1967 Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs – How Do You Catch A Girl
Domingo Samudio sang on the radio while he was in second grade, and later learned to play the guitar. He formed a group in high school which included Trini Lopez. He endured a six-year hitch in the Navy and then studied voice at Arlington State College while singing in clubs.
Sam formed another group in Dallas in 1961 and named them the Pharaohs (based on Yul Brynner‘s character in the film The Ten Commandments). Two years later he joined Andy and the Nightriders and played with that group in Louisiana and then Memphis. He began using the name Sam the Sham after people joked about his inability to sing properly.
When Andy and another member left the group and moved to Texas, Sam recruited a few replacements and renamed the group Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs.
The group hired Leonard Stogel as their manager and signed with the Memphis record label XL. Sam wrote the group’s first single. Wooly Bully sold over three million copies. The record stayed on the Hot 100 for 18 weeks and peaked at #2 in 1965. The record became Billboard’s number one record for the year, the first time the top record had not reached number one on the Hot 100 (that happened again in 2000 and 2001).
Several minor hits followed (including The Hair On My Chinny Chin Chin), after which four of the Pharoahs all quit the group in a dispute over their pay. Leonard recruited some new Pharoahs from the Times Square group Tony Gee & The Gypsys. The new group recorded Lil Red Riding Hood and once again reached #2 on the Hot 100. Some controversy about the lyrics to the song exists thanks to a very similar song that the Big Bopper recorded on the b-side of a single. The record credited songwriter Ron Blackwell, who also wrote another single for the group that reached #22 on the Hot 100, The Hair On My Chinny Chin Chin. Ron died later that year in a car crash.
Sam added three female singers to his entourage in 1966 and they billed their tour as Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs and The Shamettes. At the end of the year, the group released the single How Do You Catch A Girl, which peaked at #27 on the Hot 100 in early 1967.
The next two singles that year stalled at #54 and #68. Sam then released a solo album, but he never again found his way onto the charts.
The last time I saw Sam was in Austin in June 1986, after he had been ordained a minister. He was one of about a half-dozen acts on the bill (I was there mostly to see the Monkees). After singing Wooly Bully, Sam explained he had sung the song we were there to hear, and now we should listen to him sing a song he chose. He played guitar and performed a Christian song, the audience clapped politely, and the show continued with another act.
Sam also became a motivational speaker and has continued to perform at oldies shows when it suits his mood.
Leonard went on to manage other groups, including The Cowsills, Tommy James & the Shondells, and The Royal Guardsmen.
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