Roy Head, the rocker known for his 1965 smash “Treat Her Right,” died Monday at his home in Porter, Texas, family members reported. He was 79.
“Treat Her Right” reached No. 2 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the R&B chart in 1965; the rave-up was kept out of the top pop spot only by the Beatles’ “Yesterday.” The song was repopularized last year by Quentin Tarantino’s use of it for the credit sequence music in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” It was also featured in the 1991 film “The Commitments.”
Wood found renewed renown as the father of Sundance Head, the winner of season 11 of “The Voice.” The younger Head sang “Treat Her Right” as a duet with his coach, Blake Shelton, on an episode of the show in 2016.
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top paid tribute to Head as a “rock ’n’ soul phenomenon who had been one of our early and continuing inspirations. Roy will always be remembered for his music, his drive and the fact that, as he liked to put it, he was most happy when he was ‘a-wigglin’ and a-gigglin’.”
Besides being a credible blue-eyed-soul stylist, Head was known for gyrations and dance steps in his performances that could arguably leave Elvis Presley in the dust and rival the best moves of James Brown.
Head claimed that he had been kicked off a tour by Brown for being too good a dancer. “In a way, it was kind of a compliment, because I was burnin’,” he said. “(Brown) had always been my idol, and I was awed just being on three shows with him.”
After “Treat Her Right,” Head had only two more songs reach the top 40 before dropping out of sight as a charting artist in the U.S., although his turn to country music in the 1970s landed him two top 10 hits on the Canadian country chart.
Head continued to be a favorite of rockabilly and roots-rock enthusiasts, playing festivals like the Ponderosa Stomp. Head’s last album, “Still Treating ‘Em Right,” was released in 2011. After recovering from a stroke in 2016, he continued to perform on into 2020.
A resurgence of attention for Head began in 2007 when, years prior to winning “The Voice,” his son Sundance appeared as a contestant on “American Idol” and made the semifinals.
At that time the senior Head told USA Today, “I’m still out here scratching, still doing flips and splits and all that stuff — but it’s tough when you’re double sixes.”
Head arose as a member of the San Marcos, Texas band Roy Head and the Traits in the late 1950s, going into the studio to cut “One More Time” and “Live It Up” in 1957, when the group members were still in high school.
Among the artists that covered “Treat Her Right” were George Thorogood, Barbara Mandrell, Johnny Thunders, Billy “Crash” Craddock and, in concert, Bruce Springsteen.
Tarantino spoke about choosing the song for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and how vital he thought it was to open the film at an appearance at the Grammy Museum in 2019.
“Once I’m like ‘Okay, this will be the opening credits of the movie,’ that’s 50% of me doing the movie,” the filmmaker said. “The opening credits song, that will be the theme of your movie, whether you like it or not…. I had a much more elaborately planned opening credit sequence in my mind forever and I even shot footage for it. But when we were shooting the stuff of Sharon (Tate) in the Pan Am first class 747 couch lounge area … it was supposed to be just part of this montage with this other song, (but) for whatever reason I just decided to throw in the Roy Head song. … The song is maybe only two minutes long… Start off with a honky-tonker and then just burn for two minutes and then boom, we’re done, we start the movie.”