Sam and Dave
Sam and Dave
When Sam Moore and Dave Prater were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, it was largely in recognition of their hard-driving soul hits of the 1960s. Songs like “You Don’t Know Like I Know,” “Hold On, I’m Comin’,” “Soul Man,” and “I Thank You” made the duo one of the most popular soul acts of the era. Sam and Dave were part of the Memphis Sound, which revolved around the Stax and Volt family of record labels and included soul stars such as Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett, songwriters like Isaac Hayes, and songs that featured backup musicians like Booker T and the MGs and the Memphis Horns. It was through their energetic stage show that Sam and Dave earned their nickname Double Dynamite.
Born in Miami, Sam Moore sang with a gospel group that toured Florida before turning to soul music. His mother was a teacher, his father a deacon, and his grandfather a Baptist preacher. According to Gerri Hirshey’s Nowhere to Run, Moore was approached by the manager of the famous gospel group the Soul Stirrers to replace Sam Cooke, who had left the group to start his own soul and pop career. Moore was reportedly ready to leave Miami and tour with the Soul Stirrers, but he changed his mind after attending a Jackie Wilson show and decided he wanted to sing like Jackie Wilson.
Moore met Dave Prater while working the King of Hearts Club in Miami. Prater was a laborer’s son from Ocilla, Georgia. He went to Miami in 1957 to get a job singing, but he was working as a short-order cook and baker’s assistant to make ends meet. One night in 1961, Prater joined Moore on stage during a segment of Moore’s act that involved audience participation. The two singers seemed to click, and the Sam and Dave duo was born.
Moore recalled in Melody Maker, “We didn’t really have a recording contract in those days. Some of the records we made were distributed around Florida…. Then we had a contract with Roulette, but they didn’t do anything. They weren’t really in the soul bag, they were more into jazz and pop.” Moore and Prater met Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler while they were recording for Roulette. Wexler was interested in them and finally signed the duo in 1964. He immediately sent them to Memphis to record on the Atlantic subsidiary, Stax Records. “We recorded in Memphis because Jerry wanted that sound. It wouldn’t have been any good for us to record in New York, because we wanted a new sound… what eventually became the Memphis Sound,” Moore told Melody Maker.
Duo comprised of Samuel David Moore (born October 12, 1935, in Miami, FL), and David Prater (born May 9, 1937, in Ocilla, GA; died from injuries sustained in a car accident, 1988).
Formed as duo in Miami in 1961, playing various club dates; signed recording contract with Roulette in the early 1960s; signed to Stax Records by Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler, 1964; toured extensively and scored big hits in late 1960s with songs like “Hold On! I’m a Comin’” and “Soul Man”; duo dissolved in the early 1970s, except for a few occasional engagements; interest in the group rekindled by the Blues Brothers’ rendition of “Soul Man,” 1980; Prater found another “Sam” and performed with him as Sam and Dave, beginning in 1981; Moore began performing solo following Prater’s death in 1988 and appeared in the film Tapeheads, Pacific Arts, 1989.
Awards: Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1992.
Addresses: Agent —Sam and Dave’s Legendary Sam Moore, c/o Hallmark Entertainment, Inc., 8033 Sunset Blvd., #1000, Los Angeles, CA 90046.
At Stax, Sam and Dave were assigned to the songwriting-production team of Isaac Hayes and David Porter. The two singers were already “like Siamese twins when they came to us. They were incredibly tight,” recalled Memphis musician and producer Steve Cropper in Nowhere to Run.
Moore told Melody Maker, “The sound that we wanted didn’t just happen. We worked at it, sometimes we’d be in the studio at four and five in the morning…. We had to get something new. And that’s what Hayes and Porter did. Those fellas came up with an original sound for Sam and Dave.” Rock historian Charlie Gillett noted the gospel roots of Sam and Dave’s sound in his book The Sound of the City, writing, “The use of two voices answering each other in a rapid dialogue at times, echoing each other’s phrases at others, and singing harmony in the choruses was a standard device of real—that is, church-based—gospel singing…. With Stax, Sam and Dave made records that surpassed the excitement of earlier duo performances because they were answering not only each other but the encouraging riffs of the band.”
The year 1966 began with Sam and Dave’s first chart hit on Stax, “You Don’t Know Like I Know.” While it only reached the bottom of Billboard’s Top 100 pop charts, it was a solid rhythm and blues hit, peaking at Number Seven and staying on the R & B charts for 14 weeks. The song was followed by “Hold On, I’m Comin’,” the duo’s first song to hit it big. As Moore related in Melody Maker, “’You Don’t Know Like I Know’ got us known, but it was ‘Hold On, I’m Comin” that really exploded.” The song became a Number One R & B hit.
