Sam the Sham And The Pharaohs





Domingo Samudio was born near Dallas Texas to a Spanish speaking couple of Mexican decent. He made his singing debut while still in second grade, representing his school in a live radio broadcast. Later, he took up guitar and formed a highschool group with some friends, one of whom was Trini Lopez, who would later have several hit records of his own. After graduation, Samudio joined the navy and lived in Panama for six years, until his discharge in 1962.

Back in the States, Domingo enrolled at the University of Texas in Arlington and took courses in music history. "I was studying classical in the daytime and playing rock and roll at night" he recalled. "That lasted about two years, before I dropped out and became a carny."

The carnival life didn't last and Domingo returned to rock and roll. Hocking everything he had, he bought an organ and three days later, accepted a job with a band called "Andy and the Night Riders" in Louisiana." We became a popular roadhouse band," says Domingo,"playing mostly gun and knife clubs."

When leader Andy Anderson left the group a short time later, Domingo took control of the band, and decided to re-name it. "By that time, everyone was calling me 'Sam', short for Samudio," said Domingo, "and what I was doing, fronting the band and cutting up was called 'shamming'. We got the rest of the name from the movie 'The Ten Commandments'. Old Ramses, the King of Egypt, looked pretty cool, so we decided to become The Pharaohs."

The band got the chance to record, but their early efforts failed. In the summer of 1964, they went into the studio with a song that used the words "Hully Gully". When told by the record company that they couldn't use that phrase, Sam said, "OK, let's kick it off, and I'll make something up. "The name of my cat was 'Wooly Bully', so I started from there. The count down part of the song was also not planned. I was just goofing around and counted off in Tex-Mex. It just blew everybody away, and actually, I wanted it taken off the record. We did three takes, all of them different, and they took the first take and released it. It became the first American record to sell a million copies during the onslaught of the all the British groups."

The lyrics of "Wooly Bully" were hard to understand, and some radio stations banned it, fearing that the words were suggestive. They weren't of course, and the record went on to sell more than three million copies. It was nominated for a Grammy award and was named 'Record of the Year' by Billboard Magazine in 1965.

The lyrics to Wooly Bully actually were: (reprinted for educational purposes only)

Uno, dos, one, two, tres, quatro
Matty told Hatty about a thing she saw.
Had two big horns and a wooly jaw.
Wooly bully, wooly bully.
Wooly bully, wooly bully, wooly bully.
Hatty told Matty, "Let's don't take no chance.
Let's not be L-seven, come and learn to dance."
Wooly bully, wooly bully
Wooly bully, wooly bully, wooly bully.
Matty told Hatty, "That's the thing to do.
Get you someone really to pull the wool with you."
Wooly bully, wooly bully.
Wooly bully, wooly bully, wooly bully.

Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs toured the world and scored another huge hit in 1966 called "Little Red Riding Hood".

The third LP "Li'l Red Riding Hood" ushered in a change of personnel and a change in their musical direction. Travelling through New York, Sam recruited a band called the Gypsies to be the new Pharaohs. The line-up at this time consisted of Frank Carabetta, multi- instrumentalist; Tony Gerace, bass; Billy Bennett, drummer and a guitarist named Andrew Kuha.

Record company pressures to produce another formula hit single led to a period in which the group abandoned their hard rocking sound in favour of adaptations of nursery rhymes, cartoon characters, and other juvenile topics.

Personnel changes continued, and as the Sam The Sham Revue, Louis Vilardo of the original Gypsies replaced Billy Bennett on drums, and Ronnie (Spiderman) Jacobsen played bass. The group was augmented with a trio of female backup singers, Fran Curcio, Loraine Genero, and Jane Anderson known as The Shamettes. The Shamettes released a couple singles on their own, one being a novelty response to Li'l Red Riding Hood, called "(Hey There) Big Bad Wolf". It flopped miserably.

A series of mostly novelty tunes followed and kept the group on the charts into 1967. The titles of these songs included "Ju Ju Hand" (#26), "Ring Dang Doo" (#33), "The Hair On My Chinny Chin Chin"(#22), and "How Do You Catch A Girl".

By 1967 the music scene was changing and the music of Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs was no longer selling. In 1970, Sam went out on his own and issued an album called "Sam, Hard and Heavy", which featured slide guitarist Duane Allman.

1971, he released another blues-oriented LP under the name Sam Samudio, for which he won a Grammy award for Best Album Liner Notes.

Sam formed a new band in 1974 and continued touring. The early 80s found him working with Ry Cooder on the soundtrack for the film "The Border", starring Jack Nicholson.

Sam would go on to become a non-denominational bible teacher, in English and Spanish in a Federal institution. He would still perform the old songs, but only if he could do some of his Gospel tunes too. He described his Gospel music as "street Gospel". Original bassist, David Martin, who co-wrote "Wolly Bully", died of a heart attack on August 2nd, 1987 at the age of 50.

Sam continued to release albums into the 1990s including "Wired, Fired and Inspired" in 1993 and "Wont Be Long" in 1995. Sam gave a rare concert performance in an oldies show called The Legends of Rock and Roll at the Greek Theatre in Hollywood, California on October 5th, 1996, along with The Rivingtons, Dodie Stevens, The Orlons and Lou Christie.

As the new millennium rolled, around Sam continued to record new albums. "Ballads and Troubadors" came in 2000, "Rambler" was issued in 2001 and "The Complete Wooly Bully Years 1963-1968" was released in 2004. Three more collections were made available from Sam's website in 2011, "The Fredonia Collection", "The Blues Collection" and "Mirame (Look At Me)". Today, Sam is a motivational speaker and poet, and still makes occasional concert appearances, although no tours were listed on his website.