BY RANDAL HILL
In their shows, Sam Moore and Dave Prater became a freewheeling bundle of collective energy, joyfully bobbing, weaving and gyrating, and all the while singing at full throttle. Popular among the many nicknames the duo earned was “The Sultans of Sweat,” as every high-energy performance left actual tiny lakes of perspiration onstage.
In Rhythm and the Blues , Atlantic Records’ Jerry Wexler said, “Their live act was
filled with animation, harmony and seeming goodwill.”
Oh ? That “seeming” goodwill
apparently wasn’t directed at each other, as the pair endured a tumultuous partnership for the
two decades they performed together. Moore and Prater
would often arrive at concert venues separately, each demanding his own dressing room. During concerts, they usually managed to avoid eye contact with the other. Apparently the two once
went a dozen years without even speaking to each other offstage.
Each artist had his own litany of
complaints about the other. Moore said he abhorred Prater’s drug usage and constant griping about wanting to do a solo act with new material. Prater, in turn, groused that it was Moore who wanted to work alone and stop performing the Sam and Dave catalog of hits—which, according to Prater, Moore never liked much anyway.
However, their onstage chemistry delighted appreciative audiences who
only saw two African-American men having fun and loving their work.
In 1967, Sam and Dave recorded
their biggest hit, Soul Man, on the
label. It reached
Number One on
the soul charts,
Number Two on
the pop lists and
won a Grammy the
Soul Man had come about when co-writer Issac Hayes was inspired by a 1967
TV newscast of a Detroit riot. Many black – owned buildings had been marked with a single, boldly lettered word: SOUL. This inspired Hayes and his writing partner, David Porter, to develop the Sam and Dave classic.
In November 1978, the Blues Brothers—comics Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi—performed Soul Man on Saturday Night Live, their remake on Atlantic Records reaching a whole new audience.
Despite their career-long personal turmoil, Sam and Dave were elected to the prestigious Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which tacitly acknowledged the duo’s masterful transition of gospel music’s elements into the popular music mainstream.
Randal C. Hill, a former disc jockey, English teacher, record collector and author,
confesses to being hopelessly stuck in the past when it comes to music appreciation. He lives on the Oregon coast and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.