Music

Texas Music Legend Roy Head Dies at Age 79

Screengrab via YouTube

Roy Head, the rock and country singer-songwriter whose 1965 hit "Treat Her Right" spread the Houston sound far and wide, passed away on Monday (Sept. 21) at the age of 79.

The Texas legend's son Sundance Head, a country music artist known for winning The Voice, broke the news on Facebook.

"My old dad Roy Head has went to be with the Lord this morning. He was an amazing person and a wonderful dad," Sundance wrote. "He slept away in the arms of my mother at home. I am in shock and also confused. He was a giant to me. I don't know what else to say right now. Please keep my mother in your prayers and our family."

The elder Head was born on Jan. 9, 1941 in Three Rivers, Texas. He helped shape the course of rock and roll, rockabilly and blue-eyed soul as the lead vocalist of his high school band Roy Head and The Traits.

Like other oldies, "Treat Her Right" became part of popular culture. Younger fans might recognize it from its inclusion in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The Head and Gene Kurtz co-write was issued by the Back Beat label. It reached No. 2 on the Billboard charts in 1965, finishing second to the Beatles' "Yesterday." Country fans may know it from Barbara Mandrell's version, "Treat Him Right."

Additional regional hits by the group include "Apple of My Eye," "One More Time," "Come to Me," "Live It Up," "Get Back" and "Just a Little Bit." These and other selections were performed onstage by Head in sync with footwork compared to James Brown himself.

Artists influenced by the Traits include fellow Texans ZZ Top.

"We were saddened to hear the news of Roy Head's passing," said Billy Gibbons in a statement. "He was a genuine Texas rock 'n' soul phenomenon who had been one of our early and continuing inspirations.  Of course, everybody loved his hit 'Treat Her Right,' and we were delighted when word got back that he was happy about the version we included in our Perfectamundo album.  Talk about validation!

"What's perhaps a bit less well known is the fact that ZZ Top's 'Tush' partially appropriated its title from one of his b-sides," Gibbons adds. "The follow up to 'Treat Her Right' was 'You're Almost Tuff' and the flip side was a blazing blues-rock instrumental titled 'Tush Hog,' attributed to the Roy Head Trio. Roy Head 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'."

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Following the cult success of Dunhill Records release "Same People That You Meet Going Up You Meet Coming Down," Head went on to record country music in the '70s and '80s for the labels ABC Dot, Crazy Cajun and Elektra. His highlights as a country singer include a top 20 version of Rod Stewart's "Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be Alright)."

For his contributions to popular music, Head's name resides in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, the Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame, the Texas Country and Western Music Hall of Fame and the Austin Music Awards Hall of Fame.

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Texas Music Legend Roy Head Dies at Age 79