Sam the Sham

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Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs, 1965.

Domingo "Sam" Samudio (born February 28, 1937[1] Dallas, Texas), better known by his stage name Sam the Sham, is a retired American rock and roll singer. Sam the Sham was known for his camp robe and turban and hauling his equipment in a 1952 Packard hearse with maroon velvet curtains. As the front man for the Pharaohs, he sang on several Top 40 hits in the mid-1960s, notably the Billboard Hot 100 runners up "Wooly Bully" and "Li'l Red Riding Hood".

Early career[edit]

Samudio, who is of Basque/Apache descent[2], made his singing debut in second grade, representing his school in a radio broadcast. Later, he took up guitar and formed a group with friends, one of whom was Trini Lopez. After graduating from high school, Samudio joined the Navy, where he was known as "Big Sam." He lived in Panama for six years, until his discharge.

Back in the States, Samudio enrolled in college, studying voice at Arlington State College, now the University of Texas at Arlington.[3] "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."[4]

In Dallas in 1961, Sam formed "The Pharaohs," the name inspired from the costumes in Yul Brynner's portrayal as pharaoh in the 1956 film The Ten Commandments. The other members of "The Pharaohs" were Carl Miedke, Russell Fowler, Omar "Big Man” Lopez and Vincent Lopez (no relation to Omar). In 1962 the group made a record that did not sell. The Pharaohs disbanded in 1962.[5]

In May 1963, Vincent Lopez was playing for Andy and The Nightriders in Louisiana. When their organist quit, Sam joined. Andy and The Nightriders was Andy Anderson, David A. Martin, Vincent Lopez and Sam. The Nightriders became house band at The Congo Club near Leesville, Louisiana. It was here that Sam took the name Sam the Sham from a joke about his inability as a vocalist.[5]

In June 1963, The Nightriders headed for Memphis, Tennessee and became the house band at The Diplomat. In late summer 1963, Andy Anderson and Vincent Lopez left to return to Texas. Sam and David A. Martin replaced them with Jerry Patterson and Ray Stinnett and changed the name to "Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs." Shortly thereafter, the band added saxophonist Butch Gibson.

The breakthrough hit[edit]

After paying to record and press records to sell at gigs, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs wound up with the XL label in Memphis. There they recorded their first and biggest hit, "Wooly Bully", a song about Sam's cat, in late 1964.[6] Once MGM picked up the record, "Wooly Bully" ended up selling 3 million copies and reaching No. 2 on the Hot 100 on 5 June 1965 at a time when American pop music charts were dominated by the British Invasion. It was awarded a gold disc.[7]

Although "Wooly Bully" never reached #1, it lingered on the Hot 100 for 18 weeks, the most weeks for any single within the calendar year 1965, 14 of which were in the Top 40. The record achieved the distinction of becoming the first Billboard "Number One Record of the Year" not to have topped a weekly Hot 100 and remained the only one for 35 years until Faith Hill's "Breathe" and Lifehouse's "Hanging by a Moment" in 2000 and 2001, respectively.[8]

Further successes[edit]

The Pharaohs' next releases – "Ju Ju Hand" (#26 US) (#31 Can.) and "Ring Dang Doo"- were minor successes. In late 1965, 11 months after "Wooly Bully", David A. Martin, Jerry Patterson, Ray Stinnett, and Butch Gibson left over a financial dispute. Sam's manager, Leonard Stogel, discovered Tony Gee & The Gypsys at the Metropole Cafe in Times Square, New York City. The band were Tony "Butch" Gerace (bass guitar and vocals), Frankie Carabetta (keyboards, saxophone and vocals), Billy Bennett (drums and percussion), and Andy Kuha (guitar and vocals). This new set of Pharaohs recorded "Li'l Red Riding Hood". On the Hot 100, "Lil' Red Riding Hood" began its two-week peak at #2 the week of August 6, 1966, just as another fairy tale title, "The Pied Piper" by Crispian St. Peters, was ending its three-week peak at #4. The track did even better by Cash Box Magazine's reckoning, reaching #1 the same week. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.[7] It also reached #2 on the Canadian RPM Magazine charts August 22, 1966.

A series of mostly novelty tunes followed, all on the MGM label, keeping the group on the charts into 1967. Titles included "The Hair On My Chinny Chin Chin" (US #22, Canadian #13), "How Do You Catch A Girl" (US #27, Canadian #12), "I Couldn't Spell !!*@!", and the rather confusing lyrics of "Oh That's Good, No That's Bad" (US #54).

Post-hit career[edit]

In late 1966, three girls, Fran Curcio, Lorraine Gennaro, and Jane Anderson, joined as The Shamettes. The group traveled to Asia as Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs and The Shamettes and released the album titled The Sam the Sham Revue, which was originally to be titled Nefertiti by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs (which is printed on the inside record labels). Sam also released a solo album in late 1967 titled Ten of Pentacles. In 1970, Samudio went on his own and in 1971 issued an Atlantic album called Sam, Hard and Heavy that won the Grammy Award for Best Album Notes in 1972. The album featured Duane Allman on guitar, the Dixie Flyers and the Memphis Horns. He formed a new band in 1974. In the late 1970s he worked with baritone saxophonist Joe Sunseri and his band based out of New Orleans. The early 1980s found Sam working with Ry Cooder and Freddy Fender on the soundtrack for the Jack Nicholson film The Border.

