Sam & Dave!

By Gary

I am a rocker, but love Blues, soul and those grinding ballads.  There was an R&B Duo that I really enjoyed in the mid to late sixties; one of the albums they put out was called Double Dynamite .  When I was single and spent a lot of time in Washington D.C., I saw this duo in Georgetown one night, with my date, a lady from West Virginia, who was absolutely stunning – Sam & Dave were great too…

Sam & Dave
  • Samuel David Moore – front (Samuel David Hicks on October 12, 1935 ) &
  • Dave Prater – back (May 9, 1937, Ocilla, Georgia – April 9, 1988, Sycamore, Georgia)


1966 / Stax Revue / Hold on I’m Coming


1969 / Ed Sullivan / I thank You


1974 / Midnight Special / Soul Man


1992 / Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions / Sam Moore / Soul Man


2009 / Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary with Bruce Springsteen / 

This is the original
1.  Hold on! I’m A Comin’/ Stax 189/ June 1966/ # 21 #1 R&B


2.  Soul Man/ Stax 231/ September 1967/ # 2(3) R&B #1 (7)


3.  I Thank You/ Stax 242/ February 1968/ #9

Sam & Dave were an American soul and rhythm and blues (R&B) duo who performed together from 1961 through 1981. The tenor (higher) voice was Samuel David Moore (born Samuel David Hicks on October 12, 1935 in Winchester, Georgia), and the baritone/tenor (lower) voice was Dave Prater (May 9, 1937, Ocilla, Georgia – April 9, 1988, Sycamore, Georgia).
Sam Moore and Dave Prater’s early musical backgrounds involved listening to and singing gospel music in their homes and churches, and in Dave’s case, also singing gospel in the choir in his church.
Dave later sang with his older brother JT Prater in the gospel group The Sensational Hummingbirds, which recorded the record “Lord Teach Me” in the 1950s.
Sam recorded “Nitey-Nite”/”Caveman Rock” in 1954 with the doo-wop group The Majestics, and later sang with the gospel groups The Gales and The Mellonaires.

Moore and Prater listed Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke as influences on their styles,[2] and Moore was also influenced by Little Willie John, whom he and Dave opened for often in the early 1960s.

Sam & Dave met working the gospel music circuit, and later in small clubs in Miami during amateur nights in 1961 according to Dave. They sang together one night at the King of Hearts club, and started working together immediately thereafter, developing a live act featuring gospel-inspired call-and-response.

Soul singer and record producer Steve Alaimo discovered them while performing on the same show with them at the King of Hearts nightclub in Miami and signed them to Marlin Records.

After two singles in early 1962 were released on the local Marlin label owned by Miami’s Henry Stone, Stone helped sign them to Roulette Records in New York. They released six 45s from 1962–1964 (two were re-releases of Marlin recordings) with Roulette, and one single on Stone and Alaimo’s Alston Label.

A few of the singles received regional airplay, but did not achieve national chart success. The songs, some of which were produced by Steve Alaimo and some of which were produced by Henry Glover,were similar in many ways to r&b recordings by Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and Little Willie John.

Prater was the lead vocalist on most of these singles, with Moore singing harmony and alternate verses.

In summer 1964, Stone introduced the duo to Atlantic Records’ Jerry Wexler, who signed them to Atlantic. Wexler asked Memphis, Tennessee-based Stax Records, which Atlantic distributed nationally, to work with Sam & Dave. Wexler wanted the Southern roots and gospel style of their live performances, so the pair were loaned to Stax to record, although they remained Atlantic Records artists.

According to Wexler’s 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.”

When Sam & Dave arrived at Stax, they worked with producer & engineer Jim Stewart and songwriters including the MGs’ guitarist Steve Cropper, who wrote or co-wrote four of their first eight recordings.

The duo then moved to relative newcomer writers and producers Isaac Hayes and David Porter. Hayes and Porter wrote and produced the duo’s biggest hits (although they did not receive production credits until the Soul Men LP and singles).

According to Moore and Prater, they also greatly influenced the duo’s singing style, and had them shift their recording style from the style of their Roulette records to a more live, more energetic gospel, call-and-response feel and beat driven soul style the group is known for today.

Sam & Dave’s Stax records also benefited from the musicians and engineering at Stax. The Stax house band, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, and the Stax horn section, the Mar-Keys had world-class musicians who co-wrote (often without credit) and contributed to recordings—the same musicians who recorded with Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Carla Thomas and other soul artists.

