Born: Jan. 9, 1941in Three Rivers, Texas
Head achieved fame as a member of a musical group out from San Marcos, Texas is known as The Traits. The group's sponsor landed their first recording contract in 1958 with TNT Music in San Antonio while they were still in high school. The Traits performed and recorded in the rockabilly, rock and roll and rhythm and blues musical styles from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s. Though landing several regional hits between 1959 and 1963 on both the TNT and Renner Record labels, Head is best known for the 1965 blue-eyed soul international hit, "Treat Her Right", recorded by Roy Head and the Traits. After going solo, Head landed several hits on the country and western charts between 1975 and 1985. During his career of some 50 years, he has performed in several different musical genres and used a somewhat confusing array of record labels, some too small to provide for national marketing and distribution. Roy Head and the Traits held reunions in 2001 and 2007 and were inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2007.
In 1965, the band signed with the record producer Huey Meaux, of Houston, who maintained a stable of record labels. "Treat Her Right" was recorded at Gold Star Studios (later known as SugarHill Recording Studios) in Houston. Issued on Don Robey's Back Beat label, it reached No. 2 on both the U.S. Pop and R&B charts in 1965, behind The Beatles' "Yesterday". "Treat Her Right", with its blazing horns and punchy rhythm, credited to Head and bass man Gene Kurtz, established Head as a prime exponent of blue-eyed soul. The fact that this was accomplished during the high point of the British Invasion makes it all the more impressive. By 1995, "Treat Her Right" had been covered by 20 nationally known recording artists including Jimmy Page, Bruce Springsteen, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sawyer Brown, Bon Jovi and both Mae West and Barbara Mandrell under the title of "Treat Him Right". Bob Dylan, Sammy Davis Jr. and Tom Jones covered it "live". Roy Head and the Traits "Just a Little Bit" and the bluesy-rockabilly hybrid, "Apple Of My Eye" also cracked the Top 40 in 1965. However, those were tiny hits in the wake of "Treat Her Right", which is estimated to have sold over four million copies worldwide, and was a featured song, along with Wilson Pickett's "Mustang Sally" and Steve Cropper's "In the Midnight Hour", in the successful 1991 motion picture, The Commitments. "Treat Her Right" also appeared in Quentin Tarantino's 2019 film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. "Come To Me" and "Now You See Em, Now You Don't" both in 1977 and recorded on the ABC/Dot label reaching No. 16 and No. 19, respectively.
In 1965 TNT released the group's first album consisting of their music recorded for TNT and Renner Records, TLP No. 101 entitled Roy Head and the Traits, which was also distributed by the New York-based Scepter Records. Goldmine Album Price Guide offers a 'counterfeit caution' when buying this album. The original from TNT did not include the song "Treat Her Right", although it is included in the more widely distributed Sceptor pressing.
Video clips from this time period show Head to have been a dynamic and versatile eccentric dancer; there are at least three extant clips of him performing "Treat Her Right" and each one is different from the others in terms of choreography. Modern viewers[who?] have compared his jumps and slides to those of James Brown or even the Nicholas Brothers; because he was white but his footwork included moves popular among African American gymnastic dancers, he was sometimes said to be a practitioner of "blue-eyed soul".
The chart-makers recorded and released on the Back Beat and Scepter labels spelled the end of Head's association with what has come to be thought of as the “second group” of Traits. See "Doubled Edged Sword" in The Story of Roy Head and The Traits.
In 2008, Head performed in Cleveland, Ohio for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As observed by the Austin Music Awards organization, 'if someone ever starts a Hall of Fame for blue-eyed soul artist, “Roy Head and the Traits” should be the first name chiseled in granite.' Billboard has observed that Head's versatility actually worked against him since he did not fit into any specific marketing niche. His use of many small record labels also prevented his recordings from achieving national distribution.
Head continues to be active in recording and performing music.
Years active: 1965–1985