Gary James' Interview With
Sam The Sham




Domingo Samudio, better known as Sam The Sham, enjoyed a big hit record with a song called "Wooly Bully", a song that sold over three million copies in the U.S. and Europe. Other hits followed, including "Juju Hand", "Oh That's Good, No That's Bad", and "Lil Red Riding Hood". Along the way Sam The Sham even made an appearance on the top-rated television show, The Ed Sullivan Show. We spoke with Sam about the history of Sam The Sham And The Pharaohs.

Q - I've heard this story for years that you were in Syracuse, New York in the early 1960s and you were trying to record "Wooly Bully". You approached the owner of Riposo Studios, Tony Riposo, and offered him a percentage of future sales of the record instead of having to pay for studio time. He turned you down and later calculated he lost two million dollars. Is that story true?

A - I never heard of him. (laughs) I mean, what is it? Success has a thousand fathers. Failure is a bastard. (laughs)

Q - Where then did you record "Wooly Bully"?

A - I recorded it in Sam Phillips recording studios on Madison, his new studio. Not the old Sun Records Studio, but the new one. I recorded it in 1963, in November. Then I think it was released nationally in April or some time like that in 1965 by M.G.M.

Q - You lost some guys in The Pharoahs, didn't you?

A - Yeah. David Martin and Billy Bennett. You gotta keep moving. They're fallin' all around you. (laughs) Hey man, that's one appointment we're all gonna keep. Those who are afraid to die are usually those who are afraid to live.

Q - I like your attitude!

A - When it comes to me, I like to be on my feet, smiling and it'll have to be God who tells me, "Sam, it's alright. I sent for you." Otherwise I'm gonna put up the best fight I have left in me.

Q - Did you ever work Jack Ruby's Carousel Club in Dallas?

A - No. I spoke to Jack Ruby. I'm from Dallas and we worked around the corner at one point at the Maverick when we first started.

Q - What street was the Maverick on?

A - Akard. That was in 1962 maybe. He had helped, to my knowledge as he told me, he had helped Trini Lopez to get on Reprise (Records). I know Trini. We'd gone to high school together. When we had a record in 1963 that we recorded in Memphis, an old Johnny Fuller tune that had been released on Speciality in the '50s, the name of that song was "Haunted House", years later we did a cover on it. In '63 we pooled our money together and went into Fernwood Studios and got some time and recorded "Haunted House" on one side. Maybe before that we recorded "Betty and Dupree", an old Chuck Willis number also from the '50s.

Q - How does Jack Ruby fit into the picture?

A - I don't remember if he fit into that one or the one afterwards. But we were trying to get air play and distribution and all kinds of help. Someone recorded it on the Sun label. Another musician had heard us singing it. They were not familiar with that song. I even gave them the words to it. Then it was us against the world. We were just the band pooling our money together.

Q - Did you approach Jack Ruby because you were interested in playing his Carousel Club?

A - No. I asked him because he had known some people in Dallas and Las Vegas and had known some people at Reprise and we were trying to get distribution. That's the only time I spoke to him.

Q - How did you find Jack Ruby to be?

A - It was just a phone conversation. You know how that goes. Nobody knows the future. That was my only conversation with him, but we couldn't get any help from him. I think that was on "Haunted House" that we did that.

Q - You were in the Navy.

A - Yeah.

Q - How did being in the Navy help you when it came time to put a Rock band together?

A - I didn't have any trouble in the military. It was like a McHale's Navy experience. I grew up in a very disciplined family. My mother had passed away when I was three and a half years old, four maybe. My father raised three of us. So it was a no nonsense family. We had fun. We didn't know we were poor. (laughs)

Q - When you lose a parent at an early age, it affects you in a way that it drives you to succeed.

A - Well, I don't know about anybody else, but the only thing I can figure, and I don't have a college degree or a degree in social behavior or psychology, but I do have a third degree that I got along the way, (laughs) from my life in Rock 'n' Roll. The only thing I can figure is when something that traumatic happens at an early age, you re-play it. You continually re-play it in your mind because it's so traumatic and you reach for every detail during that time of your life when you were close to the individual that has passed away. You keep re-visiting that for strength.

Q - Do you do that to this day?

