larry Coryell, Tom Harrell and others as well as early synthesiser stylings devised by the great Patrick Gleeson.

Rauch was born in New York and played in a number of bands there before moving to San Francisco, notably with Bunky and Jake, Buzzy Linhart and on a session with Carly Simon. He was part of the same Greenwich Village scene as Jimi Hendrix. Moving to the Bay Area at the invitation of Michael Shrieve, Rauch connected with Tom Coster (Santana, Vital Information) and they played together in the band Loading Zone, in Gabor Szabo’s band, and later in Santana. Rauch’s style fit perfectly with the Bay Area funk approach as typified by Sly and the Family Stone and Tower of Power.

Recordings from 1971 explicitly demonstrate this connection on the album Giants (finally released under the name of Greg Errico, the original drummer from Sly and the Family Stone, in 1978): a record that combines funk, Latin grooves and rock. It was intended as Santana founder member Michael Carabello’s solo album but abandoned. Errico recorded additional tracks in 1978 to complete the project. The record features Rauch and also Bobby Vega on fuzz bass (from the later recording) as well as a number of Santana members and musicians from the Bay Area scene of that time.

Doug Rauch played in Santana’s group in it’s most jazz influenced phase. This was vital and experimental music. Records like Caravanserai, Welcome and Lotus document a band at the height of their creative powers. There is a DVD of the band from this period available in Japan and that highlights the excitement this band could engender. Doug brought a love of the Mahvishnu Orchestra’s fusion to Santana’s sound.

Rauch also rehearsed with a version Tony Williams Lifetime that sadly never played live but did tour in 1975 with the Billy Cobham Group (featuring George Duke and a young John Scofield) that would go on to become better known with Alphonso Johnson on bass. A Cobham CD from this period (Life and Times) is an exciting document and there are live recordings from this period doing the rounds.

Rauch recorded with the fabulous Betty Davis (way ahead of her time and very influential on her husband Miles’ 70s recordings). He toured with David Bowie on the September leg of the Diamond Dogs tour, appearing in a documentary recorded at the time. Recordings from the tour show Rauch adding his own approach to Bowie’s classic songs. In 1975 he recorded with Shigeru Suzuki and played with Jan Hammer before drug problems led to his withdrawal from the scene, and he was replaced in Hammer’s band by Fernando Saunders.

John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana’s collaboration Love Devotion and Surrender features Doug Rauch’s playing. It’s a cathartic, intense record that also features Billy Cobham, Larry Young and others. There were live recordings of this band and a number of studio out-takes were also recorded. Most people will know Doug’s effervescent playing from Caravanserai though on tracks like Look up to See What’s Coming Down, even if they don’t know anything else about him.

Sad that Doug’s life was ended so early (at the age of 28) by drugs and depression. He was a great musical force – if you don’t know of him, now’s the time to check him out. Search him out on Youtube, buy a copy of Love Devotion and Surrender, Caravanserai, Welcome, Life and Times or Venusian Summer and be inspired!

Importantly, this article would not exist without the assistance of some huge fans of Doug’s music who have provided me with information, links, music and video over the years. Thank you Pekka Ranta, Stefan Lindblom and Ulrik Volgsten.

Doug Rauch 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 Links:


Jeff Berlin: “… another slap bass player who would have been as big as anybody, but who died unfortunately, named Doug Rauch. He played with Cobham. Astonishing bass player.”.

Tom Coster: “Doug Rauch was a unique person and a great bass player who definitely had his own thing happening. He was very colorful, to say the least. He was also a troubled man and had some things happen in his childhood that definitely affected his personality and his life in general. I loved him, and he left us much too early. I feel that Doug would have been one of the greatest of our time if he were still with us.”

Pino Palladino: “…Lenny White’s Venusian Summer [Nemperor], with the late Doug Rauche played some stinky funk that blew me away.”

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  1. http://www.mwe3.com/archive/pastfeature/feature

    Interview with Buzzy Linhart where he talks about Doug's early days in Greenwich Village.

