Sam & Dave were an American Soul and Rhythm & Blues (R&B) vocal duo, who performed together from 1961 through 1981. The tenor (higher) vocalist was Samuel David Moore (born Samuel David Hicks on October 12, 1935, Winchester, Georgia), and the baritone/tenor (lower) vocalist was Dave Prater (May 9, 1937, Ocilla, Georgia – April 9, 1988, Sycamore, Georgia).
Sam & Dave are members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, and are Grammy Award and multi-Gold Record award winning artists. According to the Rock Hall of Fame, Sam & Dave were the most successful soul duo, and brought the sounds of the black gospel church to pop music with their string of call-and-response hit records. Primarily recorded at Stax Records in Memphis, Tennessee from 1965 through 1968, these songs included "Soul Man", "Hold On, I'm Coming", "I Thank You", and other Southern soul classics. Other than Aretha Franklin, no other soul act during Sam & Dave's hitmaking Stax years (1966-1968) had more consistent R&B chart success, which included 10 consecutive top 20 singles and 3 consecutive top 10 LP's. Their strong "crossover" popular charts appeal (13 straight appearances and 2 top 10's) also played a role in the adoption and acceptance of soul music by predominantly white pop audiences. "Soul Man" has been recognized by many organizations as one of the best or most influential songs of the past 50 years, including the Grammy Hall of Fame, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Rolling Stone Magazine, and RIAA Songs of the Century. "Soul Man" was also used as the soundtrack and title for both a 1986 film and a 1997–1998 television series.
Nicknamed "Double Dynamite" for their electrifying, sweaty, gospel-infused performances, Sam & Dave were also considered by critics to be one of the greatest live performing acts of the 1960s. The duo has also been cited as musical influences by numerous artists including Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Phil Collins, Michael Jackson, Elvis Costello and Stevie Winwood. The Blues Brothers, who helped create a major resurgence of popular interest in Soul, R&B, & Blues music in the 1980s, were heavily influenced by Sam & Dave (their biggest hit was their top 20 cover of "Soul Man", and their act and stage show was influenced by Sam & Dave).
Sam & Dave met in The King of Hearts Club in Miami in December 1961, where Moore was the MC and Prater was performing on amateur night. They started singing together during Prater's performance, and the club manager suggested they start performing together. Moore and Prater started working together professionally immediately thereafter, developing a raucous live act featuring gospel-inspired call-and-response performances.
After recording three singles on the locally-based Alston and Marlin labels owned by Miami's Henry Stone, Stone helped them get signed to the Roulette Records label in New York. They released six 45's from 1962–1964 (two of which were re-releases of the Marlin recordings) with Roulette. A few of these singles received regional airplay, but did not achieve national chart success. The songs, produced by Steve Alaimo and Henry Glover,were similar in style to other recordings by other R&B artists of the time such as Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, and Little Willie John. Prater was typically featured as the lead vocalist on these records, with Moore typically singing harmony and alternate verses.
In the summer of 1964, Stone introduced the duo to Atlantic Records' Soul and R&B hitmaker Jerry Wexler, who signed them to the Atlantic label. Wexler asked Memphis, Tennessee-based Stax Records, which Atlantic distributed nationally, to work with Sam & Dave. Wexler wanted to capture the Southern roots and gospel style of their live performances, so the pair were 'loaned out' to Stax to record and release records, although legally they remained Atlantic Records artists. According to Wexler from his autobiography Rhythms & Blues, "Their live act was filled with animation, harmony and seeming goodwill. I put Sam in the sweet tradition of Sam Cooke or Solomon Burke, while Dave had an ominous Four Tops' Levi Stubbs-sounding voice, the preacher promising hellfire."
While their first two Stax singles failed to chart, their third Stax single, the Hayes/Porter composition "You Don't Know Like I Know" hit #7 R&B in 1966. This started a string of 10 consecutive Top Twenty R&B chart hits for Sam & Dave over the next three years, and 14 R&B chart appearances overall during their career.