A - No. I'm working on a book and have been, but no, it helps you because I've known children since then who have lost their parents and it's not like someone who doesn't know. I tell them, "Look, God must think you're pretty strong to let this come your way. He must have something really special for you. You're going through your trouble right now. That's one bridge you'll have to cross in the future." I've dealt with a lot of kids who get angry and say, "You don't know the future, so you don't know why this came our way." I don't know. Life is not for the faint-hearted. What I say to people is "Rock 'n' Roll and getting old are not for the faint-hearted."

Q - Rock 'n' Roll is a tough business.

A - Piece of cake. Sometimes it's upside down cake. Sometimes it's crumb cake. Sometimes it's hot cakes (laughs) Sometimes it's ice box cake, but it's always cake.

Q - You must like to cook.

A - I can cook. Not having had a mother, you learn to cook. You learn to sew. You learn to iron. You learn to wash. My father didn't pull any punches. I can remember vividly to this day what the day was like when she died, what time of the day it was. It was about sundown, evening. It was still daylight. I remember my father coming out of the emergency room and calling us together on the concrete bench. Back then, kids couldn't go into hospitals. So he sat down and said, "Your mother's dead, kids. It's gonna be tough, but we're gonna make it." So he sat there and he cried.

Q - Did you all cry?

A - All of us cried. I learned one thing from my father, men cry. This was the second hard blow that he had 'cause his mother had died when he was about fifteen and he had to raise two brothers and a sister and take care of an epileptic grandfather. He didn't suffer from epilepsy, but as I've grown older and my brother became a surgeon, we assumed he had suffered from a fall. I remember my grandfather telling me when I was around ten or eleven that he had fallen from a barn and since then he had had these attacks. It was probably a blood clot that would pass through his brain from time to time and throw him into seizures. But my father had to care for him. When everybody got married and grown then he got married and had to go through it again.

Q - That's too bad. That is tragedy.

A - You reckon?

Q - Absolutely.

A - You can look at the glass half empty or half full. I hate to hear whining. It's sad, yes, but the good thing about it is you can get bitter or you can get better. There's no panic in Heaven. God knows what's gonna happen before it happens.

Q - How did you get this name Sam The Sham? Did a band member introduce you as that on stage?

A - Well, back then I had emceed before. When I was in the Navy I used to work clubs, moonlighting as an emcee. So you have to be quick on your feet and introduce the band, do all of that. I learned that and shamming, where you're cutting up, show timing. You call that shamming. That's what I did. I was fronting the band, the group The Pharaohs that we organized in Texas. This musician was calling me The Sham because I could only chord on the organ, you know? I played it as a rhythm instrument as opposed to a lead instrument, but it was a unique rhythm. They can call me whatever they want to, it's what you do with what they call you.

Q - Who came up with the Arabian costumes you wore?

A - Well, we were known as The Pharaohs. It was after The Night Riders that I used the name again for the band, but by this time it was Sam The Sham And The Pharaohs. See how that goes? We were always doing something, working six hours a night, you do something to break the monotony. We were always into doing things like that. When we were in The Night Riders, on one occasion we were going to play at the Officer's Club at Fort Polk. So we went to check out the club before we went down there. So as a spoof, I dressed in fatigues and put on a garrison cap and lit a cigar and sat in the back seat of the car. The band leader was chauffeuring me as we went to the gate. (laughs) I looked like Fidel Castro and when we came up to the gate, the band leader then was Andy, and driving. And of course the guard at the gate challenged us. He said, "Where are you going?" It was daylight. The driver said, "We're going to the officer's club." He said, "Do you have any I.D.?" Then he looked in the back seat and he was startled because I looked like Castro. He stepped back and put his hand on his pistol and he said, "Do you have any I.D.?" And I pretended I didn't understand him. I asked Andy, "What is he saying?" I asked him in Spanish, and the guy really got nervous. He said, "Stay right there," and he backed away from the car to the guard house and got on the phone. Anyway, they sent us to the Provost Marshall and we got it straightened out, but we were always doing things like that.

Q - At one point the band was traveling around in a hearse, weren't you?

A - Right.

Q - That must've been strange. You have a band pull into a town for a gig in a hearse.

