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Wooly Bully by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs

Album: Greatest HitsReleased: 1965Charted:
2
11
  • The title is pure nonsense, but of course a few theories sprouted up to explain what the phrase "Wooly Bully" meant. Our favorites:

    - An expression people used as a way of congratulating each other.
    - Sam's pet cat.
  • There aren't many lyrics in this song that don't contain the words "Wooly" or "Bully," but one line managed to capture a fleeting piece of '60s slang: In the line, "Let's not be L-7, come and learn to dance," "L-7" was an unhip person - someone just not with it. More literally, it means let's not be squares. If you put an L and a 7 together you get, more or less, a square. (thanks, Bill - Los Angeles, CA)
  • The song starts off with Sam the Sham counting off the tune "one two three four," in Spanish ("Uno, dos, one, two, tres, quatro"). U2 appropriated this concept when they used a Spanish count-in on their song "Vertigo."
  • This was featured in the 1987 film Full Metal Jacket.
  • "Sam" was Domingo Samudio. The term "Sham" mean jive talk. His backup group The Pharaohs wore strange Egyptian outfits. They had 5 more Top 40 US hits including the #2 song "Lil Red Riding Hood." Samudio recorded solo for Atlantic Records in 1970, reformed The Pharaohs in 1974 and later became a street preacher in Memphis.
  • The Mexican rhythm helped bring that sound into the mainstream. Songs like "Tequila" and "La Bamba" did so in the '50s, but this may have been the bridge between those songs and "Macarena."
  • A sequel to the song titled "Wooly Bully Again" was recorded in 1966 by a Winston-Salem, North Carolina group, The Soul Brothers. Domingo Samudio was contacted, but showed no interest in it. (thanks, Jimmie - Pinellas Park, FL)
  • This was the best-selling song of 1965 in the USA despite not making #1.
  • This was the first American record to sell a million copies during the British Invasion.
  • The song was recorded at Phillips Recording Service in Memphis, which was owned by Sam Phillips. Built in 1958, the studio replaced Sun Studio, where Phillips recorded Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison. Phillips Recording Service had some success, also recording "Lonely Weekends" by Charlie Rich, but Sam Phillips withdrew from the business and sold Sun Records in the late '60s.
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Comments: 26

Man, I still love this song for partying! But I just heard "JU JU HAND" today on the oldies radio. What a fun but bizarre song. Man, those lyric were wild! I think a juju hand is the same as a Mojo hand. Or is it??? The saxophone break in Wooly Bully is so great man it just makes you wanna lose control! haaaa!Randy - Fayettevile, Ar
Isn't this a great party song, even for 2013? You just gotta lose your blues and dance when hearing this song. I can't believe that it climbed the charts in 1965, but it's true. I can still remember seeing this band on American Bandstand. I can remember their other hits in the mid-Sixties, like "Ju Ju Hand," Little Red Riding Hood," Ring Dang Doo," and others, but they really ripped it up & did proper justice to an old Fifties rock song, "Red Hot." I still love dancing to this song & I love that wild saxophone break. My wife's little white Chihuahua dog even dances to "Wooly Bully" when she puts the CD on to play! Wild!Randy - Fayettevile, Ar
"Wooly Bully" still rocks! An I don't give a hoot what Billboard says or doesn't say about this song!! All I care about is that I love it. Back in 1965, I was living in Kansas City, Missouri & most of the many local rock radio stations had it ranked at #1. Back then, I didn't even refer to the Billboard charts---just the local ones. I knew that this song was a rocker & I loved it. And I loved Sam the Sham & The Pharoahs too. They were just so bizarre enough to be "cool" in those times. Their follow-up, "Ju Ju Hand" was another rocker I loved. It was based on stuff like voodoo, black magic, and curses. It was so weird---but it got a lot of airplay in KC. Back in the Sixties, I got to see Sam the Sham & The Pharoahs in concert at the "Red Dog" in Lawrence, Kansas. And they ripped it up that night!! Good ol' American rock & roll band.Rotunda - Tulsa, Ok
The song is still wild and wooly & a fav of mine. I ran across some rock trivia at Billboard about Wooly Bully peaking at #2 in 1965, yet it made it to #1 overall for the year of 1965 after an earlier chart showed Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones as the #1 hit of '65. Then the revised chart put Wooly Bully as the final selection for overall top hit for 1965. Funny, because when I tried to access a Billboard chart for biggest hits of 1965 it didn't show that the #1 song was Satisfaction, or Downtown, or Wooly Bully! Check it out to find which song it was. Then why did Billboard put in their trivia that it was Wooly Bully??? Strange. All I know is that this song still rocks. I went to college in fall of 1965 & this was a favorite jukebox dance tune at all the college bars surrounding the university campus. All I can remember is that a lot of students stayed out at all the bars dancing and getting stoned until all hours to Sam the Sham, the Spencer Davis Group, and Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels. Fortunately, I got an education along the way too. But this song made it all fun.Elmer H - Westville, Ok
I started college in the fall of 1965 at the University of Kansas (Lawrence, KS) after "Wooly Bully was atop the rock charts. By the time I got to the college bars and clubs around KU campus, Wooly Bully was a favorite on all those bars & clubs jukeboxes. I remember hitting all the bars every weekend just to dance dance dance to the wild sounds blaring out of those jukeboxes, especially Sam the Sham & The Pharoahs! I guess their hits were a bit goofy-sounding, but it was really "feel good" rock and roll that many kids loved. I still remember that about ayear or so later when they released "Red Hot" it was great to dance to at those campus jukejoints. The area bars & clubs would always be cram-packed with college kids & there was barely enough room to move or dance, but we managed to, until someone passed out. It was so crowded, if you passed out, you'd never fall on the floor! Good times is what WOOLY BULLY reminds me of. Before things in the USA got nasty with the Vietnam War, anti-war demonstrations, assassinations, and all-out riots.Bubblesk - Memphis, Tn
After a Sam the Sham concert, the reviewer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer referred to the boys as a "cheap, no-talent group."Bruce - Bangor, Me
UNO! DOS! TRES! QUATRO!.............Watch it now, man! Watch it! Watch it!...... Oh my, this song is simply a quirky little ditty with lots of easy to remember lyrics that make it totally fun to sing along with........"Wool-AYE, Bull-AYE" is just a wonderful mouthful of rhyme that can pop into your mind at any time!Camille - Toronto, Oh
The line is "let's not be observers, come and learn to dance".David - Stone Mtn, Ga
(from Wikipedia): 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 and hauling his equipment in a 1952 Pickard hearse with maroon velvet curtains. As the front man of the Pharaohs , he sang on a half dozen Top 40 hits in the mid - 1960s , notably "Wooly Bully". ..Samudio made his singing debut in second grade , representing his high school in a radio broadcast . Later , he took up guitar and formed a group with friends , one of whom was Trini Lopez . He formed "The Pharaohs" in 1961 in Dallas. The other members were Carl Medke , Russel 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 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 play chords. Sham or Cham is also an absolete 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 saxaphonist Butch Gibson.Mike - Franklin County, Pa
what a strange song and record..the only thing
stranger was one of their follow ups Ring-Dang Doo
Good Stuff!
Steve Dotstar - Los Angeles, Ca
L7 means lets not be square.Janine - Cleveland, Oh
Wasn't it also in that one movie about the seal and the ball and the seal wore clothes and danced to the song /: yeaah
what was that called D:
Jessica - Apache Junction, Az
Domingo Samudio insisted "Wooly Bully" was just an innocent sham he made up, but some radio stations feared the words were too suggestive and banned it from their play list. Well, dirt is purely within the mind of the beholder, but here is some of the reasoning that had some program directors worry if the song was actually obscene.

