Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs: Woolly Bully

Every one knows Woolly Bully by Sam the Sham...

Mind you, I work these days with people who have never used a telephone dial, so I had better that everyone of a certain age knows Woolly Bully by Sam the Sham. But who is Sam the Sham and what is the song about?

The classicbands page for Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs tells all.

Domingo Samudio was born near Dallas Texas to a Spanish speaking couple of Mexican decent. After a varied early career he found himself the front man for a band:
"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
And it is ow wonder that those stations were confused:
The lyrics describe a conversation between "Hattie" and "Matty" concerning the American Bison and the desirability of developing dancing skills, although no attempt is made to synthesise these divergent topics.
So Woolly Bully was named after a cat and represents a TexMex interpretation by someone who looks like a refugee from Aladdin of Black rhythm and blues as reworked in 1960s Britain. I hope that is clear.

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