A - That was in 1963 as well. That was before vans. Vans had not been designed yet. They only had panel trucks and station wagons. So, we couldn't afford that. I asked the club owner that we were working for in Memphis if he knew where we could get a hearse economically. So he found me one. It was a Packard Straight Eight, eighteen inch wheel base with the curtains in it. So the organ would fit in the back of it with the Leslie and the drums and it was real convenient 'cause if we were going somewhere we'd draw the curtains and turn the lights on and it made it look like a funeral. Back then people had a little respect and they'd get out of the way and we'd drive through. So, we saved a lot of time. (laughs)

Q - The fun days!

A - I don't know. I fell out of that one doing 63 miles and hour on a Texas highway. It almost killed me.

Q - The not-so-fun days!

A - Well, (laughs) I mean I survived! I don't know. When you talk about it, it seems like a distant dream or somebody else's story. That said, we were on the hunt. You know what that means?

Q - Sorry, I don't. Does it mean you were looking for success?

A - Right. We were in pursuit. There was a sense and we could feel it that someone else was gonna break out of the herd like Elvis Presley or Chuck Berry had. You know what I'm saying? Something phenomenal, someone was going to break out and do something phenomenal and we could sense that. We were trying to be that and we were super disappointed when The Beatles beat everybody to it.

Q - Because they were from England?

A - Well, I didn't have anything against England. It's just that they were from the Delta. We're from Memphis. Memphis is the birth (place) of the Blues. Home of the Blues and the birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll. So when that happened we were really disheartened. We'd already been covered twice on things that we had produced ourselves.

Q - Did you know that Dick Clark worked at a local radio station called WOLF Radio in 1949, for a dollar an hour? Syracuse, New York doesn't get recognition for someone like Dick Clark who played such an important role in Rock 'n' Roll.

A - But that's okay 'cause "Wooly Bully" was the first American produced record, so I've been told, and figures have verified, that "Wooly Bully" in 1965 sold three and a half million copies in the States alone, in a year. Supposedly "Wooly Bully" is the first American produced record to sell a million during the onslaught of the British groups.

Q - How many copies has "Wooly Bully" sold to date?

A - I have no idea. It's been in close to forty movies.

Q - It's out there, you hear it all the time.

A - It's out there. What can I say?

Q - What was "Wooly Bully" about anyway? Was that about a pet cat?

A - No. People make up all kinds of stories when they don't have the right answers. There was a saying around here, when anybody did good it's like "Wooly Bully for you," like "big deal." So that was all nonsensical.

Q - Was it hard to get MGM Records to sign you? How many record companies did you talk to prior to MGM?

A - London was talking to us. I think Decca or somebody, but Jim Vino got the deal together with MGM. Jim Vino was in Nashville and MGM picked it up when Nassiter was President, but we had finally gotten some help. We had been covered twice before that and that was really disheartening.

Q - Who was your manager and who was you agent?

A - We didn't have an agent. We were a group on XL Records. It was originally released on XL Records. It was a management group and I'd rather not go into that, boy. (laughs) Don't get me started. (laughs)

Q - How did life change for you when "Wooly Bully" became such a big hit?

A - What I'm about to tell you, you might not believe, but it doesn't matter. The people that we were with; we were primarily an R&B and Blues band when we came to Memphis. I have a recording of our 'live' performance at The Congo Club on Louisiana Highway 171 in 1963. That was our area. In other words, that was the type of music that we played. We played early Bobby Blue Bland, Johnny Copeland, Earl King, Jimmy Reed. The bass player that passed away, David Martin, had already been in the service himself and so had Andy. We had already been in the service and we were after Gold. David Martin had already worked with a group named Tommy And The Tom Toms at a club named Guthrie's in Dallas where all the R&B acts came. He had toured backing Chuck Berry, backing Jimmy Reed, backing The Drifters, all those folks, and the club hit back Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker. He had been the house band when they came in to perform. So he was well acquainted with the R&B thing. See, we were all R&B oriented. So when we came here we played in a club. We were R&B. Memphis was doing either Willie Mitchell or Bill Black type stuff or Rock-a-billy. The flip song on "Betty And Dupree", I did a thing with a double shuffle a la John Lee Hooker called "Manchild". We got covered on "Betty And Dupree". That's when I fell out of the hearse driving all over the country, all over the South trying to find a distributor. But then we covered a Bobby Blue Bland tune from years past called "How Does A Cheatin' Woman Feel?" and you get an idea of what our Blues thing sounded like. When we went to record with this group that had been watching us and had asked us if we wanted to give it a shot with them backing us, they gave us these songs that were kind of hokey, like "Signify" and "Monkey" and stuff like that. We were really not into that. Finally one night I said, "Look, this is not us." So the producer said, "Well, do you have anything?" I said, "We have a rhythm that we play." He said, "Do you have any lyrics to it?" I said, "I'll make some up." That's one way we used to break up the monotony in the club. I'd just tell the band to kick off something in any kind of rhythm and I'd make songs as I went along.

