Your eyes belong in a tiger’s face, your nose straight from a forgotten race. Your hair is straight, it won’t curl, you ain’t never gonna be my girl…
Just Wow!…Always. If “Your (Almost) Tuff” had been recorded by the Seeds or the Standells it would be track 1, side 1 on the “Now That’s What I Call Garage Rock” collection. Perhaps the Cramps could have covered it on “A Date With Elvis” (1986) & made a great album greater. On its release in 1966 Roy Head was hardly an obscure artist, he had enjoyed a very successful 1965, A hit big enough (4 million sales worldwide) for him to now be considered a one-hit wonder, even though two following singles both made the US Top 40, had put his name in the frame. With diminishing returns this sensational psychobilly surge failed to trouble the Top 100. One that got away & not appearing on an album, almost 30 years passed before the track was included on a “Best of…” compilation.
Roy Head’s high school band, the Traits, were quite a deal in Central Texas. Formed in 1957 the singer was still only 18 when, two years later, they had their first regional hits. Roy & the Traits played straight ahead energetic rockabilly, just the sort of music a group of Texan teenagers should be playing in the late 1950’s. Check out “One More Time”, credited to all 6 Traits, two & a half minutes that you immediately want to hear again. The addition of two saxophones added extra punch & a bigger sound for tracks such as “Linda Lou”. They were attracting attention from bigger players, in 1965 they signed with producer Huey Meaux whose operation was based at Gold Star Studios in Houston. It was there that the super smash hit was made.
“Treat Her Right” is an impressive blast, distinctive & exciting enough to make #2 on the US charts at the height of Beatlemania (“Yesterday” was the toppermost) in a Top 10 which included the Lovin’ Spoonfull, The McCoys & the Ramsey Lewis Trio. The existing TV clips of Roy, without the Traits, lip-synching to the song, are of low definition & he is giving it plenty, rubber legs & all.I can’t imagine how wild he could be with a full band, in a packed sweaty Texas club but sometimes I do just that. I have never been too comfortable with the tag “Blue-Eyed Soul” but I do know that “Treat Her Right” was pretty fly for a white guy.
The later records were released under just Roy’s name or by the Roy Head Trio which included bass player Gene Kurtz, co-writer of the hit & composer of “You’re (Almost) Tuff”. The only LP that appeared was a collection of earlier recordings but single releases made in Memphis at Chips Moman’s American Sound Studios & back in Texas with Sir Douglas Quintet’s Doug Sahm, continued to be interesting. I don’t usually put so many links into these things but these tracks deserve a wider hearing, “Just A Little Bit” is less than 2 minutes long, give it a try.
In 1970 there was finally the time & money to make a proper Roy Head LP. Produced by Huey Meaux, “Same People (That You Meet Going Up, You Meet Coming Down)” is a fine example of Texas Rock & Soul, arrangements packed with blaring horns, spiky guitar, Gospel-tinged backing vocals & a solid rhythm section to support Roy’s strong vocals. In the next decade Roy turned to Country, enjoying 3 Top 20 hits on that chart.He continued to perform &, if the music was more restrained, I’m sure he always put on quite a show.
“Treat Her Right” became an enduring & much covered song. Bruce Springsteen, young enough to be impressed by what Roy had going on in 1966, turns it into a show-stopper. When the almost forgotten catalogues of the original Rock & Rollers were resurrected & re-released the Traits’ brand of R&B influenced dynamism proved to be a very worthwhile listen. The band celebrated their golden anniversary with a reunion & election to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. There was more interest when his son, Sundance, won the US TV show “The Voice” (whatever that is!). They performed together at the Grand Ole Opry, the song “Treat Her Right”. He’s a bit of a legend Roy Head & you can’t keep a good man down.