A few years ago, Deniz Tek was asked to go to Sugar Hill Studios in Houston, Texas and record a new version of the 1965 hit “Treat Her Right” with Roy Head. The version was true to the original in many ways. Andy “Mort” Bradley engineered and produced the session.
Now, the updated version of “Treat Her Right” is featured in the film trailer for the new Quentin Tarantino film “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood”
We here at DRNRM are thrilled with Tarantino's use of our Detroit Rock Icons in his film. Makes Tarantino cred even cooler in the D.
We were thrilled to find out Deniz Tek was on the new track of "Treat Her Right" and graciously he was on hand to take us behind the scenes at that session with Roy Head:
Deniz Tek photo by Anne Tek
Deniz Tek: Roy Head is Still Treatin' 'Em Right
Legendary recording engineer Andy “Mort” BradleyAndy “Mort” Bradley was Radio Birdman’s soundman in 1977, before pursuing a career as a recording engineer and producer. He became chief engineer and owner at historic Sugar Hill Studios in Houston Texas - the oldest continually operating recording studio in America, and home to countless legendary recording stars. Lightnin’ Hopkins, Johnny Winter, ZZ Top, The 13th Floor Elevators, Doug Sahm. Archie Bell, Willie Nelson, The Stones, and The Who to name only a few.
Roy Head and the Traits
Back in 1965, Roy Head and the Traits recorded their monumental international hit “Treat Her Right” at Sugar Hill.
After receiving several Grammy nominations and making over 1000 albums, Andy decided to write a book to celebrate the studio’s 70th anniversary. Entitled “House Of Hits”, and published by the University of Texas Press, the fascinating story recounts the history of Sugar Hill.
To coincide with the book’s release, he compiled a double CD compilation of Sugar Hill recordings, many of which were re-recorded for the project with any of the original artists who were still alive and kicking.
One of these artists was Roy Head, and the task was to re-record “Treat Her Right” with Roy and the original bass player and songwriter Gene Kurtz.
I flew down to Houston to play guitar on the session, along with the extraordinary Houston drummer Stefanie Friedman, from the band Sugar Shack, and horn players from The Suspects.
The session for the backing track took place in Studio B with Gene Kurtz on bass, myself, and Stefanie on drums. Andy engineered and produced the session. We recorded the track live, under Gene’s guidance. He was very particular about how things should go. It turned out that I’d been playing the riff a little bit differently than the original for all those years, and I had to unlearn and relearn it on the spot. Gene said that the tempo had to be exact, and he had a little meter to measure the beats per minute to make sure that it was right on.
At least I was given the freedom to improvise the solos, and Stefanie killed on the drums! We were both a bit stressed, to say the least, being in the presence and under the direction of such greatness. But it all paid off.
Next, Roy arrived with his stunning wife. In his 70’s, he has not slowed down a bit, able to do backflips like a gymnast and dance like nobody else. In the riverboat casinos down around Shreveport where he was playing around then, he and Gene were still knocking out crowds with their high energy performances. Roy’s reputation as a wild man is well-founded. He was kicked off a James Brown tour for “being too wild” and for upstaging The Godfather of Soul (!). Legend has it that Elvis went to his grave bearing a scar on his ankle from Roy’s teeth marks.
Roy listened to the playback, and, Lord have mercy, he liked the track. He hung out in the control room while the horn players did their thing. Then Roy went out into the studio and sang his heart out. More gruff, perhaps, and deeper than in the ’60s, but the Voice has lost none of its power. In fact it has gained power. The screams, hey’s, and raw passion in that voice are almost scary. Seeing and hearing that go down on tape was a peak moment. “Living legend” is a word used too carelessly these days. This is one time that it fits.
The next day we had breakfast with Roy, and he told us some fascinating stories from the old days. We got along pretty well and he invited me out to his hunting camp. I have yet to take up that offer.
Now, Roy’s original track for “Treat Her Right” has been selected as the opening music on the soundtrack for Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood”, while the version that we recorded is being used in the TV trailer for the movie. I am just super pleased to have been able to help make that recording and to meet and work with the great Roy Head. Thank you to my dear lifelong friend, Andy Bradley for making that (and so many other amazing things) happen. Deniz Tek
★Deniz Tek, from Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a proliﬁc guitarist, singer and songwriter currently based in Sydney, Australia. His career in music, grounded in late-60's Detroit, extends through several decades and across continents. He is best known as a founding member of the inﬂuential Australian independent rock band Radio Birdman.
In 2007, Deniz was inducted into the Australian Music Hall of Fame, and in 2012 was voted number 7 in the top 100 Australian guitarists of all time.★