Q - Well now, that's different.

A - Yeah. That's what I do right out of the blue.

Q - When "Wooly Bully" hit, who did you tour with? Were you the headliner?

A - No. We used to open for The Beach Boys. We did a lot of dates with The Beach Boys. Then we did multiple dates with different people. We did some different dates with Peter Asher and Gordon Waller, Peter And Gordon. That was it. We did the Steel Pier in Atlantic City. We did the White Sox Stadium, Wrigley Field in Chicago. We did Pasadena with Sonny Bono and Cher. We did some dates with James Brown. So, that's what we did. When we told them to let us record something that we liked and we did it. When we got through recording it, we did it in three takes ("Wooly Bully") and all three of them were different and made the lyrics up as we went along on a three track machine where you had to play it right, all at the same time. When we got through with that we said to the producer, "Put a label on that and watch it go." It wasn't arrogance. I mean, we were playing six hours a night in clubs so we knew what people were dancing to.

Q - What was it like to do The Ed Sullivan Show?

A - It was alright. We were standing around, waiting to go on. You've probably heard that story. I've told it before. There was a group of forty or fifty Fiji Islanders in grass skirts, their native dress, and they were gonna do a native dance. We were all standing backstage. A couple of 'em approached me through an interpreter and asked what I was there to do. I said, "We're gonna do "Wooly Bully". They said, "What is it you do?" I said, "We're here to sing Wooly Bully." When we said that, their faces lit up. It was like a Tarzan movie. They were singing "Wooly Bully, Wooly Bully." (laughs) I turned to my friend David Martin and I said, "Looks like we've done it David. They heard about us in Fiji." I guess that's it.

Q - What did you think of Joan Jett's version of "Wooly Bully"?

A - Any way they play it, I like it. (laughs) How can you mess it up? What do you think about it?

Q - She did a good job with it.

A - Of course.

Q - She did it her way and it was nice of her to revive it.

A - Oh, man.

Q - Sixteen years after you released it.

A - That's great. What do they say? Imitation is...

Q - The sincerest form of flattery.

A - Yeah.

Q - She didn't imitate you, she did it Joan Jett style.

A - But that's the sign of a good song. Not everybody's gonna sing Chuck Berry like Chuck Berry, but a lot of people are gonna sing it. It's kind of like a tribute to Chuck Berry and the enjoyment. Our's was a garage band. Our's was a fun band. It was during a troubled time in our nation when people were protesting the Vietnam War and all of that. I had already been in the Service and I could see what the guys in the Service were going through. They were really sincere in serving their nation. They had been raised not to rebel, serve your country when your country calls. They were caught in the middle and left in the cold. Men would come to me and say, "Man, my number's up. What do you think I oughta do?" I said, "Well, no one can answer that but you. Whatever decision you make, you're gonna have to live with the rest of your lives. That's not anything anybody can answer for you."

Q - At the height of your success with "Wooly Bully", the guys in the original Pharaohs come to you and say they want to play a more British style of music. So, they wanted to sound like The Beatles and The Stones?

A - Right.

Q - So they quite and you had to hire a whole new band. You guys had your own sound to begin with.

A - I hope you don't mis-quote me or mis-understand me in what I'm about to say and I say this sincerely. I'm as sincere as this individual who came up here on Highway 61 from Louisiana, the artery of music traveled by greater men then I, if I'm ever that. See, what I'm saying is how in the world can you out-Beatle The Beatles?

Q - You can't.

