Samudio, who is of Mexican American descent, made his singing debut in second grade, representing his school in a radio broadcast. Later, he took up guitar and formed a group with friends, one of whom was Trini Lopez. After graduating from high school, Samudio joined the navy and lived in Panama for six years, until his discharge.
Back in the States, Samudio enrolled in college, "I was studying classical in the daytime and playing rock and roll at night" he recalled. "That lasted about two years, before I dropped out and became a carny."
He formed “The Pharaohs” in 1961 in Dallas. The other members were Carl Medke, Russell Fowler, Omar "Big Man” Lopez and Vincent Lopez (not related to Omar). In 1962 the group made a record that did not sell. The Pharaohs disbanded in 1962.
In May, 1963, Vincent Lopez was playing for “Andy and The Nightriders” in Louisiana. When their organist quit, Sam joined. “Andy and The Nightriders” was Andy Anderson, David A. Martin, Vincent Lopez and Sam. “The Nightriders” became house band at The Congo Club. It was here Sam became the “The Sham” in a dual reference to the fact that the band’s name was “Andy and The Nightriders” and Andy Anderson was leader but everyone came to hear Sam sing and the fact that Sam could only play chords. Sham or Cham is also an obsolete term for Khan.
In June 1963, “The Nightriders” headed for Memphis, Tennessee and became house band at The Diplomat. In late summer 1963, Andy Anderson and Vincent Lopez left to return to Texas. Sam and David A. Martin replaced them with Jerry Patterson and Ray Stinnett and changed the name to “Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs”. Shortly thereafter, the band added saxophonist Butch Gibson.