In addition to Hayes-Porter, Sam & Dave's Stax records also benefitted greatly from working with the Stax house band and Rock Hall of Fame members Booker T. & The MG's, and the Stax horn section, the Mar-Keys. These highly regarded musicians co-wrote (often without credit) and contributed greatly to the recordings, and are the same musicians who additionally recorded with Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Carla Thomas and other top soul artists. Sam & Dave's Stax recordings through 1967 were engineered by Stax founder and Co-owner Jim Stewart, who created the "Memphis Sound" at Stax records by recording sessions essentially live in a single take. Stewart is also credited for instrumental mixes in songs that allowed for instrumental separation and the distinct contribution of each instrument to the overall feel of the song. The combination of all of these respected talents contributed to the unique sound and commercial success of Sam & Dave's Stax recordings.
"Hold On, I'm A-Comin" (R&B#1/Pop#21), released in March 1966, was the first Sam and Dave record to make a significant impact on the pop charts. It was also the first Sam and Dave single where the higher voiced Sam Moore took over primary lead vocals on the first verse and the deeper, rougher voiced Dave Prater was given the "response" role and second verse (at Hayes and Porter's suggestion.) The duo stayed with this winning formula on most of their future songs.
The song was created when Hayes was trying to write and called to Porter, who was in the bathroom. Porter responded with "Hold on, man, I'm comin'", and Hayes and Porter later stated they had the song written in 10 minutes.
"Hold On, I'm Comin'", when originally released, received objections from radio stations over the potentially sexually suggestive title. This resulted in a quick name change by Stax boss Jim Stewart, and almost all original U.S. copies of the released single bear the title "Hold On, I'm A-Comin".
"Hold On, I'm A-Comin'" spent 20 weeks on the R&B charts in 1966, and peaked at #1 in June. The song was the #1 song of the year for 1966 on the Billboard R&B charts, and in 1988 Rolling Stone magazine named it one of the best 100 songs of the past 25 years. "Hold On, I'm A-Comin'" received an RIAA Gold Record award for 1 million units sold in 1995, 29 years after its release. "Hold On, I'm Comin'" has since been recorded by 25 other artists.
The quickly released LP Hold On, I'm Comin' (4/66) reached #1 during 19 weeks on the R&B album charts in 1966. Thanks to its success, later that same year Roulette released the album Sam & Dave, a collection of the A & B sides of their six Roulette 45's, which did not chart.
Success continued for Sam and Dave during 1966 and early 1967, with the top 10 R&B hits "Said I Wasn't Gonna Tell Nobody", "You Got Me Hummin", and "When Something is Wrong with My Baby". This last song was the only hit Sam & Dave recorded where Dave sang the first verse solo; all their other hits either started with Sam & Dave together or Sam singing the first verse.
These singles, along with several other tracks, were compiled on Double Dynamite (12/66), Sam & Dave's second LP on Stax. The LP peaked at #7 R&B and #118 Pop.
Sam and Dave's next single was "Soul Man" (R&B #1/Pop #2), released in August 1967. It is for many people Sam & Dave's best remembered song and the song most closely associated with the duo. Sam & Dave won the Grammy Award in 1967 for "Best Performance - Rhythm & Blues Group" for "Soul Man"", and was also Sam & Dave's first Gold Record. The "Soul Man" Sam & Dave recording was also voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. "Soul Man" has been recognized by many organizations as one of the best or most influential songs of the past 50 years, including the Grammy Hall of Fame, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Rolling Stone Magazine, and RIAA Songs of the Century. "Soul Man" was also used as the soundtrack and title for both a 1986 film and a 1997–1998 television series.
The accompanying Soul Men LP (October 1967) was Sam & Dave's third Stax LP, reaching #5 on the R&B charts and #68 Pop. "Soul Men" is considered by Musicologist and Stax Author Rob Bowman to be one of the greatest soul albums of all time. "Don't Knock It" from the LP was also released as a single in France, but other songs were not released as U.S. singles due to the long run by "Soul Man" on the Pop charts (15 weeks), by which time the single "I Thank You/Wrap it Up" had been recorded and was ready for release. "May I Baby", the b-side of "Soul Man", is also regarded as a classic non-hot 100 song on the LP by Whitburn's "Top Pop Singles" guide.
The first new single of the year was "I Thank You/Wrap it Up" (R&B #4/Pop #9), released in January 1968. It is one of the group's many gospel-inspired tunes, and was another major hit for Sam & Dave, enjoying top ten status on both charts like "Soul Man". Critics considered the B side "Wrap it Up" an equally impressive track that could have been a separate successful single.
