FASTER TIMES “Wooly Bully” Guest Column, Love and Music

14 Nov
The Faster Times

Wooly Bully by Justin Maurer

(Guest essay for Chloe Caldwell’s “Love & Music” Column)

Chloe Caldwell
September 9, 2011
justin1 GUEST POST: Wooly Bully by Justin Maurer

Wooly Bully by Justin Maurer

When I was a kid growing up in a little blue house in 1980s Los Angeles, my mother would place a plastic salad bowl over my head. She would snip a symmetrical 360 degree trim of my chaotic blond locks, transforming me into a mini surfer monk. I loved going with my father to work, and after my haircut, we would pile into his beat up grey two-door Datsun. When his hand wasn’t on the stick shift, he’d crank the radio, usually The Doors, Beach Boys or the Rolling Stones. Into the San Fernando valley we’d roll, windows down and hair flowing wild.  We were full of fast food burritos, chewing spearmint gum, manically delivering wholesale dental supplies to grinning Latino warehouse workers with gold caps on their teeth.

I don’t remember hearing  “Wooly Bully” on the erratic Datsun car radio during these balmy trips with Dad to the San Fernando valley. After we became estranged and I moved up to the eternally drizzling Washington state after my parents divorce, I became a punk rocker, hooked on Minor Threat and the Buzzcocks.

As a teenager I discovered the film Animal House. John Belushi, Donald Sutherland and company were fabulous at capturing that early 60s energy, that  camp yet anti-establishment vibe that emanated out of diner jukeboxes and car radios. I still long for a fictional past watching that movie. The Otis Day and the Knights scenes are classic. I dated girls because they reminded me of the sorority girls in the film.

I wanted to party with Belushi, pound Jack Daniel’s out of the bottle, smash hippies acoustic guitars at parties, score with chicks, shoot BB guns at Neidermier’s horse. Fuck…I still do. To me the sincerely ludicrous sentiment of “Wooly Bully” and Animal House are one and the same. In our post modern technological purgatory that we’ve created, like many others, I long to go back in time to when things were more pure, when teenagers had that glint in their eyes like a Ford Falcon headlight… looking hopefully to the future while discarding the pent-up sexuality of their parents’ generation.

What in the world do I love about “Wooly Bully”? Is it Sam the Sham’s turban or his shit eating grin? It’s like he’s smiling about an inside joke that only he knows. Maybe he was smarter then us all. That hypnotic organ just sucks me in, and I know I’m about to go from purgatory to heaven as soon as I hear him shout, “Uno, dos, one, two tres cuatro!”

Despite my rootlessness, love lost and love discovered, I never lost my endearment for Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs’ 1965 grand slam “Wooly Bully.” With its unstoppable swagger and charming yet indecipherable lyrics, “Wooly Bully” is the most perfect 60s frat-rock anthem. Sam the Sham did it, and he still does it for me. I will never get sick of it.

I wish that every time I walked into a corner store to buy a beer “Wooly Bully” would kick in as my theme song.

Uno…dos…one…two…tres…cuatro…”

It’s motherfucking relentless. It’s the catchiest most irreverent, anti-establishment bunch of gibberish ever sung alongside the Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie” or the Troggs’ “Wild Thing.” Some said that the song was a thinly veiled reference to lesbian sex or a woman’s vagina. My grandmother told me that she remembered the mid 60s #1 hit annoying her second generation immigrant parents to no end. “It’s just a bunch of noise,” they would sneer.

In my mind there is nothing more punk rock then a turban and robe wearing Mexican dude with a few pasty white dudes touring around in a black 1952 Packard hearse in early 60s Texas. My own punk band, Clorox Girls, covered “Wooly Bully” as our encore while on numerous North American and European tours. We managed to play the song in 20 countries. The song was usually performed amongst broken bottles, hails of beer, spit, and sometimes blood. I enjoyed spreading the gospel because a greater party anthem has yet to be written.

Get Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs’ “Wooly Bully” on its proper medium, 45 RPM 7” vinyl, or if you must, a 12” Greatest Hits vinyl LP on 33 1/3 RPM. Feel the analog, feel Sam the Sham’s voice coming through. And like me, enter from purgatory to heaven.

Here’s some great tidbits about my favorite song:

“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.

The bestselling album for the year (1965) was Mary Poppins, the bestselling single Wooly Bully by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs.

In the intro 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.

In Memphis Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs recorded their first and biggest hit, “Wooly Bully”, which sold 3 million copies and reached Number 2 on the Billboard charts on the 5th of June 1965 at a time when American pop music charts were dominated by British Invasion moptops.

As the Pharaohs prepared to write their debut album, lead singer 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 difficult to understand, and scores of radio stations banned the song. The lyrics describe a conversation between “Hattie” and “Matty” concerning the American Bison and the desirability of developing dancing skills. The warning, “Let’s not be L-7′s”, means “Let’s not be squares”, 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 of course there’s 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.”

“Wooly Bully” lyrics:

Uno-dos-one-two-tres-quatro

AHHHHHHHHHHHH

Woolly bully

Watch it now-watch it

yah girl—watch it

Matty told Hatty

About a thing she saw

Had two big horns

And a woolly jaw

Woolly bully-woolly bully-woolly bully

woolly bully -woolly bully

Matty told Hatty

Let’s don’t take no chance

Let’s not be L -7s

Come and learn to dance

Woolly bully-woolly bully-woolly bully

woolly bully- woolly bully

Watch it now-watch it-watch it-watch it

Drive Drive Drive

Matty told Hatty

That’s the thing to do

Get you someone really

To pull the wool with you

Woolly bully-woolly bully-woolly bully

woolly bully-woolly bully

Watch it now-watch it-watch it

You got it-you got it-you got it.

 Justin Maurer’s debut chapbook, “Don’t Take Your Life”, was published in 2006 on Future Tense books. His second book, “Doctor I Don’t Wanna be Crazy Anymore”, is set for publication later this year. He was born in California, but came of age in the Pacific Northwest where he recorded 3 albums and embarked on world tours with his punk/pop band Clorox Girls. After working as an English teacher in Madrid and a band manager/bartender in London, he relocated to Los Angeles where he currently works as an American Sign Language interpreter and screenwriter. He currently sings for the punk/60s pop band L.A. Drugz. His writing and criticism have appeared in Vice Spain, Maximumrocknroll, Razorcake, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and other publications and websites.
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