A - That's right. You can't. I've toured in England. I didn't do the elite tour. As a matter of fact, we had a crash in the band truck. Flipped the band truck over there. One of those Roy Tempest tours. I love the people. I love it all, but the thing is, when it came to going to New York, I remember when we landed on the tarmac our hearse was there to pick us up, our new hearse. We had a flower coach, a Pontiac which is really a doozie. It's the one that's on the cover of of one of the albums, on the back. The paparazzi asked us, "Do you concede to The Beatles?" My response was, "Of course not." My own band thought I was nuts. I mean, why should I concede to The Beatles?

Q - I don't understand that question. Every band has their own sound.

A - Right. I'm still writing and producing. I have about five albums in the can. I have some Blues that I have never released 'cause I got to a point in my life where I would not compromise any longer, but one keyboard player was here and he said, "I know you like so and so's playing better." And I said, "Answer this question for me, which is better on the spice rack, the basil or the cinnamon?" And he said, "What do you mean the basil or the cinnamon?" I said, "Or is the nutmeg better than both the basil and the cinnamon?" He said, "I feel like if I don't answer this question, what will happen?" I said, "The point I'm making is neither is greater than the others. It all depends or what you're cooking."

Q - You're right. It's all different.

A - But it's all the same.

Q - It's Rock 'n' Roll.

A - Right.

Q - It's Pop music.

A - It's music. What a dull diet it would be if all you ate was fish and chips.

Q - Or cheese burgers like Elvis used to eat.

A - Oh, man. I guess I like food. There's dining and there's wolfing. (laughs) And there's pigging out.

Q - When you're on the road, you're always in a hurry and you probably can't sit down and enjoy your food.

A - I remember that, but that was in the old days. Now I like to get to a gig a day ahead of time. You have to remember when we were at it we didn't have roadies. We didn't have vans.

Q - You probably didn't have a Road Manager either, did you?

A - We had a gofer, but that was later. He turned out to be, well, that's another chapter. (laughs)

Q - Did you have groupies?

A - I knew what had happened to many musicians. See, if you don't think big, you'll never be big. If you don't think classy, you'll never have class. Are you pondering that?

Q - I am. I'm trying to figure out how groupies fit the picture.

A - Well, okay. Here's the point. Freddie King used to say, "I came to play, not to stay." Musicians are always getting themselves into trouble with girls and women. How can you win? When I worked clubs, I sat in a storeroom or in the kitchen, completely out of the way. My rule to my musicians was I don't want you table-hopping or bumming drinks. If you're gonna be drunk on stage, you're in the wrong band. If you don't have any regard for yourself or the art that we're involved in, then you don't have any respect for the art.

Q - Did they follow your advice?

A - Yes. They learned the hard way. We played in Louisiana where things ran kind of wide open. (laughs) I had seen it 'cause I had been in beer joints since I was ten years old, or twelve or something like that. The thing about it is as a musician you can be mingling around in the crowd and somebody will say, "Hey man, my old lady wants to dance with you." How you gonna win? You say, "Well man, I don't dance." The next response is, "What, are you too good for my old lady?" If you dance, he'll come back and say, "I don't like the way you were holding my old lady."

Q - I guess the best approach is to pull a Frank Sinatra. Have those bodyguards!

A - Forget bodyguards. Couldn't afford 'em. If you don't think like a star, you'll never be a star.

Q - Did you ever run across Bobby Fuller in your travels?

A - No, I never did. I played old joints. I didn't play the high class stuff when I started in Texas.

Q - I don't think he did either. He moved onto Los Angeles.

A - We played a place, The Manhattan, a club in Dallas. That was back in the '60s. It had been real crazy in the '40s and '50s. It's just old road houses. I don't know, they weren't that bad. You just take care of business. Freddie King used to say, "I came to play, not to stay." And to that I added, "I'm gonna do my bit, then I'm on my way." If it sounds over dramatic or over-simplified...

Q - No. You're a guy taking care of business.

