As the British Invasion was hitting its stride, it seemed like the American bands didn’t stand a chance on the charts until the unlikely release of “Wooly Bully” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs in 1965.
Sam, was born Domingo “Sam” Samudio, born in 1937 in Dallas, TX. His grandparents worked the Texas cotton fields after fleeing the Mexican Revolution. His music career started early playing with Trini Lopez in one of his early bands until he served in the Navy right out of high school. Upon his return stateside, he studied classical music at Arlington State College, Samudio recalled, He recalled: “I was studying classical in the daytime and playing rock and roll at night. That lasted about two years, before I dropped out and became a carny.”
Playing in Louisiana clubs, Sam inherited the “Sham” portion of his name because of his lack of singing ability.
In 1964, he recorded “Wooly Bully” with his group “Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs. The record was picked up by MGM and remained was the best selling record of 1965 and was on Billboard’s Top 100 for 18 weeks in 1965. It peaked at number 2 in the charts.
Wooly Bully was, in many cases the introduction to Spanish for English speaking kids as the song started with “Uno, dos, tres, “Uno, dos, one, two, tres, quatro”.
One of the great bar bets lies in Wooly Bully’s phrase “Let’s not be L-7, come and learn to dance.” Now, for those who haven’t a clue what that means, “L7” when formed with your index fingers and thumbs creates a square, thus, don’t be square.
Of course, no discussion of Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs would be complete without remembering the group’s other monster hit, “Li’l Red Riding Hood” that reached number two in 1966.
Later in his career, Sam released “Sam, Hard and Heavy in 1971 and worked with Freddie Fender on the soundtrack of Jack Nicholson’s film, “The Border.”
Wooly Bully – Sam the Sham and the Pharaos, 1965
Li’l Red Riding Hood – Sam the Sham and the Pharaos, 1966