“Wooly Bully” by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs: Greatest song of all time of the week
The back cover of the glorious compilation Best of Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs, which I am unable to locate online, portrays four strangely attired people running around a tree. They don’t seem to know why they are doing this, but they are enjoying themselves immensely, and seem committed to continuing the action until they fall down. This is an ideal image for understanding the band.
Sam the Sham, whose real name is Domingo Samudio, is a Dallas-born crazy (last we heard he was a street preacher and motivational speaker working out of Memphis) who loved raunchy, laconic rock and roll of the most giddily mindless variety, and his sidemen—Ray Stinnet, David Martin, Jerry Patterson, and Butch Gibson—were consistently able to carry him to a demented part of frat-rock heaven. They recorded briefly for something called Dingo Records and then moved to MGM.
Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs are best known for their pair of Number Two smashes, “Wooly Bully,” a masterwork of indecipherability that made “Louie Louie” sound like an enunciation class, and “Li’l Red Riding Hood,” a hormone-laced fairy tale with a happy ending. If you’re guessing an enormous Kingsmen influence on these organ-heavy folks, you’re right. Hits aside, the modest gifts of the band were surprisingly malleable, as showcased on charming, wacked-out cuts like “The Hair on My Chinny Chin Chin,” “El Toro de Goro (The Peace Loving Bull),” and “(I’m in With) The Out Crowd.” All these songs were defiantly insubstantial, and all held out deep meanings to those with the right bent.
Historical note: Every cut on The Best of Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs was produced by legendary Sun Records sideman and sometime Elvis Presley composer Stan Kesler. You go figure the connection.
How much fun is this nonsense? Even a lipsynched version of “Wooly Bully” will improve your day:
Alas, this is one of the most-covered numbers ever:
And I do mean alas: