Sam & Dave

  • Biography:

    Sam Moore and Dave Prater's string of soul and pop hits made them the '60s' most successful black vocal duo. Both had grown up singing in church, and each was a regular solo performer in Southern clubs before they met in 1961 at Miami's King of Hearts club: Moore was emceeing an amateur-night show, and when Prater forgot the words to a Jackie Wilson song, "Doggin' Around," Moore coached him the rest of the way. The pair became a popular club attraction in the Miami area and soon signed to Roulette. They moved to Atlantic in 1965, though executive Jerry Wexler arranged for their records to be recorded at and released by Stax Records. At Stax, Sam and Dave quickly became the favorite foils of the production/songwriting team of Isaac Hayes and David Porter. Their first single, "You Don't Know Like I Know" (Number Seven R&B), in 1966, began a string of high-powered soul hits. Later in 1966 "Hold On! I'm a Comin'" went to Number One on the R&B chart (Number 21 pop), while "Said I Wasn't Gonna Tell Nobody" (Number Eight R&B) and "You Got Me Hummin'" (Number Seven R&B) rounded out a successful year. In 1967 Sam and Dave (nicknamed "Double Dynamite") gained their widest exposure with "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby" (Number Two R&B) and the epochal "Soul Man" (Number Two pop, Number One R&B). The next year they scored their last major hit, "I Thank You" (Number Nine pop, Number Four R&B).

    The duo's frantic live show was one of pop music's most exciting, yet offstage Moore and Prater barely spoke to each other. After breaking up in 1970, they reunited several times. In 1979 the Blues Brothers' success with "Soul Man" rekindled interest in them, and the duo received bookings at many clubs nationwide. But they split up for good after a New Year's Eve 1981 show at San Francisco's Old Waldorf. Prater then took to the road with another Sam: vocalist Sam Daniels.

    In a 1983 interview with the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Moore admitted that he had been a drug addict for 12 years and that the main reason for his feud with his ex-partner was that he'd "lost respect" for him after Prater shot his own wife during a 1968 domestic dispute. Prater escaped prosecution in that instance, but in 1987 he was arrested for selling crack to an undercover cop and sentenced to three years' probation. He died the following year in a car accident. Moore contributed vocals to Bruce Springsteen's Human Touch LP in 1992, the same year Sam and Dave were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Moore continues to perform; he published Sam and Dave: An Oral History in 1998. That year he also appeared in the comedy sequel Blues Brothers 2000.

    This biography originally appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001).

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