Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs – "Little Red Riding Hood" (1966)

Hey there, Little Red Riding Hood
You sure are looking good

You may think that the Brothers Grimm are responsible for coming up with the "Little Red Riding Hood" folktale, but 'tain't so!

Mama Grimm's boys got the idea for that story from the 17th-century French author, Charles Perrault, who published it in 1697 in a collection of fairy tales that included "Cinderella" and "Sleeping Beauty."  

But a British anthropologist has traced the tale back to the first century.  It appears to have originated in the Middle East, then traveled to China, and back to Europe via the Silk Road at least a couple of hundred years before Perrault wrote it down.

Domingo "Sam" Samudio is a Texican who was born in Dallas in 1937.  His first band was named the Pharaohs, but it broke up in 1962 when its first record didn't sell.  Later, Sam joined Andy and the Nightriders, which was the house band at the Congo Club in Leesville, Louisiana – which was (and still is) the home to the U.S. Army's Fort Polk.  (I'm guessing the Congo Club was a pretty rowdy nightspot.)  

After the Nightriders relocated to Memphis in 1963, a couple of the band's members decided to move back to Texas.  Sam and the remaining original Nightrider recruited a couple of new guys and changed the name of the group to "Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs."  (Sam was given that nickname because he wasn't much of a singer.)

Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs
The group's first big hit was "Wooly Bully," which was named after Sam's cat.  "Wooly Bully" sold three million copies and stayed in the top 40 for 14 weeks in 1965.  It was named Billboard's "Number One Record of the Year" despite the fact that it never reached #1 on the "Hot 100."  

"Wooly Bully" would have been a great song for me to feature today, but neither of the themes of this year's "29 Songs in 28 Days" fits it.

That's why I'm featuring "Little Red Riding Hood," which was released the following year and also topped out at #2 on the "Hot 100."  (By coincidence, another fairy-tale song – "Pied Piper," by Crispian St. Peters – was popular at about the same time.)

The fairy tale has the little girl saying "What big eyes you have!" and "What big teeth you have!" to the wolf who has disguised himself as her grandmother.  But in the Pharaohs' song, it's the wolf doing the talking – "What full lips you have!" – as he walks through the woods with the yummy Miss Red Riding Hood.

The wolf in the song is disguised as a sheep, but he blows the disguise by emitting a hearty howl.  He immediately corrects himself, baaaa-ing for everything he's worth, but surely our plucky little heroine didn't fall for that old trick.

What big . . . EYES you have!
Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs never got back into the top 20 after "Little Red Riding Hood," but they kept trying.  In 1967, three female backup singers joined the group as the Shamettes.  ("Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs and the Shamettes" is just a bit unwieldy, n'est-ce pas?)  Later that year, they dropped "Pharaohs" from the band's name after the Six-Day War between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.  (If you ask me, a little bad taste never hurt anyone – but you didn't ask me, did you?)

Samudio released a solo album titled Sam, Hard and Heavy in 1970 that won the Grammy for "Best Album Notes."  (Duane Allman played on that album.)  But after that, he ran afoul of drugs and lost just about everything he had.  

At some point, he became the skipper of the Lynchburg Ferry, a free car ferry that crosses the Houston Ship Channel near the San Jacinto battlefield.  (I only know that because The Today Show did a piece about him many years ago.)

Today, Samudio is a motivational speaker and writes poetry.

ApologetiX, a Christian parody band, released a parody of "Little Red Riding Hood" called "Little-Read Bible Book" in 2003.  Here it is:

Here's "Little Red Riding Hood."

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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