Two once-prominent stars in the 1960s and ’70s from Pennsylvania, both of whom were in their 80s, separately passed away on the same day this week.
The first of those is Dick Haley, a former player turned personnel scout for the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, while the second is Jerry Samuels, who nearly topped the Billboard charts in 1966 under the alias Napoleon XIV with an exceedingly odd yet immensely popular “one-hit wonder” song.
Beloved father and personnel scout lost
Fox News reported Friday that Dick Haley, the former director of personnel for the Steelers who helped build that team’s dynasty in the 1970s, died Friday at the age of 85.
His son, Todd Haley, announced in a tweet, “Very sorry to say, the world, the NFL and my entire family lost one of the best people I’ve ever known and my idol. A man that gave me the best chance to succeed in this world. My father Dick Haley after long fight with dementia and Parkinson’s. I love you DAD!”
The Steelers organization also paid tribute to Haley, who was born and raised in Pennsylvania, played college football for the University of Pittsburgh, and was drafted into the NFL in 1959 by the Washington Redskins before ending up with the Steelers in 1961 following a brief period with the upstart Minnesota Vikings.
“We lost an amazing football mind and a better man with the passing of Dick Haley,” Art Rooney II, president of the Steelers, said in a statement. “He was a valuable part of this franchise for 23 years, the first four of those as a player and the final 19 as a member of the Player Personnel Department.”
“Dick played an instrumental role in our unprecedented success in the 1970s during the second part of his career,” he added. “He developed a unique eye for talent, and he ultimately helped identify and draft many of the players that allowed us to win four Super Bowls during that decade. My condolences go out to the entire Haley family during this difficult time.”
In addition to being credited with helping to assemble that dominant Steelers team, Haley also receives credit for the role he played in helping to modernize player scouting by documenting more information about players — such as their height, weight, speed, and other intangibles — than mere statistics.
They came and took him away
Also lost on Friday was Jerry Samuels, a Philadelphia-based talent agent and recording studio engineer who died at the age of 84, according to Best Classic Bands.
The news of his death was shared on Facebook by his wife, Bobbie Samuels, who wrote, “My friends, Jerry died early this morning. He was my rock and the greatest love of my life. He taught me to be strong.”
Samuels gained a measure of fame when, in 1966 and under the name Napoleon XIV, he managed to convince Warner Bros. Records to release as a single what is arguably the strangest, yet certainly catchy, “one-hit wonder” of all time — a track titled “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!”
Set only to the beat of a snare drum and tambourine plus voice effects but no singing, Samuels recited his lyrics of a tale of a man driven insane after his girlfriend left him.
Incredibly enough, that “song” surged all the way to #3 on the U.S. charts and #4 on the U.K. charts, and included as a B-side the exact same song only played backward.
Samuels never recorded another hit, though he did eventually record a response song from the perspective of the ex-girlfriend as well as a sequel to the novelty song.