Sam & Dave’s Stax recordings through 1967 were engineered by Stax founder Jim Stewart, who created the Memphis Sound by recording live in a single take. Stewart is credited for instrumental mixes that allowed for instrumental separation and the distinct contribution of each instrument to the overall feel of the song. Hayes and Porter are in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, The Mar-Keys are in the Musicians Hall of Fame, and Booker T. & the MG’s, Jim Stewart, Isaac Hayes and Sam & Dave are all in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

While the first two Stax singles failed to chart, the third, the Hayes/Porter composition (with similarities, including the title, to a gospel standard) “You Don’t Know Like I Know” hit #7 R&B in 1966. This was the first of 10 consecutive Top Twenty R&B chart hits over three years, and 14 R&B chart appearances during their career.

Hold On, I’m A-Comin” (R&B#1/Pop#21), released in March 1966, was a monster R&B hit for Sam & Dave, and also their first single to break into the Top 40 Pop charts. The song was named the #1 song of the year for 1966 by the Billboard R&B charts, and spent 20 weeks on the R&B charts in 1966, peaking at #1 in June.

In 1988, Rolling Stone named it one of the best 100 songs of the past 25 years. “Hold On, I’m A-Comin’” received a belated RIAA gold record for one million sales in 1995, 29 years after its release. “Hold On, I’m Comin’” has since been recorded by over 28 other artists.

Hold On, I’m Comin” was also the first recording on which Moore took lead on the first verse and the deeper, rougher voiced Prater was given the response role and second verse at Hayes and Porter’s suggestion. The duo used this format, or singing dual leads, on most of their songs.

The song was created when Hayes called to Porter, who was in the bathroom. Porter supposedly said “Hold on, man, I’m comin’”, and Hayes and Porter had the song written in 10 minutes  “Hold On, I’m Comin’”, when released, received objections from radio stations over the suggestive title. This resulted in a name change by Stewart and quick re-recording and re-release, and nearly all the original U.S. copies of the single bear the title “Hold On, I’m A-Comin’”.

The LP Hold On, I’m Comin’ (4/66) reached #1 during 19 weeks on the R&B album charts in 1966. After Sam & Dave’s chart success, Roulette quickly released the album Sam & Dave in 1966 as well, a collection of the A & B sides of their six Roulette 45s, which did not chart.

Sam & Dave’s next huge R&B hit was “When Something is Wrong With My Baby”, their only ballad single, which was released in January 1967. Stax author Rob Bowman called this “One of the most sublime records in soul music’s history”, and Mar-Keys trumpet player Wayne Jackson called it the greatest song he has ever heard. This was the only Sam & Dave hit where Dave sang the first verse solo; their other hits started with Sam & Dave together or Sam singing the first verse. “When Something is Wrong With My Baby” has since become an often recorded and performed duet for male and female singers performing together.

In the later part of 1966, Sam & Dave also charted with the top 10 R&B hits “Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody”, and “You Got Me Hummin”. These three singles, along with 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 biggest hit and best remembered song, “Soul Man”(R&B #1/Pop #2), was released in August 1967. It was the number #1 song in the US according to Cashbox magazine Pop charts in November 1967. Sam & Dave won the Grammy Award in 1967 for “Best Performance – Rhythm & Blues Group” for “Soul Man”, their first gold record.

“Soul Man” was voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. The song helped popularize the term to describe the emerging music genre “Soul Music” that would be so popular in the late 1960s. According to co-writer Isaac Hayes, the title was inspired by news reports of soul pride that emerged after the 1967 race riots, where stories that painting the word “soul” on your door was a message for looters to bypass your house. Hayes-Porter extrapolated that to “I’m a soul brother, I’m a soul man.”. It has been recognized as one of the best or most influential songs of 50 years by the Grammy Hall of Fame, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Rolling Stone, and R.I.A.A. Songs of the Century. “Soul Man” was used as the soundtrack and title for a 1986 film, a 2008 film Soul Men, a 1997–1998 television series.

The Soul Men LP (October 1967) was Sam & Dave’s third Stax LP, reaching #5 on the R&B charts and #68 Pop. Musicologist Rob Bowman called Soul Men One of the greatest soul music albums of all time.” “Don’t Knock It” from the LP was 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 “I Thank You/Wrap it Up” 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, and was a popular live song performed frequently by Sam & Dave.