  2. “Doug was always a sharp dresser and almost exclusively wore velvet suits with his red shades and huge afro. He was very cool. Kind of super cool, actually, with strong opinions about everything from music to cars (Citroen) to drinking water (Perrier)! Doug enjoyed a good relationship with Gregg Errico, the drummer from Sly and the Family Stone, and they did some recordings together with Michael Carabello’s group “Attitude.” Doug was a dear friend and a real inspiration. Unfortunately he got into heroin and eventually died of an overdose, which shocked and saddened us all. “

    -Michael Shrieve

  3. “Doug’s joining us also had to do with the fact that Carlos was really getting into John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra and so was Doug. He was really, really good at playing odd time signatures like that band did, and he utilized his thumb technique doing this as well. When we went into the studio to record “Caravanserai”, Doug brought in the song “Waves Within,” which was in 9/4, I believe. That song is an example of where Doug was going.”

    “Doug had a really unique way of playing. He was one of the first to play with the thumb and popping technique that was later made famous by Larry Graham and Stanley Clarke, and I think that Doug should be credited as the first to really develop that technique into a comprehensive playing style.”

    -Michael Shrieve

  4. Brian

    From another fellow low end player Mr. Doug Rauch doesnt get enough credit he was an amazing bass player and musician. hes right up there with John Paul Jones,Stanley Clarke,John Wetton,Paul Jackson and Roger Waters.

  5. Chris Comstock

    The last time I saw Doug play was on the early part of the Billy Cobham – George Duke tour before Alphonso Johnson sighned on. Amazing bass playing and unique technique with such ease like fusion from an alien planet! Doug would use his index finger to play percussive lines, harmonics and tapping notes to sustain them on top of a thumb bass line! Bass magic! I spoke to Lenny White about Doug later, but he disapeared. Thanks for site about a great musician.

  6. Bert P.

    Doug Rauch was plain and simple a ground breaker in the world of bass. I love his work with Santana and the Billy Cobham record Life & times with Scofield was awesome. So sad to hear of his passing.

  7. Bert P.

    Doug Rauch was plain and simple a ground breaker in the world of bass. I love his work with Santana and the Billy Cobham record Life & times with Scofield was awesome. So sad to hear of his passing.

  8. slow uncle

    I saw Doug play with the Billy Cobham Band in 1975 at the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach, Calif. Unbelievable & unforgettable, I still listen to Life & Times, Venusian Summer, Buzzy Linhart, and Doug’s work with Santana and marvel at his incredible artistry. A true original
    RIP, Doug

  9. randy rodrigues

    My brother doug rodrigues was very close with doug,having played with him in various projects(buzzy linhart,santana,etc)after high school,I traveled from new york to the west coast,and was lucky enough to pass thru san francisco,my brother arranged for me to stay a few nights with doug.he lived on filbert st.right next to coit tower, in a classic san fran appt.anyway I had already met doug in new york,my brother had him to our house many times.ill always remember doug as a very gentle warm soul,he welcomed me with open arms.we enjoyed listening to music and also watched some films on then the lastest piece of gear the sony beta max player I had never seen anything like it!and he had an advanced copy of the movie the excorcistt! He got it from a friend at warner bros.he also let me drive is car,a citreon/maserati! Pretty amazing with hydraulic suspension and all the goodies. Anyway it was some experience for an 18 year old kid from long island.I even met the guys from santana and tower of power.anyway ill never forget those days!doug was a great loss and hass been sorrely missed.

    • Thanks so much for posting that Randy. Doug Rauch was a key musician at a special time and seems to have been a great guy too. I’ve always been a big fan of your brother’s guitar playing – especially on Venusian Summer by Lenny White. What record do you think has the best example of your brother’s playing?

    • Ron Jackson

      I went to school in New York for years with Doug. I met both his mother and father. His mother (Nadine Brewer) sang with the Metropolitan Opera. I imagine he gained a love of music (all music) from some of her influences. We went to Elisabeth Irwin H.S. in Greenwhich Village. He didn’t do well at NYU, where he attended after graduation. However, he more than made up for his college setback as his incredible talent became evident in the Greenwhich Village music scene. He first introduced me to witnessing Hendrix playing with Buddy Guy at Steve Paul’s club The Scene. He will always be a part of my life and memories of a glorious time in the development of music. He was a gentle and kind soul that burned brightly but briefly, just like Jimi and so many others.

      • Michael

        Ron – it’s Michael G. here – your bandmate and friend from EI. I would love to hear from you (try me at [email protected]) The thing that blew my mind about Doug was how quickly he progressed as a musician. It seemed like he had just started playing guitar and, in the blink of an eye he was a professional. And, as many have noted here, he just kept on going…going…..and then he was gone…

      • Jason G.

