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WOOLY BULLY (song)

Wooly Bully

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Released March 12, 1965
Format 7″
Recorded 1965
Genre
Rock and roll, garage rock
Length 2:20
Label XL 906, MGM K13322
Songwriter(s) Domingo Samudio
Producer(s) Stan Kesler

“Wooly Bully” is a popular song originally recorded by novelty rock ‘n’ roll band Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs in 1965. Based on a standard 12-bar blues progression, it was written by the band’s leader, Domingo “Sam” Samudio. It was released as a single on the small Memphis-based XL label (#906) in 1964 and was picked up in 1965 by MGM. The song was recorded at Sam C. Phillips Recording Studio at 639 Madison Avenue in Memphis, the successor to Phillips’ original Sun Studio. It proved to be the only recording made at the studio to achieve national success.

“Wooly Bully” was the band’s first and biggest hit. It became a worldwide success, selling three million copies and reaching No. 2 on the American Hot 100 chart on June 5–12, 1965, kept off the top by The Beach Boys’ “Help Me, Rhonda” and The Supremes’ “Back in My Arms Again”. It was the first American record to sell a million copies during the British Invasion and was influenced by the British rock sound which was mixed with traditional Mexican-American conjunto rhythms. It stayed in the Hot 100 for a then-impressive 18 weeks, in fact the most weeks for any entry within that calendar year. It was nominated for a Grammy Award. It was named Billboard’s “Number One Record of the Year” despite never reaching No. 1 on a weekly Hot 100; this feat was achieved again by Faith Hill’s “Breathe” in 2000 and Lifehouse’s “Hanging by a Moment” in 2001 (all three hits peaked at #2). On August 5, 1965 the single was certified as gold by the RIAA. It was later included on the band’s 1965 album Wooly Bully, MGM SE4297.

As the Pharaohs prepared to write their debut album, lead singer “Sam the Sham” (Domingo Samudio) wanted to write a tribute to the Hully Gully dance. His record label’s legal department feared using that title due to the existence of another song with a similar title. The song was given the green light after Sam rewrote the lyrics and replaced “Hully Gully” with “Wooly Bully”.

The lyrics of “Wooly Bully” were hard to understand, and some radio stations banned the song. The lyrics describe a conversation between “Mattie” and “Hattie” concerning the “Wooly Bully” (a creature which Hattie describes as “a thing she saw [that] had two big horns and a wooly jaw”) and the desirability of developing dancing skills, although no attempt is made to synthesize these divergent topics. The warning, “Let’s not be L-7”, means “Let’s not be square”, from the shape formed by the fingers making an L on one hand and a 7 on the other. Sam the Sham underscores the Tex-Mex nature of the song by counting out the rhythm in Spanish and English, and the characteristic simple organ riffing. According to Sam: “The name of my cat was ‘Wooly Bully’, so I started from there. The count down part of the song was also not planned. I was just goofing around and counted off in Tex-Mex. It just blew everybody away, and actually, I wanted it taken off the record. We did three takes, all of them different, and they took the first take and released it.”