The first single for Sam & Dave in 1968 was “I Thank You/Wrap it Up” (R&B #4/Pop #9). It is one of many gospel-inspired tunes and was a hit on both charts. Critics commented that the B side “Wrap it Up” could have been a separate successful single, which it later became for The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Sam & Dave were so busy touring at this point that Hayes & Porter travelled to Europe where Sam & Dave were touring to record the vocal track on “Wrap it Up” so they could release the 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 with Hayes/Porter, as of May 1968, the duo’s work was released on Atlantic Records. “I Thank You” sold over one million copies, and was another to earn gold disc status.

Sam and Dave’s first 1968 single for Atlantic was “You Don’t Know What You Mean To Me”, written by Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper. Sam and Dave said it was their favourite of their songs, 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, but 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 streak at ten straight R&B top 20 singles.
Though on Atlantic, the I Thank You LP (10/68) included 1968 singles initially on both Stax and Atlantic. The LP peaked at #38 on the R&B charts, and was the only LP of their Stax recordings not to chart on the Pop LP charts.Sam & Dave’s live act earned them the nickname “Double Dynamite”. Phil Walden, Otis Redding’s manager, said “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.” Jerri Hershey described in Nowhere to Run: They carried red suits, white suits, three piece lime green suits, all with matching patent boots and coordinated silk hankies woefully inadequate to absorb a soul man’s nightly outpourings. Both Sam & Dave talk a lot about sweat. To Dave, its proof that he’s worked for his pay. For Sam its essential, almost mystical. He says he can’t work without it. “Unless my body reaches a certain temperature, starts to liquefy, I just don’t feel right without it.” Wayne Jackson said Sam & Dave left puddles of sweat onstage by the end of a performance.In March 1967, Sam and Dave were co-headliners for the Stax/Volt Revue 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, largely to all-white audiences, sometimes up to 2,000 people. Although Redding headlined the tour, many agreed Sam & Dave stole the show on many nights. According to Redding’s and Sam & Dave’s manager Phil Walden, Redding refused to be booked on the same bill with Sam & Dave again, not wanting to have to follow their explosive act. 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 in the UK Top 40.After the tour, Sam & Dave worked as headliners in the U.S. and in Europe in during the Fall of 1967, Fall 1968 and January 1970, and in Japan in 1969 and 1970. Their band grew to 16 pieces and a 35-person entourage with a plane and bus, and they continued to be in demand even as record sales began to drop in late 1969 and 1970. They were doing an average 280 shows per year from 1967 through 1969 and in 1967 only took ten days off for the year. Other high points included headlining the Montreal World’s Fair in 1967, performing at the tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr at Madison Square Garden in June 1968, being the first black Soul act to headline the Fillmore East in December 1968, and headlining the Texas International Pop Festival for two nights in August 1969. Sam & Dave also performed on U.S. and European television, including two appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1969, appearing on The Tonight Show and American Bandstand in 1967, and performing on The Mike Douglas Show in 1969 and 1970. Moore frequently recalls the Sullivan Show performances as a career highlight.

The year 1969 started well, with the Atlantic release of The Best of Sam & Dave LP in January. It contained all their Stax A sides 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 a #15 hit in the UK. The follow-up “Born Again”, reached the lower levels of the charts, and was the last single Sam and Dave recorded at Stax.
Jerry Wexler with co-producer Tom Dowd tried producing Sam & Dave in New York, with Atlantic songwriters and musicians. It took eight months to issue the first Atlantic single in August 1969, “Ooh, Ooh, Ooh”, a long time in that era. It was not a very good record, by Sam’s own admission, and the first time in four years that a Sam & Dave single failed to chart.Two more singles followed in 1970, “Baby, Baby, Don’t Stop Now”, and “One Part Love, Two Parts Pain”. The first was a leftover Hayes-Porter recording from Stax; the second was produced by Wexler and Dowd in New York, and was written by Stax executive Al Bell and Allen Jones. Both failed to hit the US R&B charts or the Hot 100. 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 split up in June 1970, according to Moore as a result of Moore’s dissatisfaction with the duo and his desire to pursue a career solo. According to Prater, they broke up because “[Moore] decided to do what he wanted to do on his own.” Moore recorded three solo singles (none of which charted) for Atlantic over the next year and was preparing an album produced by King Curtis, which was shelved after Curtis was stabbed to death in 1971. Prater recorded a single for Alston. Neither was commercially successful as a solo act, and they reunited in August 1971.In October 1971, their last Atlantic single, “Don’t Pull Your Love”, was a cover of a 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 never released by the label. Their contract with Atlantic expired shortly thereafter.Despite inability to attract a major label after Atlantic, there was still demand for public performances, especially in Europe. They toured Turkey in Spring 1972 and England in Spring 1973. Sam & Dave also continued to be visible in the U.S., performing on TV shows including The Midnight Special and The Mike Douglas Show. According to Sam, most U.S. shows in the 70s were small clubs, oldies shows, and whatever they could get. Sam & Dave’s poor relationship with each other and rumours of drug use at this point were well known within the music industry and contributed to the limited ability to get high quality bookings, also, according to Sam. According to Jerri Hirshey, who saw them many times in the 1970s, their shows could range anywhere from incredible, to horrible. (lastfm)

