Sam the Sham (aka Domingo “Sam” Zamudio, a Mexican-American out of Texas) and the Pharaohs burst on the music scene in the summer of 1965 with their monster hit Wooly Bully, the first American song to sell over a million copies during the British Invasion. As the story goes, Sam wanted to write a song that people could do the Hully Gully to, but there was already a song called Hully Gully so Sam changed it to his cat’s name: Wooly Bully. The song starts with perhaps the most famous count off in rock and roll history: Uno, dos, one two tres quatro, a bit of Tex Mex clowning around in the studio that was never intended to be part of the record. But the record label loved it so it stayed in over Sam’s objections.
There are several performances of Wooly Bully on YouTube but this is my favorite; I just love the energy of the dancers, especially the redhead right in front of Sam:
There’s one bit of great 60s slang in the lyrics: “let’s not be L-7s”. What’s an L-7, you may ask? Make an L with the fingers of your left hand and a 7 with your right. Now move them together. L-7 is a square, daddy-o!
The song was banned in many areas due to the somewhat garbled lyrics and potentially suggestive title. It went on to sell over 3 million copies so the bannings didn’t have much of an effect. Sam and the boys tried to follow up with a string of similar nonsense titled jams, all following the same template of Sam’s chugging organ riffs,repetetive sing along lyrics and a danceable fast tempo. Here’s Ed Sullivan giving the youngsters a little something with Ring Dang Doo. I love Ed making one of his characteristic flubs when he calls their last hit Hully Gully:
It’s nice to see that not everything was black and white back then, they actually did have color TV.
Sam finally had a real follow up hit in 1966 with Lil Red Riding Hood, a straightforward retelling of the myth from the point of view of a sexual predator.Unfortunately there’s only one vintage performance clip and it’s severely truncated:
Sam and the Pharaohs may not have had many hits but they were very active during the 60s, giving the go go girls something to dance to, as in this Bo Diddley beat rocker, the aptly titled Go Go Girl:
I mentioned the Hully Gully earlier and wondered what the dance look like. Well thanks to the World Famous Pontani Sisters, I no longer have to wonder.