Cover of the 1965 Italy single
|Single by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs|
|from the album Wooly Bully|
|B-side||"Ain't Gonna Move"|
|Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs singles chronology|
"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 Memphis-based Pen label and distributed via MGM. The song was recorded at Sam Phillips Recording studios at 639 Madison Avenue in Memphis, the successor to Phillips' original Sun Studios. 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, and was nominated for a Grammy Award. It was also 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.
Title and lyrics
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" 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."
The song is referenced by Joe Strummer in the live version of The Clash hit "Capital Radio" featured on the live album titled Live: From Here to Eternity. The song is also heard in a number of films: Big Bully, The Rookie, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Full Metal Jacket, The Shrimp on the Barbie, Splash, Scrooged, Happy Gilmore, Monsters vs. Aliens, Religulous, Monsieur Ibrahim, Encino Man, and The Chipmunk Adventure, Mr Holland's Opus starring Richard Dreyfuss, and The Chipmunk Adventure, in which it is performed by Alvin and the Chipmunks. It is currently used as an entrance theme by PDC darts professional Terry Jenkins due to his darting nickname, the Bull. Gonzo the Great, Rizzo the Rat, and Fozzie Bear covered the song for the 1993 album Muppet Beach Party. The Tubes included a song on their final album from 1985, Love Bomb, entitled "Theme from a Wooly Place," a mashup in which the string arrangement for "Theme from A Summer Place" was played over "Wooly Bully" for 46 seconds. Another cover of the song was made by Canned Heat. The Iranian musical group Zinguala Ha covered the song, renamed "Atal Matal"; it is featured on the Raks Raks Raks – 27 Golden Garage Psych Nuggets From The Iranian 60s Scene compilation. The Romanian Rock group Sincron covered the song in the 60's. Ace Cannon recorded an instrumental version for his 1967 album Memphis Golden Hits. English Ska band Bad Manners also recorded a version on their debut album Ska 'n' B. Louisiana artists Captain Gumbo recorded a swampy version. Ry Cooder and Corridos Famosos included it on their album Live in San Francisco, recorded in 2011 and released in 2013.
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