Sunday, June 5, 2011

The summer of Sam

By Al Tays

Count with Al Tays
the things that can be 
learned on Sundays
at the Sanctuary:
Uno, dos, tres quatro...
June 5 is a big day for Mr. Assistant Music Blogger, not only because it falls right between the birthdays of Assistant Music Blogger’s daughter and Mrs. Assistant Music Blogger, but because on this date in 1965, one of my favorite songs reached its high point – No. 2 – on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Yes, I’m talking about “Wooly Bully,” that classic piece of pure-fun nonsense by Domingo “Sam the Sham” Samudio and the Pharoahs. It never got to No. 1, but its 18-week run on the charts earned it the position of No. 1 Record of the Year, not a bad achievement in an era when British Invasion acts were king.

Sam, whose background included being a former student of classical music and a former carny, would have been right at home in today’s music scene, where the visuals are at least as important (sadly, in many cases) as the sound. The story goes that Sam originally wrote the song about the dance the Hully Gully, but his label, Memphis-based Pen, feared legal problems because of another song with a similar title, so he changed it to “Wooly Bully,” which he said was the name of his cat.

I never understood a lot of the lyrics to “Wooly Bully,” (let’s not be L-7’s?), and apparently I wasn’t alone. Radio stations whose programmers didn’t understand them either decided to play it safe and ban the song. Their loss.

So count down with me, amigos – Uno, dos, one, two, tres, quatro! and sing along with Sam.

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