“Treat Her Right” was a sensation upon its release in 1965, reaching number two on the Billboard Hot 100, while boasting sales that would have made it number one at just about any other time — except that The Beatles had recently released “Yesterday”. The song has been a pop culture mainstay ever since, appearing over the opening credits of Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and popping up in the 1991 film The Commitments.
Head was born in Three Rivers, TX, on January 9th, 1941. His father was a sharecropper, and his love of music came from listening to Black sharecroppers singing in the field. “The melodic flow they had, it sounded like a lone wolf at night,” he told The Houston Chronicle. “They sang about pain and hurt, all that sort of stuff.”
After serving in the Army, Head joined up with a group of musicians who would soon be known as the Traits. While playing small venues in Texas, Roy Head & the Traits developed a reputation as a powerhouse live act led by their dancing, cartwheeling frontman. Head modeled himself after James Brown, and would pepper his performances with gravity-defying backbends and the occasional jump into the splits.
He continued putting out new music in the ’70s and ’80s, eventually transitioning from rock and R&B to country. To hear him tell it, his professional career was constantly beset by bad contracts and even worse drunken decisions. He claims that he once bit Elvis Presley on the ankle, and had to be forcibly dragged away by bodyguards. His son, Sundance Head, said of these stories, “I take what he says and divide by two. Then maybe something’s right with it.”
Head experienced a resurgence of popularity over the last 15 years, especially as Sundance booked spots on musical reality competitions. In 2007, Sundance was a semi-finalist on American Idol, and in 2016 he won The Voice outright. That winning run included a performance with coach Blake Shelton of “Treat Her Right”.
Sundance announced his father’s passing on social media. He wrote, “My old dad Roy Head has went to be with the lord this morning he was an amazing person and a wonderful dad. 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.”