A - I used to tell my band, "If you want to get stoned, well let's don't play music. Let's not ruin the music by getting stoned. Let's not ruin the high by trying to play while we're stoned. My feeling was and still is, if you can't do it on a straight head you can't do it. All you'll stumble into is a groove that might sound good to you, and nobody can tell me about drugs. I went to the hospital and I don't tell a whole bunch of folks this, but this is in an interview and you've asked me some pointed questions and I'm giving you some candid answers. I almost lost the lower left lobe from running and gunning. You know what I'm saying?

Q - That's terrible.

A - Yeah, it's terrible. But that was after the fact, after "Wolly Bully" and I had made a deal and I decided to retire. I used to have a guaranteed salary. I made a second deal with MGM and I had a guaranteed salary. My cut of the deal was enough that I pro-rated it out over ten years. After that is when I said okay, now I'll get high. I got high. then I went low. Then I went to the hospital and I got out. You know what I'm saying?

Q - Life has been up and down for you.

A - Life is beautiful, but the thing is that you don't need to contaminate the art. I know I sound like an old fogie, but I've got nothing left to prove. I've got nothing to lose but my life and it's not my own to keep anyway.

Q - Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock And Roll calls your music "Tex-Mex." Is that you would describe it?

A - I don't care. I used to play Tex-Mex clubs, but the rhythm I guess you could break it down and it'd sound like a polka. Tex- Mex. Our whole thing was directed towards dancing, to put up such a block of sound and rhythm together. You know, there are a lot of musicians who get up on stage and they play together alone.

Q - Everybody wants to be a solo player.

A - Yeah. Everybody's playing a solo instead of playing together. Every band is like a marriage. The bass player, David and I loved each other. We had been through a lot together. I've been in bands with people that... one individual made me mad one time and I went out and found a snake and threw it in his bed. (laughs) Some people play it well being crazy. I was certified. (laughs) The point I'm making is you can have someone in the band, and everybody has a different personality, but you have this respect for each other's ability to play and together you can tap into the divine. What I'm about to say to you I believe you can understand, but I believe true musicians and artists will know what I'm saying out there. Not only musicians, but writers who dedicate themselves to the craft they're pursuing. There are times on a bandstand where you might be playing with people you couldn't stand to be around five minutes off stage, but for the sake of the art you play together and you play and tap into that divine occurrence. When that song finishes, even while you're playing you might be thinking man, if I died to this number it wouldn't matter. I've experienced something wonderful.

Q - At one point you left music to work in the offshore oil fields.

A - Correct.

Q - And in the late 1980s you were preaching on the streets of Memphis.

A - - Right.

Q - You don't do either one of those things today, do you?

A - Well, no. I left the water when my daughter was born, but I became a captain out there. I worked anonymously out there as a Rock 'n' Roller. You come to town, oh man, put 'em on a horse. Let's make him an honorary mayor. Give 'em a key. Give 'em this. It's always honorary something. The only thing sham about me is the name.

Q - I don't know how you made the adjustment, working in an oil field after having "Wooly Bully" become such a hit. And weren't you worried about injuring your fingers or your hands?

A - (laughs) I won a Grammy. I guess people; here's a classic phrase, they didn't understand me. (laughs) I think my sanity was in question because I had little tolerance. I guess my thinking was bad in a lot of things. The people that I worked with didn't know I was no-nonsense. I laughed and talked, but I didn't play. We're serious, we're serious. Let's do it, but I did some crazy things that made some people, executives, nervous. I won a Grammy for "Sam, Hard And Heavy". To me that's one of my favorite albums, but it only got an initial release on Atlantic. They dropped my contract. At that time I was riding a motorcycle. When I got the deal with Atlantic I ran into Ahmet Ertegun in a club, a pub or disco, whatever they call it in London. Freddie King and John Lee Hooker were over there touring too, but we were all standing around talking and a man came up to me and said, "Sam, Sam The Sham, I'm Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic. Are you signed up to anyone?" I said, "No." He says, "You don't have a contract with anybody?" I said, "No." He said, "Call me when you get to New York." It was that quick. He walked up and walked away. I mean I just turned around and went back to my drink. Freddie said, "Man, do you know who that was?" I said, "No." He said, "Man, that's Ahmet. Ahmet Ertegun with Atlantic Records." You have a lot of people play that game, "Hey, call me. Let's do lunch. Let's do this. Let's do that." Man, if you ain't for real, don't. But anyway, he said call him. But when I got back, my friend Zak Ligman called him and yeah, they wanted to talk. I went down there to do an album 'cause I wasn't doing anything at the time. I'd been going to acting school in New York City. I got on my motorcycle. I left New York, came to Memphis. Got my motorcycle and went to Dallas, up to Oklahoma, then all the way down to Miami to do the session. This was back in the '60s when things were kind of crazy. Anyway, I did that. I did that at Criteria. While I was doing that, in one studio right next door was Duane Allman and Derek And The Dominos. As a matter of fact, Duane came over and we were jamming one day. They were all down home boys. There was The Dixie Flyers. Duck Dunn was there. That's a great album. Anyway, I wrote the liner notes to that and won a Grammy on it.

