Sam Moore of Sam & Dave is 80 (tomorrow)

Sam Moore was blown away, and uttered “Play it, Steve” spontaneously.

sam-and-daveSamuel David Moore (born October 12, 1935) and the late Dave Prater (May 9, 1937 – April 9, 1988) comprised, inarguably, the most successful and critically acclaimed soul-singing duo, Sam & Dave, from 1961 to 1981. They are members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (1992) and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. Sam Moore has continued his career as a solo performing and recording artist.

They had a complicated recording situation, signed to Atlantic Records, but leased to the soul label Stax for a time in order to get the Memphis feel. Their working relationship was also strange; “according to Moore, they did not speak to each other offstage for almost 13 years.”

A Place Nobody Can Find, written by David Porter, was their first STAX single, b/w Goodnight Baby (Isaac Hayes/Porter), both sides featured Dave Prater singing lead. It failed to chart. That would soon change.

Many of the song description narratives are from the great book Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story of STAX RECORDS by Rob Bowman. Links to all songs.

10. I Take What I Want (Hayes/Mabon Hodges/Porter), 1965 – another early song that failed to chart. Note that many of these songs were written by the team of Isaac Hayes (of “Shaft” fame), and David Porter, who also produced these and many future songs. They also wrote hits for other STAX artists.

9. You Got Me Hummin’ (Hayes/Porter), #77 pop, #7 r&b in 1967 – such nice rhythmic humming, it wasn’t the bawdy song that the writers had envisioned.

8. You Don’t Know Like I Know (Hayes/Porter), #90 pop, #7 r&b in 1965 – their first hit, due in no small part to the promotional skills of STAX’s Al Bell. It was inspired by the gospel song You Don’t Know Like I Know What the Lord Has Done for Me. Sam Moore hated the song, and about half the tunes presented to him at STAX because Hayes and Porter made him sing high in his vocal range. Dave sings the first verse, then they trade lines. Instead of a solo, Hayes and Porter put in a horn ensemble, inspired by Otis Redding’s In the Midnight Hour.

7. You Don’t Know What You Mean to Me (Eddie Floyd/Steve Cropper) #48 pop, #20 r&b in 1968 – I’m not a great fan of talking in pop songs. But when Sam & Dave do it – “Eddie FLOYD wrote the song” – it’s different. Steve Cropper is best known as the guitarist of the Stax Records house band, Booker T. & the M.G.’s.

6. Soothe Me (Sam Cooke), the live version went #56 pop, #16 r&b, #35 UK – smooth like Sam Cooke was.

SamMoore 5. Soul Man (Hayes/Porter), #2 pop for three weeks, #1 r&b for seven weeks, 24 UK in 1967. A Grammy Hall of Fame song. Isaac Hayes suggested Steve Cropper play a slide guitar lick, and Cropper, not having a proper slide, used a cigarette lighter. Sam Moore was blown away and uttered “Play it, Steve” spontaneously, which was kept in the mix. The success of the Blues Brothers’ cover, for some reason, made me irritable.

4. Wrap It Up (Hayes/Porter) – B-side of I Thank You, 1968. The lead vocals were recorded in Paris while the duo was on tour, because the label thought, correctly, that the A-side was going to be a big hit.

3. I Thank You (Hayes/Porter), #9 pop, #4 r&b, #34 UK in 1968 – more talk that works. Sam’s “I want everybody to get off your seat, And get your arms together, And your hands together, And give me some of that old soul clapping” sounded like church, especially the word “old.” Also love the clavinet, played by Hayes. It features background vocals by Ollie and the Nightingales.

2. Hold On, I’m Comin’ (Hayes/Porter), #21 pop, #1 r&b in 1966 – the first Sam & Dave song I was aware of. Hayes had yelled to Porter to hurry, and finish up in STAX’s washroom. Porter responded, “Hold on, man, I’m coming.” Sam is on lead vocals from the start. Little mistakes, such as Wayne Jackson missing a trumpet entrance, were left in. Often covered, never surpassed.

1. When Something is Wrong with My Baby (Hayes/Porter), #42 pop, #2 r&b in 1967 – this song, a rare ballad for the duo, is gorgeous. Inspired by Porter’s bad marriage and his fantasies about what would feel like to be in love. Sung primarily by Sam, with harmonies by Dave. Also covered a lot, notably by Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville.
Coverville 1096: The Villes are alive with the sound of Covers. And Sam & Dave. And Indie Hodgepodge!

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