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People Top 5
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PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- August 10, 1987
- Vol. 28
- No. 6
The Beat Goes on
Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs
Before he turned 30, Domingo Samudio had sold 5 million records. By 40, Samudio was a reformed coke addict and reborn Christian laboring on ah oil barge in the Gulf of Mexico. "No one I worked with," he says, "knew I had been Sam the Sham."
Indeed, it's hard to believe that Samudio (left, in 1966, and above, with friends outside a feed store where he used to work), now a 50-year-old Memphis-based street preacher and gospel singer, is the same Sam the Sham who led his Pharaohs to stardom in 1965 by growling the lascivious-sounding Wooly Bully and a follow-up hit, Li'l Red Riding Hood. Success begat excess. "I was a dummy for the devil, a chump, a superpig," Samudio says now. "I played it to the hilt—gold-sequin jackets, turbans, limos, high living and drugs. How crazy can you be, jumping around a stage with a rag around your head? I was the sham of shams." In 1973 Samudio prayed for conversion. "One night I was really disgusted with myself. I fell to my knees and said, 'Lord, you gave me a talent and I blew it. I've dragged it into every cesspool in the world, and I'm asking you to please forgive me, take this desire for drugs away from me.' " Samudio swears he has "not had a snort since."
Married, with a 6-year-old daughter and two grown sons from previous marriages, Samudio works odd jobs to support his family and devotes himself to Gideon's Few, a gospel group he formed with "ex-cons and ex-megabad people" of his acquaintance. "There's nothing wimpy," the former Sham says, "about following Jesus."
The New Vaudeville Band
Virtually unkown in their native England, the New Vaudevillians were hot stuff in the States, where their novelty hit sold 4 million copies. "We got off the plane and the limos were waiting," remembers co-founder Henry Harrison, 44. "Driving toward Manhattan, the 'scrapers were all lit up. I remember thinking, 'Christ, we're a ha'penny group in the U.K. and then this.' "
The limos are gone, but Winchester Cathedral has, indirectly, sheltered him ever since. The band plays one-nighters at English holiday camps and army bases, as well as the occasional United Arab Emirates gig. Says Harrison (with grandson David, right): "There is no reason why the band can't work 'til the cows come home."
THE DUKE OF EARL
Chandler—born Eugene Dixon—wrote the million-plus-selling Duke during a rehearsal session with a doo-wop group, the Dukays, in 1961 and has this to say about the meaning of the song:. still don't understand it. It's not what I would call a substance song. But it had a click about it. It smashed the entire country." He subsequently landed on the charts with a couple of other hits—Rainbow in 1965, Groovy Situation in 1970—and also landed in a federal prison camp for four months in 1977 for distributing heroin. Now a record producer and artists manager in Chicago, the once-flamboyant Chandler, 47, still wears a diamond pinky ring and will get Duked up (left) if occasion demands. He is contemplating a return to the stage in an oldies show. "My pipes," he says, "are just as good as they used to be." Sure he'll sing Duke. If he didn't, he says, "people would feel cheated."
Walk into Hanzie's Grill, a soul-food kitchen in Kinston, N.C., and Little Eva (above, then and now), 44, will be happy to whip you up some fried chicken or banana pudding. After work she goes home to a housing-project apartment she shares with the two youngest of her five children. Although The Loco-Motion sold 8 million copies, "the only money I got," Eva claims, "was $50 a week [and] expenses. They told me the money from the records was spent on my traveling, making the records and so forth. I made thousands but I never got it. Never."
Eva Boyd was 15 and living in Coney Island in 1962 when songwriters Carole King and Gerry Goffin, who'd hired her as a baby-sitter, asked her to sing a song they'd written. "They liked the way I did it, and it took off," she remembers. Years of touring followed, and Eva, accompanied by a chaperone, saw the world. "Mostly it was a lot of hard work. Not glamorous. Sometimes in the South we had problems because we were black. One time Dick Clark refused to stay in the hotel if we couldn't stay there. So he left. He was a sweet man.
"I found out that I had no money when I was getting ready to build a house for me and my kids and my mother to live in," she says. "When my mother died, I came home to North Carolina. I was fed up with the music business." An "avid" churchgoer, Eva says she's gotten over her anger. Her ambition now is to own a restaurant. "Singing was a wonderful part of my life," she says, "but it wasn't the end of my life when it was over."
It's been a real Ferris wheel ride for Cannon, now 47 and living in Tarzana, Calif., with his wife of 31 years, Jeanette. The downturn came during what he calls "the psychedelic acid time, between '69 and '71. There was no interest in Freddy Cannon then." The peak of course was 1962, when his version of Chuck (The Gong Show) Barris' song about the now-defunct New Jersey amusement park was at the top of the charts. But to hear Cannon (below, yesterday and today) tell it, the '70s and '80s have been high times too. "I've been doin' about 180 shows a year for the last 20 years," he says. During the hippie era, Cannon worked as a record executive. "The first few months of it, I was very happy. But I wasn't singing, and that slowly wore me down and I longed for the microphone again," he says. An oldies concert at Madison Square Garden in 1971 got Cannon fired up once again. "I've been touring and performing ever since. As I get older, I have more fun. And I still give a great rock 'n' roll show. Bruce Springsteen is great, but what he does in three hours, I do in 20 minutes. I rock the place. I wake people up."
CHAPEL OF LOVE
The Dixie Cups
Sisters and founding Dixie Cups (now, for legal reasons, the Dixi-Kups) Rosa and Barbara Hawkins say that though Chapel sold millions of copies since its 1964 release, they were paid a flat $400 each for the song. "Since then, we haven't gotten anything," says Barbara. The third original Dixie Cup, Joan Johnson (far right, with Barbara, center, and Rosa, circa 1965), who suffers from sickle-cell anemia and lives near the Hawkins' New Orleans home, dropped out in 1966. Though the sisters haven't recorded since 1968, they perform regularly and supplement their income by teaching modeling and by handcrafting and selling gift baskets. Rosa believes the Dixi-Kups, with new member Dale Mickle, will rebound. "Our time," she says, "is coming." The sisters' advice to would-be singers? "Tell them to finish their education, get their college degree," says Barbara. " Then, learn the business, learn contracts. We were so young and naive. People will use your lack of knowledge to their advantage."
I'M TELLING YOU NOW
Freddie and the Dreamers
More a calisthenic for nerds than an actual dance, "the Freddie" came into existence in 1965 when England's Freddie Garrity went into his usual spastic routine on the old NBC rock 'n' roll variety show Hullabaloo. Garrity was asked what the dance was called. "I didn't even think it was a dance," he says. "Anyhow I said, 'the Freddie,' and Trini Lopez introduced us: 'Doing the Freddie, Freddie and the Dreamers singing I'm Telling You Now.' The next thing we knew, we had a hit record in America." A few months later the Dreamers were a memory. A former shoe salesman from Manchester, Garrity, 50, blames the fade, in part, on an ill-timed booking at a seaside resort during the summer of 1965. "Twenty weeks in Blackpool," he sighs. "From being voted the most popular up-and-coming band we were overtaken by the Byrds."
Garrity (early on, left, and with son Matthew, below) still tours year-round with a new lineup of Dreamers. Twice married and a grandfather, he lives in a $720,000 mansion on the coast of England and sometimes performs as a children's entertainer to help meet the mortgage. He misses his time at the top but notes, philosophically, "It is better to be a has-been than a never-was."
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