Sam and Dave returned to the studio in 1974-5, 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 MGs and The Memphis Horns and had a minor R&B single, “A Little Bit of Good” (R&B #89). Songwriters included Cropper, Allen Toussaint, and Jimmy Cliff.  Although the LP received positive reviews, it failed to chart. In a side project, they provided vocals on “Come On, Come Over” for Jaco Pastorius for his debut album on Epic in 1976.

In 1976-77, Sam & Dave recorded songs in the UK with producer John Abbey. Two singles were released on Abbey’s Contempo label in the UK and Germany, with limited success. Ironically, given the duo’s disputes, one of the last singles by Sam & Dave was a cover of The Beatles “We Can Work It Out”. Sam & Dave also briefly retired in 1977, with Dave working at a Pontiac dealership in New Jersey and Sam working at an Austin, Texas, law firm as a process server.

In 1978, Sam & Dave re-recorded old hits for the LP “Sweet & Funky Gold” (Gusto), and re-recorded songs and other soul hits during this period in Nashville for an album for K-Tel Records, The Original Soul Man.  In Summer 1978, they toured Germany for two weeks.

In 1979, Sam & Dave enjoyed a significant resurgence of interest as a result of Dan Aykroyd’s and John Belushi’s sketch characters in the cult film The Blues Brothers, and The Blues Brothers’ 1979 top 40 cover of “Soul Man”. Moore stated they were offered an opportunity to perform onstage with Belushi and Aykroyd on SNL, but turned it down when Belushi said Sam & Dave had to perform the intro, then the Blues Brothers would take over. The Blues Brothers’ personas and stage act were influenced by Sam & Dave, according to an April 1988 interview with Aykroyd in the Chicago Sun-Times. Aykroyd saw Sam & Dave as a teenager at the Montreal Expo in 1967, and said they were one of his biggest influences. Aykroyd got director John Landis to include the Jake and Elwood Blues characters listening to “Hold On, I’m Comin’” and “Soothe Me” while riding in the Bluesmobile during the film as a tribute to Sam & Dave.

Also in 1979, Sam and Dave opened shows for The Clash on their U.S. tour, including at the Palladium in New York City. In 1980, the duo performed in Paul Simon’s film One Trick Pony and on Saturday Night Live. In 1980, they also were featured in a U.S. tour opening for the 50s band Sha Na Na.

In 1981, they re-recorded many 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 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 spoke to each other.

In 1982, Prater started touring under the “Sam & Dave” name or as “The New Sam & Dave Revue” with Sam Daniels, who performed with Dave from October 1982 until Dave’s death in 1988. Moore attempted to block Prater from using the group’s name, but was largely unsuccessful. The Daniels & Prater incarnation played 100 shows per year over the next seven years, including in Europe, Japan and Canada.

In 1985, Prater and Sam Daniels released a newly-sung medley of Sam & Dave hits recorded in The Netherlands, which peaked at #92 R&B and was credited to “Sam & Dave”. Sam Moore got the record company to recall the single for using the “Sam & Dave” name without permission, and the record was re-labelled and re-issued by “The New Sam & Dave Revue

Prater had his last performance with Sam Daniels on April 3, 1988 at a Stax Reunion 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.

3 responses to “Sam & Dave!

  1. Gary – Fascinating to read about their interpersonal conflict —shared by many duos from Phil & Don Everly to Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee to Simon & Garfunkel. From your research could you tell if it began early or was it an effect of their waning popularity in the 70s?

  2. Pingback: Bob and Earl / Earl Lee Nelson | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

  3. Pingback: Bob and Earl / Earl Lee Nelson | All about the MUSIC

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