Sam the Sham

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Sam the Sham
Sam the Sham (in turban), with The Pharaohs, 1965.
Sam the Sham (in turban), with The Pharaohs, 1965.
Background information
Birth nameDomingo Samudio
Born (1937-02-28) February 28, 1937 (age 84)
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
  • Singer
  • musician
  • Vocals
Years active1959–1982

Domingo "Sam" Samudio[1] (born February 28, 1937,[2] in Dallas, Texas, United States), 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, including the Billboard Hot 100 runners-up "Wooly Bully" and "Li'l Red Riding Hood".

Early career[edit]

Samudio 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] He recalled: "I was studying classical in the daytime and playing rock and roll at night. 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 were 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 bassist David A. Martin replaced them with drummer Jerry Patterson and guitarist Ray Stinnett and changed the band's name to Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. Shortly thereafter, the band added saxophonist Butch Gibson.

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", in late 1964.[6] Once MGM picked up the record, "Wooly Bully" ended up selling three million copies and reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 on 5 June 1965, at a time when American pop music charts were dominated by the British Invasion.[1] It was awarded a gold disc.[7] Leonard Stogel was their manager.

Although "Wooly Bully" never reached No. 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" (No. 26 US, Canadian No. 31) 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 No. 2 the week of August 6, 1966,[1] just as another fairy tale title, "The Pied Piper" by Crispian St. Peters, was ending its three-week peak at No. 4. The track did even better by Cash Box Magazine's reckoning, reaching No. 1 the same week. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.[7] It also reached No. 2 on the Canadian RPM Magazine chart on 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 No. 22, Canadian No. 13), "How Do You Catch a Girl" (US No. 27, Canadian No. 12), "I Couldn't Spell !!*@!", and "Oh That's Good, No That's Bad" (US No. 54).

Post-hit career[edit]

In late 1966, three women, 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 (originally to be titled Nefertiti by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, which is printed on the inside record labels). Sam also released a solo album in late 1967, titled Ten of Pentacles. In 1970, Sam went off on his own, and in 1971, issued an Atlantic album called Sam, Hard and Heavy, which 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.[1]

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 still makes occasional concert appearances. He was inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2016.

Personal life[edit]

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.

Most sources refer to Samudio's ancestry as Mexican-American.[10][11][12] However, a 1998 article by the Chicago Tribune described Samudio as being of Basque/Apache descent.[13] In a 2007 conversation with music writer Joe Nick Patoski, Samudio described his grandparents fleeing the Mexican Revolution and settling in Texas where his family supported themselves working in the cotton fields.[14]



As Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs:[15]

  • 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
  • Pharaohization: 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
"Juímonos (Let's Went)"
b/w "Shotgun"
- - - - 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/w "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
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"

As Sam Samudio:

Year Titles (A-side, B-side) US Hot 100 Album
1970 "Key to the Highway"
b/w "Me and Bobby McGee" (Non-album track)
- Sam, Hard and Heavy


  1. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 1054. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  2. ^ "This day in history - The Boston Globe". 28 February 2018. Archived from the original on 2018-02-28. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  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. 30 of Section 2 of the 28 December 1963 edition of Billboard shows The Beach Boys' "Surfin' U.S.A.", which peaked at No. 3, and p. 34 of the 24 December 1966 edition of Billboard shows The Mamas & the Papas' "California Dreamin'", which peaked at No. 4, both matching that distinction, meaning that Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, Faith Hill, and Lifehouse would be the second, fourth, and fifth 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. ^ Quiñones, Ben (December 29, 2005). "Naa Na Na Na Naa". LA Weekly.
  11. ^ Beifuss, John. "The Forgotten Story of Sam the Sham's 'Star Wars' Song". The Commercial Appeal.
  12. ^ "Dallas Songwriters Hall of Fame 2017 - Dallas Songwriters Association". 21 June 2019. Archived from the original on 2019-06-21. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  13. ^ Mueller, Jim (1989-05-24). "Whatever Happened to Sam Sham". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 16 July 2019. Retrieved 2019-07-17.
  14. ^ "Notes and Musings Blog - Sam The Sham". Archived from the original on 2007-02-07. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  15. ^ "Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs | Album Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  16. ^ "Domingo "Sam" Samudio | Album Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved October 2, 2019.

External links[edit]