Due to the end of the distribution agreement between Stax and Atlantic Records in May 1968, "I Thank You" was Sam and Dave's final single on Stax. Although they continued to work at Stax studios with the Hayes/Porter writing and production team, as of May 1968, the duo's work was released on Atlantic Records.
Sam and Dave's initial 1968 single for Atlantic was "You Don't Know What You Mean To Me", written for them by Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper. Sam and Dave would later say it was their favorite song, and the single charted #48 Pop and #19 R&B. Sam & Dave also released "Can't You Find Another Way(of Doing It) which charted at #54 Pop and #20 R&B, and which was not included in the I Thank You LP.
Their final single of 1968, "Everybody Got To Believe In Somebody", charted in the lower levels of the pop charts, and ended Sam and Dave's run of ten straight R&B top 20 singles.
Though released on Atlantic, the I Thank You LP (10/68) included 1968 singles that were initially released on both the Stax and Atlantic labels. The LP peaked at #38 on the R&B charts, and was the only LP by Sam & Dave of their Stax recordings not to chart on the Pop LP charts.
On stage, Sam & Dave were widely regarded by music critics and industry insiders as one of the best live acts in music, entertaining audiences with call-and-response vocals, audience interaction, energetic dancing moves, and a large band with a dancing horn section, and they earned the nickname "Double Dynamite" for their energetic performances. Phil Walden, Otis Redding's manager, added "I think Sam and Dave will probably stand the test of time as being the best live act that there ever was. Those guys were absolutely unbelievable. Every night they were awesome." An October 1968 Time article reads: "Of all the R & B cats, nobody steams up a place like Sam & Dave ... weaving and dancing (while singing!), they gyrate through enough acrobatics to wear out more than 100 costumes per year."
A career touring highlight came in the spring of 1967, when Sam and Dave were the #2 headliner for the "Hit the Road Stax Tour" in Europe, which included Booker T & the MGs, The Mar-Keys, Eddie Floyd, Carla Thomas, Arthur Conley and headliner Otis Redding. For Sam & Dave, it was their first time in Europe, their first time performing in front of all white audiences, and by far the largest crowds they had ever played in front of (sometimes 2,000 plus people). Although Otis Redding headlined the tour, many musicians and fans agreed that Sam & Dave stole the show on many of the nights. According to Otis Redding's and Sam & Dave's manager Phil Walden, after this tour, Otis Redding refused to be booked on the same bill with Sam & Dave again. A live version of Sam and Dave's Double Dynamite LP track "Soothe Me" was recorded in Paris during the '67 tour. Released as a single in mid-1967, it continued Sam & Dave's string of top 20 U.S. R&B hits and was their first song to break into the UK Top 40.
After the Stax 1967 tour, Sam & Dave typically worked mainly as headliners in the U.S., and also headlined tours in Europe in 1967, 1968 and 1970, and in Japan in 1969 and 1970. Their band grew to as many as 16 pieces and a 35 person total entourage with a plane and bus, and they continued to be in high demand as a live act even as record sales declined in late 1969 and 1970. They were estimated to be doing as many as 280 shows per year from 1967 through 1969 by former manager Alan Walden. Other live performance high points included headlining the Montreal World's Fair in 1967, performing at the sold-out tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. at Madison Square Garden in June 1968, being the first black Soul/R&B act to headline the Fillmore East in December 1968, and headlining the Texas International Pop Festival in August 1969. Sam & Dave also performed often on U.S. and European television, including two appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1969, appearing on both The Tonight Show and American Bandstand in 1967, and performing on The Mike Douglas Show in 1969 and 1970.
The year 1969 started off well for the duo, with the Atlantic release of "The Best of Sam & Dave" LP in January 1969. It contained all of their Stax A side singles (except "A Place Nobody Can Find") and several B-sides, and peaked at #24 on the R&B LP charts and #89 on the Billboard LP charts. Their first single of the year, "Soul Sister, Brown Sugar", returned Sam and Dave to the R&B top 20, and was also a #15 hit in the UK. The follow-up single "Born Again", however, only reached the lower levels of the charts, and was also the last single Sam and Dave would record at Stax studios.