Sam married Louise Smith on August 28, 1959 in Dallas, Texas. They had one son named Dimitrius Samudio, born on May 28, 1963, in Dallas. They divorced on May 16, 1968, in Dallas.

After leaving the music business, Sam worked in Mexico as an interpreter and as a mate on small commercial boats in the Gulf of Mexico.[9]

Sam later became a motivational speaker and poet and still makes occasional concert appearances. He was inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2016.



As Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs[10]

  • Wooly Bully (May 1965) MGM E (Mono)/SE (Stereo) 4297
  • Their Second Album (November 1965) MGM E/SE 4314
  • On Tour (March 1966) MGM E/SE 4347
  • Li'l Red Riding Hood (July 1966) MGM E/SE 4407
  • The Best of Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs (February 1967) MGM SE 4422
  • The Sam the Sham Revue [titled "Nefertiti" in Canada] (October 1967) MGM E/SE 4479
  • Pharoahization: The Best of Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs (1985) Rhino 122

As Sam the Sham

  • Ten of Pentacles [inside labels read "The 10 of Penticles" by Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs (February 1968) MGM E/SE 4526
  • Won't Be Long (1994) Samara Productions, Inc. SAM002A

As Sam Samudio

As Sam and Charity

  • Running with the Rabbits (1983)


As Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs

Year Titles (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
Peak chart positions Album
US Hot 100 US R&B CAN UK
1965 "Wooly Bully"
b/w "Ain't Gonna Move" (Non-album track)
2 31 2 11 Wooly Bully
"Ju Ju Hand"
b/w "Big City Lights" (from On Tour)
26 - 31 - Their Second Album
"Ring Dang Doo"
b/w "Don't Try It" (Non-album track)
33 - - - On Tour
1966 "Red Hot"
b/w "A Long, Long Way" (Non-album track)
82 - - -
"Li'l Red Riding Hood"
b/w "Love Me Like Before" (Non-album track)
2 - 2 46 Li'l Red Riding Hood
"The Hair On My Chinny Chin Chin"
b/w "(I'm In With) The Out Crowd"
22 - 13 - The Best Of Sam The Sham and The Pharaohs
"How Do You Catch A Girl"
b/w "The Love You Left Behind"
27 - 12 - Non-album tracks
1967 "Oh That's Good, No That's Bad"
b/w "Take What You Can Get"
54 - - -
"Black Sheep"
b/w "My Day's Gonna Come"
68 - - - The Sam The Sham Revue
1968 "Old MacDonald Had A Boogaloo Farm"
b/w "I Never Had No One" (Non-album track)
- - - - Ten Of Pentacles
1969 "Wooly Bully"
b/w "Ain't Gonna Move" (Non-album track)
Re-release with standard MGM catalog number (14021)
- - - - Wooly Bully

As Sam the Sham

Year Titles (A-side, B-side) US Hot 100 Album
1963 "Betty and Dupree"
b/e "Man Child"
- Non-album tracks
1964 "The Signafyin' Monkey"
b/w "Juimonos (Let's Went)"
"Haunted House"
b/w "How Does A Cheating Woman Feel"
1967 "Banned In Boston"
b/w "Money's My Problem"
"Yakety Yak"
b/w "Let Our Love Light Shine" (Non-album track)
- Ten Of Pentacles
1968 "I Couldn't Spell !!*@!"
b/w "The Down Home Strut" (from Ten Of Pentacles)
- Non-album track
1970 "Key To The Highway"
b/w "Me and Bobby McGee" (Non-album track)
As Sam Samudio
- Sam, Hard and Heavy
1973 "Fate"
b/w "Oh Lo"
- Non-album tracks
1977 "The Wookie, Part I"
b/w Part II
1978 "Ain't No Lie"
b/w "Baby, You Got It"


  1. ^
  3. ^ Rosson, Chester (September 2001). "Sam the Sham". Texas Monthly.
  4. ^ Sam The Sham. Retrieved on 2012-04-24.
  5. ^ a b "Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-05-23.
  6. ^ Pore-Lee-Dunn Productions. "Sam The Sham". Retrieved 2012-01-08.
  7. ^ a b Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 196 & 212. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  8. ^ However, p. 34 of the 24 December 1966 edition of Billboard shows The Mamas & the Papas' "California Dreamin'", which peaked at #4, matching that distinction, meaning that Faith Hill and Lifehouse would be the third and fourth acts, respectively, to match that distinction.
  9. ^ "Look Who We Found...Sam The Sham". Los Angeles Times. 8 September 1991. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  10. ^
  11. ^

External links[edit]