"L-seven" was an old expression for being square - or to be out of step with modern fashion. But for the following reasons, it was thought to be a veiled reference to being Lesbian. "Wooly Bully" would be a female's private anatomy - the horns and wooly jaw would be imagined by Mattie's looking down in self-examination. And finding a "filly to pull the wool with you" would therefore be an endorsement of Lesbian sex.

Even if it were true, the song would be tame by today's standards.
Jeff - Queens, Ny
"Lets not be L- seven" is actually "L7"- looks a bit like a square so "let's not be square"
The song also freatured in "Encino Man"
Matt - Warwick, England
Tom, with reference to your query regarding whether "Wooly Bully" was "the best selling song of the year" or not, The January 14th 1966 edition of Time Magazine stated that "The bestselling album for the year (1965) was Mary Poppins, the bestselling single Wooly Bully by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs."Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England
According to Wikipedia, Sam was dubbed "The Sham" because he was the main attraction -but not the frontman- of Andy and The Nightriders, and the fact that he was the organist, but only knew how to play chords.Tim - Albuquerque, Nm
i think that the melody is from a famous big band song called "Frenzy"Shai - Yokneam, Israel
This was used in Fast Times At Ridgemont High and...Johnny - Los Angeles, Ca
Also featured in the movie SplashYdur - Knoxville, Tn
1965 MGM K13322 Wooly Bully (Domingo Samudio) / Ain't Gonna Move (Stacy Davidson-Stan Kessler). Wooly Bully was released in March 1965 and entered the Billboard charts on 3 April and remained on the charts for 18 weeks, reaching a top chart position of no. 2. Wooly Bully was recorded in Phillips Recording Studio on Madison Avenue in Memphis, TennesseeDave - Victorville, Ca
In the into he sings "Watch it Arnie Ginsberg". This is directed at Arnie "Woo-Woo" Ginsberg a very popular disc jock on WMEX Boston who hosted his "Night Train" show during the 60's.Dave - Victorville, Ca
For Norm of IN: The L7 line means not being a square, as in geek, nerd, et cetera. Look at the back of your hands, the left one with fingers up/thumb out horizontal and the right hand/index finger touching the left index finger/right thumb vertical. See how the left forms an L and the right forms a 7? A square! Ya gotta stretch your imagination a bit, but that's what the L7 stands for in the song. It's Hattie encouraging Mattie not to be a tight-ass and to learn the dance called the Wooly Bully as it's the cool thing to do. BADDA BING!Leya Qwest - Anchorage, Ak
Does anyone know what the phrase " Let's not be L-seven mean? L-seven was a band in the 80's from detroit, but I don't get the connectionNorm - Laporte, In
I believe this song is also featured during the opening credits of "American Graffiti 2" as the audience gets a bird's eye view from a military helicopter flying over the jungles of Vietnam. It's Bo Hopkins piloting the chopper, portraying the street hood who befriends Richard Dreyfuss in the first American Grafitti film, then later gets drafted and serves along Charlie Martin Smith in a battle scene towards the end of the sequel.Leya Qwest - Anchorage, Ak
Billboard Shmillboard!
"Wooly Bully" this rekkid was one of the platters to kick off a party!
Steve - Salt Lake City, Ut
Don't know where you got your info regarding this song being "the best selling song of the year". It didn't make the Billboard top 25 of the year (Billboard lists the number one song as Downtown) and the RIAA list doesn't mention the song either.Tom - Washington , Fl