Two more singles followed in 1970, "Baby, Baby, Don't Stop Now", and "One Part Love, Two Parts Pain". The first song was a leftover Hayes-Porter recording from Stax; the second was produced by Wexler and Dowd in New York, and was written by Alvertis Isbell and Allen Jones. Both failed to hit the US R&B charts or the Hot 100 (although both "bubbled under" on the pop charts). According to Wexler, "We just made some shit-ass records with them. I never really got into their sensibilities as a producer. Wexler then sent the duo south to Muscle Shoals and Miami to work with producers Brad Shapiro and Dave Crawford for their next single "Knock It Out The Park", which failed to chart.
Sam & Dave announced their split-up in June 1970. According to Sam Moore, the split came about as a result of Sam's dissatisfaction working with Dave and his desire to pursue a career as a solo artist. Sam recorded three singles for Atlantic as a solo artist over the next year and Dave recorded a single for Alston and provided harmony vocals on several tracks for Doris Dukes critically acclaimed 1970 LP "I'm a Loser", but out of financial necessity they reunited after only one year apart in August 1971.
In October 1971, the duo released their last Atlantic single "Don't Pull Your Love", a cover of the recent hit by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds. This Shapiro/Crawford production was a minor hit (R&B #36/Pop #102), but not a substantial enough commercial success to keep the duo signed to the label. Sam & Dave made their final Atlantic recordings in August 1972, four songs which were never released by the label. Sam & Dave's contract with Atlantic expired shortly thereafter.
Despite their inability to attract a major label to record with after leaving Atlantic, Sam & Dave found there was still demand for their public performances, especially in Europe. They toured Turkey in the spring of 1972 and England in the spring of 1973. Sam & Dave also continued to be visible in the US during this period, performing on several TV shows including "The Midnight Special" and "The Mike Douglas Show". According to Sam, most of their U.S. shows in the 70's were smaller clubs, oldies shows, and whatever bookings they could get.
Sam and Dave returned to the studio in 1975, recording an album of new songs titled Back at Cha for United Artists. The album – their first album of new material in 7 years – was produced by Steve Cropper, and featured the MG's and The Memphis Horns and had a minor R&B single, "A Little Bit of Good" (R&B #89). Songwriters for the LP included Cropper, Allen Toussaint, and Jimmy Cliff. Although the LP received some positive reviews, it failed to chart. In an interesting side project, they also provided vocals on "Come On, Come Over" for electric bass virtuoso Jaco Pastorius for his debut album on Epic Records in 1976.
In 1976-77, Sam & Dave recorded a number of songs in the UK with producer John Abbey. Two singles were released from these sessions on Abbey's Contempo label in the UK and Germany, with limited success. Ironically, given the duo's personal disputes, one of the last singles by Sam & Dave was a cover of The Beatles "We Can Work It Out".
In 1978, Sam & Dave re-recorded their old hits for the LP "Sweet & Funky Gold" (Gusto), and also re-recorded some of their songs and other soul hits during this period in Nashville for an album for K-Tel Records, titled "The Original Soul Man". In the summer of 1978, they also toured Germany for two weeks. During this period, Sam & Dave also briefly retired from the music business, with Dave working at a Pontiac Dealership and Sam working at an Austin law firm as a process server.
In 1979, Sam & Dave enjoyed a small resurgence in popularity as a result of Dan Aykroyd's and John Belushi's sketch characters The Blues Brothers, and The Blues Brothers' 1979 top 40 cover of "Soul Man". The Blues Brothers' personas and stage act were heavily influenced by Sam & Dave, according to an April 1988 interview with Dan Aykroyd in the Chicago Sun-Times. Aykroyd first saw Sam & Dave as a teenager at the Montreal Expo in 1967, and said they were one of his biggest early musical influences. As a tribute, Aykroyd had director John Landis play the Sam and Dave songs "Hold On, I'm Comin'" and "Soothe Me" on the eight track in the Bluesmobile during the Blues Brothers film.
Also in 1979, Sam and Dave opened some shows for English punk band The Clash on their U.S. tour, including at the Palladium in New York City. In 1980, the duo appeared in Paul Simon's film One Trick Pony and also performed on Saturday Night Live. In 1980, they also were featured in a U.S. tour opening for the 50's band Sha Na Na.