        Hi Ron,

        Thank you for sharing this background on Doug. Doug’s innate knack for music makes more sense now that we know his mother was an opera singer! Many of us I’m sure have wondered about his upbringing and early years, before picking up the bass/guitar. Was his father or any siblings also musically inclined? I live in San Francisco, and often drive past many of the places he frequented. A great talent and spirit sorely missed! God bless, Jason G. San Francisco, CA.

  10. s t

    I saw doug play at the spectrum arena in philadelphia. He was before his time a great bass player. He was with santana at that time.

    • Sharif Abdullah

      I also saw him in that incarnation of the Santana band in Oct 1972…..amazing band ..I also had an afro and wore a purple velvet jacket like Doug..I enjoyed his playing and later became a bass player…. listening to Doug, Ron Carter, Stanley Clarke and Jack Pastorius…Doug and Jack are truly truly missed.

  11. From Pekka Ranta via Facebook:

    “John Scofield wrote me this about DR:

    “He was
    a great guy who died very young. I don’t remember exactly what his gear was but
    I think you’re right, a Fender Jazz with lots of modification and lights on the
    body!?…his amp rig used Crown( or McIntosh) power amps with Alembic stuff ..
    preamps maybe….I remember it lit up like a Christmas tree…his was the first
    system I ever saw that wasn’t a stock ” bass amp”
    Unfortunately drugs got the
    better of Dougie. I played with him in 76 and he died a few years later I
    think. What a tragic loss. If you find any pictures of that band let me know…
    maybe Bill Cobham has one.””

  12. Philip Wain

    Don’t seem to be able to see the comments anymore. Is it me or the page?

  13. One of the best! Every time I hear those fast funky lines I’m blown away. Doug had great feel and technique. No other bass player Santana had could match what he brought to the table. What a loss.

  14. Marvin Lateef

    Thank God Doug left us his music. One of the best 3 or 4 bass guitarists. So far ahead of his time … the loss is still staggering. Thanks for writing this article!

  15. Paco

    I have about 95% of the albums mentioned here. Saw him on at least one of the Santana tours.

  16. carlos carion

    I remember him, I lived in the east village (across the street from the electric circus) as a kid, homeless for a time, but made my way. my mistakes were all mine, but so were my successes. lied about my age, and worked three jobs. first child at 13. she is doing great. my mom was a singer. I went to school for filming and photo, but the music was waiting in the wings, so with 100,000 in debts from school, I persued vocals, percussion, guitar, and other instruments. I wen o Woodstock and he set n my history, michaels drumming was nothing short of miraculous, and I knew my path. no regrets for even one moment of it all

  17. Bernhard Günzel

    Wahnsinns-Bassist, den ich immer wieder mal intensiv in den Stücken verfolge, so z.B. in dem Song `Song of the wind` von Santana (einer seiner besten Stücke). Tolle Biographie! Bin 1961er Jahrgang und mit dieser Musik aufgewachsen und liebe solche Hintergrund-Infos! Weiter so!! Danke!

  18. Elliot Harris

    Fantastic info on the criminally underrated Mr.Rauch but u left out in the article, not sure of the listing of albums,his Fantastic work with The Voices of East Harlem.They were ,just like their name, young teenagers from Harlem who got on to the rock circuit and in fact were the opening band for The Band of Gypsies historic run at Fillmore East. There is also a movie called ” Soul to Soul” documentary about a music festival in Africa in 1971 at which Santana also preformed when Doug was in the Voices. This might be where he met Carlos, not sure.The movie was on dvd,luckily I have a copy and the Voices have a couple of tracks which are FANTASTIC and u can really hear Doug to great effect. Still trying to get the Lenny White album at a decent price.Don’t know if these ideas were presented in the notes by others but I think this is an important part of his legacy. Thanks for putting this together to keep Doug’s name of there…what a fantastic musician!!!!

  19. David Romero

    Doug Rauch is scary brilliant. How the heck did he get so good? So young. Unbelievable. I thought that he also played with the Voices of East Harlem very early in his career. I have to check out his work with all the above named artists, especially Betty Davis. I am listening to Caravanserai as I type this. What a player.

    • Sharif Abdullah

      Yes..he was a great bassist…I listened to him on 2 Santana LPS, Billy Cobham, Lenny White and Betty Davis..I saw him in 1972 with the Santana band ( Caravanserai tour).. he was hard to duplicate in playing…even Stanley Clarke acknowledged his greatness.

  20. Juan Nolasco Vera

    I’m still stunned at Doug Rauch departure from us all whom is still My favorite bass player up to now.”