The duo released two more top ten rhythm and blues hits in 1966, “Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody” and “You Got Me Hummin’.” They started 1967 off with the soulful ballad “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby,” which went to Number Two on the R & B charts. In the spring of 1967 they went on tour as part of the Stax/Volt Revue. Starting off with seven nights at New York’s Apollo Theater, the five-week tour featured Otis Redding as the headliner and Sam and Dave as the number two act. The tour concluded in England and Europe, where Sam and Dave would return later in the year on the strength of their biggest hit, “Soul Man.”
“Soul Man” was released in the fall of 1967. It had sold a million copies within five weeks, while Sam and Dave were in Europe on the final leg of their Sweet Soul Tour. The song was a Number Two pop hit for three weeks on Billboards charts and stayed at Number One on the R & B charts for seven weeks. On the Sweet Soul Tour, Sam and Dave were accompanied by a full orchestra and soul singers Arthur Conley and Percy Sledge.
The duo followed up their hugely successful “Soul Man” in early 1968 with “I Thank You,” another top ten hit on both the R & ? and pop charts. According to Peter Guralnick in his book Sweet Soul Music, “Sam and Dave were becoming the hottest stage act in the country…. They combined the frenzied activity of James Brown and the vocal dynamism of Wilson Pickett with the rough gospel harmonies.” For the next couple of years, the Sam and Dave Revue gave concerts and toured college campuses in a large bus that carried their 35-piece assemblage. According to Time magazine, their college tour in the fall of 1968 grossed approximately $1.5 million.
Moore’s personal differences with Prater stemmed from a 1968 incident in which Prater shot his own wife in a domestic dispute. Moore recalled in Nowhere to Run, “I told him I’d work and travel with him, but that I would never speak or look at him.” As a result, Moore and Prater would usually arrive separately for their shows. After 1969 Prater showed up unpredictably and was even absent from some performances of the Sam and Dave Revue. Author Gerri Hirshey noted that they were never again interviewed together.
No doubt their personal differences were exacerbated by Moore’s heroin addiction. As Moore told Hirshey in Nowhere to Run, “Word got out [that] Sam and Dave [were] bad news. We were reduced to playing toilets. I’d lie, I’d miss shows. I’d find guys in my dressing room who’d heard about my habit. And they were always there with more.” It was not until 1981, some six months after Moore and Prater’s final performance together, that Moore was able to kick his habit by enrolling in a special program.
Interest in Sam and Dave was rekindled in the late 1970s by the Blues Brothers’ rendition of “Soul Man.” Comedians John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd first performed the song as part of their routine on the television show Saturday Night Live, then later in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers. By 1981, Prater had found another “Sam” and was performing with him as Sam and Dave. Sam Moore filed a lawsuit contending that Prater had no rights to the name “Sam and Dave.” In 1985 a federal judge in Los Angeles enjoined Atlantic Records from selling an album and single under the name Sam and Dave that featured Dave Prater and Sam Daniels, the unauthorized replacement for the original Sam.
Dave Prater was killed in an automobile accident in 1988. In the years following Prater’s death, Moore began a solo tour as “Sam and Dave’s Legendary Sam Moore.” In 1992, a retrospective LP, Soul Men, was released by Rhino/Atlantic.
“I Need Love,” Roulette, 1964.
“No More Pain,” Roulette, 1964.
“It Feels So Nice,” Roulette, 1965.
“You Don’t Know Like I Know,” Stax, 1966.
“Hold On, I’m Comin’,” Stax, 1966.
“When Something Is Wrong With My Baby,” Stax, 1967.
“Soul Man,” Stax, 1967.
“I Thank You,” Stax, 1968.
“Soul Sister, Brown Sugar,” Atlantic, 1968.
“Born Again,” Atlantic, 1969.
Sam and Dave, Roulette, 1966.
Hold On, I’m Comin’, Stax, 1966.
Double Dynamite, Stax, 1966.
Soul Man, Stax, 1967.
I Thank You, Atlantic, 1968, reissued, Rhino/Atlantic, 1992.
Best of Sam and Dave, Atlantic, 1969.
Back Atcha, United Artists, 1975.
Soul Men, Rhino/Atlantic, 1992.
Gillett, Charlie, The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Dell, 1972.
Guralnick, Peter, Sweet Soul Music, Harper & Row, 1986.
Hirshey, Gerri, Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul Music, Times Books, 1984.
Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, 1955-1990, Record Research, 1991.
Joel Whitburn’s Top R & B Singles, 1942-1988, Record Research, 1988.
Billboard, December 28, 1968; July 18, 1970; August 31, 1985.
Melody Maker, July 26, 1969; January 31, 1970; March 24, 1973.
New York Times, December 16, 1968.
Rolling Stone, February 6, 1992.
Time, October 25, 1968.
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