Q - Did you ever meet Elvis? I think Elvis liked "Wooly Bully", didn't he?

A - I think so. I never heard. I know we had a mutual friend, George Klein.

Q - The d.j.

A - George used to come into the club I played, The Diplomat, when we first came to town. He came in one time and said, "You know what? Have you ever met Elvis?" I said, "No." He said, "Would you like to? Why don't you come up to the house? I told him about you," or words to that effect. George, to this day, is a good friend of mine. I never went. I thanked him for the invitation, but I never went. I know he must've been frustrated at times.

Q - You made a mistake there Sam. You should've gone up to see Elvis.

A - Well no, I don't think I did.

Q - He liked "Wooly Bully". You could have met him, shook hands with him.

A - I guess that's why I didn't go, because I did respect him.

Q - Okay, so why didn't you go?

A - Here's the thing. I never met the man. I got a telegram from him, we got a telegram from him when we did the movie Where The Boys Meet The Girls. He sent us a telegram, us being musically from Memphis. He congratulated us. I don't know where that telegram is today. I used to hear from people that had gone there that he'd be sitting there and all of a sudden he'd just get up and say, "Alright. Everybody get out of here. Get out of here!" Run everybody off. I can understand that to some degree. My thought on that, I've always been that way. I may be a dog, but I'm my own dog. Does that make sense?

Q - Why not go to meet Elvis, say "Nice to meet you." Shake his hand and say, "I've got to go. I got a recording session to go to." Don't wait for him to throw you out.

A - No, no, no. I mean, I loved his voice. Here again, don't misquote me here, I liked his voice. I don't know the man. I didn't know him, but I would imagine that he was so much more than what people knew him to be.

Q - As with every star.

A - Yes. So much more musically because you can hear his singing and you can hear the frustration of, "Okay, this makes money. Here, do another one of these movies. Do another one of these." The artist in him is clamoring to leap out. But you asked me why I would go back to the field. After having won a Grammy, people would talk to me. "Have you got any music?" I would come in with these songs and they'd say, "No, no, no Sam. Bring me another 'Wooly Bully', another 'Lil Red Riding Hood', another this, another that. Why did I go to the oil fields? 'Cause I got tired or games, shuckin' jive, bull crap, you know. Protect your hands, you stay alive. You do what you gotta do. I'm one of the guys that got tired of being pimped, but I had the guts to say I'm not afraid of work and it wasn't to go out and do some glory thing. I hired out anonymously 'cause I wanted to go back and re-visit reality.

Q - You're lucky you still have your hands and fingers.

A - There's no such thing as luck. There's blessings and cursings. Those who dance stay alive. Those who get clumsy fall off the edge.

Q - You have recordings. Will you be touring once again?

A - No. I'm just gonna share the music. I don't know. I may fall over dead after this interview, you know?

Q - I hope not!

A - I take it a day at a time. I won't give you what you want to hear 'cause I don't have anything to prove. That's for people who are hungry for fame and don't know who they are. I know who I am. I don't mind me. I used to not like me 'til I found everybody's just as rotten or worse. Then I see I'm not so bad. So, the game is always there if you want to play it. I remember a guy telling me, "Man, if you don't record for us you'll never sing again." I'll sing in the shower. I'll sing in the street. I'll sing on the street corner. I sing on the toilet, 'cause I'm a singer. That's what I do. Is that a good wrap?

Q - That's a good wrap.

A - See, pick out what you want and if you don't like it, can it all.


© Gary James. All rights reserved.


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