Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs Artist Biography

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Name: Sam The Sham and The Pharaohs
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Published/Updated: 10 Jul 2009, 00:38

Biography: Sam the Sham is the stage name of rock 'n' roll singer Domingo “Sam” Samudio from Dallas, Texas, USA. Sam the Sham was later known for camp robe and turban (inspiring Norton Records' 1994 Turban Renewal) and hauling his equipment in a 1952 Packard hearse with maroon velvet curtains. As the front man for the Pharaohs, he sang on a half dozen Top 40 hits in the mid-1960s, notably "Wooly Bully".

Samudio, who is of Mexican American descent, 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 and lived in Panama for six years, until his discharge.

Back in the States, Samudio enrolled in college, "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."

He formed “The Pharaohs” in 1961 in Dallas. The other members were Carl Medke, Russell Fowler, Omar "Big Man” Lopez and Vincent Lopez (not related to Omar). In 1962 the group made a record that did not sell. The Pharaohs disbanded in 1962.

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. It was here Sam became the “The Sham” in a dual reference to the fact that the band’s name was “Andy and The Nightriders” and Andy Anderson was leader but everyone came to hear Sam sing and the fact that Sam could only play chords. Sham or Cham is also an obsolete term for Khan.

In June 1963, “The Nightriders” headed for Memphis, Tennessee and became 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.

After paying to record and press records to sell at gigs, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs wound up with the Pen label in Memphis. There, they recorded their first and biggest hit, "Wooly Bully", selling 3 million copies and reaching No. 2 on the Billboard charts on June 5, 1965 at a time when American pop music charts were dominated by the British Invasion.

Although "Wooly Bully" never reached #1, it lingered in the U.S. Top 40 for 18 weeks. It was the only Billboard 'Number One Record of the Year' not to have topped the Hot 100 and remained so for 35 years until Faith Hill's "Breathe" and Lifehouse's "Hanging by a Moment" in 2000 and 2001. The song is now the entrance music for PDC darts player Terry Jenkins.

The Pharaohs' next releases - "Ju Ju Hand" 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). It was this new set of Pharaohs that recorded "Li'l Red Riding Hood". On the Hot 100, "Li'l Red Riding Hood" began its two-week peak at #2 the same week that another fairy tale title, "The Pied Piper" by Crispian St. Peters, ended its three-week peak at #4, the week of August 6, 1966. The track did even better by Cash Box Magazine's reckoning, reaching #1 the same week.

A series of mostly novelty tunes followed, all on the MGM label, and kept the group on the charts into 1967. Titles included "The Hair On My Chinny Chin Chin", "How Do You Catch A Girl", "I Couldn't Spell !!*@!" and "Oh That's Good, No, That's Bad".

n 1967, three girls joined: Fran Curcio, Lorraine Gennaro, and Jane Anderson. They were The Shamettes. The group traveled to Asia as Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs and The Shamettes. In late 1967, after the war between Israel and Egypt, Sam changed to Sam the Sham Revue. In 1970, Samudio went on his own and issued an album called Sam, Hard and Heavy on Atlantic. The album featured Duane Allman on guitar, the Dixie Flyers and the Memphis Horns. He formed a new band in 1974. The early '80s found Sam working with Ry Cooder and Freddy Fender on the soundtrack for the Jack Nicholson film The Border.

On August 28, 1959 in Dallas, Texas he married Lousie Smith. They had one son named Dimitrius Samudio, who was born on May 28, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. They divorced on May 16, 1968 in Dallas, Texas.

He won the Grammy Award for Best Album Notes in 1972 for his album "Sam, Hard and Heavy".

Today, Sam is a motivational speaker, poet and still makes occasional concert appearances. Read more on User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.

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