In 1981, they again re-recorded many of their hits along with Sam Cooke and Otis Redding covers for LPs titled "Soul Study Vol. 1" and "Soul Study Vol. 2" (Odyssey). The pair last performed together on New Year's Eve, 1981, at the Old Waldorf in San Francisco. According to Moore, when they walked off stage it was the last time they ever spoke to one another or saw each other face to face.
In 1985, Prater and Sam Daniels released a newly-sung medley of Sam & Dave hits recorded in Holland, which peaked at #92 R&B and was credited to "Sam & Dave". Sam Moore made the label recall the single for using the "Sam & Dave" name without permission, and the record was re-labelled and re-issued as being by as "The New Sam & Dave Revue". In 1987, Prater was arrested and fined for selling $10 of crack to an undercover policewoman.
Dave Prater had his last performance with Sam Daniels on April 3, 1988 at a Stax Reunion show at the Atlanta Civic Center which also featured Isaac Hayes, Eddie Floyd, and Rufus and Carla Thomas. Six days later, on April 9, 1988, Prater died in a car crash in Sycamore, Georgia, while driving to his mother's house.
See more details on his career under his Dave Prater Wikipedia bio.
2008 Presidential Candidate Barack Obama has used "Hold On, I'm Comin" as one of his major theme songs on the campaign trail. A parody of "Soul Man", "I'm A Dole Man", was briefly used in the 1996 presidential campaign until the copyright owners forced the campaign to pull the song. Sam & Dave also released the very rare single "Hold on, Edwin's Coming" in 1982 to support Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards third term run for Governor. Another parody, "I'm a Suns Fan", was recorded and used for the Phoenix Suns basketball games. Sam & Dave songs have been frequently used in movie & TV soundtracks and commercials, including "Hold On, I'm Comin" on the soundtrack of the 2007 hit film American Gangster. "Soul Man" was used as both the title and title track in the 1986 movie featuring C. Thomas Howell, and also the 1997–1998 Television series featuring Dan Aykroyd. In 2003, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music opened in Memphis, Tennessee, and Sam & Dave are featured prominently in the film made for the Museum, titled "Soulsville", and are honored with a permanent wall display and video display.
|Release date||Title||Label & Cat no.||Chart positions|
|US Hot 100||US R&B||UK|
|1962||"Never, Never" |
|1962||"I Need Love" |
(Sam Moore/Dave Prater)
|1962||"No More Pain" |
|1963||"She's Alright" |
(Henry Glover/Morris Levy/Mayme Watts)
|1963||"It Was So Nice While It Lasted" |
|1963||"If She'll Still Have Me" |
|1964||"I Found Out" |
|1965||"A Place Nobody Can Find" |
|1965||"I Take What I Want" |
(Isaac Hayes/Mabon Hodges/David Porter)
|1965||"You Don't Know Like I Know" |
|1966||"Hold On, I'm Comin'" |
|1966||"Said I Wasn't Gonna Tell Nobody" |
|1967||"You Got Me Hummin'" |
|1967||"When Something is Wrong with My Baby" |
|1967||"Soothe Me" (Live) |
|1967||"Soul Man" |
|1968||"I Thank You" |
|1968||"Don't Knock It" |
|Stax 169 016|
|1968||"You Don't Know What You Mean to Me" |
(Eddie Floyd/Steve Cropper)
|1968||"Can't You Find Another Way" |
(Homer Banks/Raymond Jackson)
|1968||"Everybody Got to Believe in Somebody" |
|1969||"Soul Sister Brown Sugar" |
|1969||"Born Again" |
|1969||"Ooh Ooh Ooh" |
(Donnie Fritts/John Reid)
|1970||"Baby Baby Don't Stop Now" |
|1970||"One Part Love, Two Parts Pain" |
(Alvertis Isbell/Allen Jones)
|1970||"Knock It Out the Park" |
(Dave Crawford/Willie Martin)
|1971||"Don't Pull Your Love" |
(Dennis Lambert/Brian Potter)
|1974||"A Little Bit of Good (Cures a Whole Lot of Bad)"||United Artists 438||#89|
|1974||"Under the Boardwalk" |
(Kenny Young/Arthur Resnick)
|United Artists 531|
|1977||"We Can Work It Out" |
(John Lennon/Paul McCartney)
|1977||"Why Did You Do It" |
Note: The original Stax and Atlantic albums are also available on CD(Rhino)