×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sam and Dave’s Sam Moore on Famed Duo’s Challenges Coming Up in the Early ’60s

During that bright burst of Memphis music magic that lit up radios, record players and concert stages in the mid-’60s, no act outshined the dynamic rhythm and blues duo known as Sam and Dave. Alongside legendary performers such as Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, and Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Sam Moore and Dave Prater ran up a string of chart hits for the Stax label that included such soul anthems as “Hold On, I’m Comin’,” “Soul Man” and “I Thank You.” The duo first parted ways in 1970 and by the early ’80s, had broken up for good. Prater died in an auto accident in 1988, and Moore’s career overcame numerous setbacks. But Moore endured, going on to enjoy the duo’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1992 and a 2006 Grammy nom for his version of the song “You Are So Beautiful,” among many career highlights. Variety first noted Moore on June 22, 1966, when he and Prater hit the singles charts with “Hold On, I’m Comin’.”

You and Dave Prater put out records before you broke through on Stax. But none of those records ever clicked?

We were signed, and we had a producer who’d worked with Joe Williams, Count Basie and Dinah Washington. We came up with some pretty good stuff. But it became clear that nothing was working, and I finally said, “We’re not going any further with you guys. Could you let us out of our contract?”

Roulette was owned by Morris Levy, who was very famously, shall we say, difficult, or impossible, to negotiate with.

What did I know? I was just a kid from the block. They told us to talk to Morris, so we found out where he lived. He had a beach house in Miami. We knocked on the door, and a maid answered and asked us what we wanted. We said, “We’re here to see Mr. Levy.” Right, two black guys in that neighborhood, and remember, this is back in the early ’60s, and we’re not that close to integration. She says, “Go around the back, and Mr. Levy will see you.” So we go around, and we’re greeted by three guys wearing overcoats in the middle of the summer, and you can see these bulges in their coats right where you’d be carrying a gun. Levy comes out and says, “What do you want?” We said, “We’re Sam and Dave. We’re on your label. We’ve cut some tracks.” “What do you want from me?” “You’re losing money with us, and we can’t find a way to do anything.” Then I started to sit down, and he said, “Did I ask you to sit down?”

You know that other acts had very bad things happen to them after that kind of conversation with Morris Levy.

He took out a box and found some papers, and he signed things and crossed things out. He said, “Let me know if you get any offers. How are you getting back?” We told him we had our car and thanked him and left. When we got back and told our manager, he said, “Morris Levy let you out of your contract? OK, let’s see how far this goes.” 

Essentially, from many different directions, you were being robbed.

And the more confused I got, the more I shot dope and I got more confused. Eventually, I learned that being angry, resentful and hurting wasn’t helping anything. I found a way to move on.

Such a horrible business experience but we still have all those amazing records. Is there anything you might have done differently?

To tell you the truth, I love those records, and when I made them, I knew they were songs
I could sink my teeth into. But my background is gospel. The truth is, I wanted to stay in the gospel field. But it wasn’t paying the bills. 

More Music

  • My Chemical Romance

    My Chemical Romance Confirms U.S. Reunion Tour, With 18 Cities Set for Fall

    As anticipated, My Chemical Reunion’s December show at the Shrine Expo Hall in Los Angeles, their first in nine years, was not a one-off, as America goes. Following the announcement of some European gigs, the group has also slated a month-long run of arena shows in 18 cities this fall, including a return to L.A. [...]

  • Rusty Gaston, CEO, Sony/ATV Nashville

    Sony/ATV Publishing Nashville Names Rusty Gaston as CEO

    Making good on news that was reported last July but not officially announced until now, Sony/ATV Music Publishing Nashville has appointed Rusty Gaston CEO. As head of the titan Nashville division, Gaston will work under Jon Platt, Sony/ATV’s chairman/CEO. “The Sony/ATV Nashville catalog is the undisputed greatest collection of country music on the planet,” Gaston [...]

  • BTS The Late Late Show with

    BTS Goes Into the Woods With James Corden for 'Black Swan' Live TV Debut (Watch)

    BTS took James Corden back into the woods for the live television premiere of the group’s new “Black Swan,” unfolding on a deep-forest set two nights after their Grammys debut, which was also the subject of a short interview on the late-night show. Speaking of their appearance on the Grammys, the group said, “Everything about [...]

  • Grammy Awards nominee Yola performs live

    John Prine, Yola, Rhiannon Giddens and Other Americana Notables Salute Willie Nelson

    Willie Nelson could have warned mamas not to let their babies grow up to be Americana musicians, but too late — he’s one of the core heroes and spiritual gurus of that roots-based movement, and some of its leading lights gathered at L.A.’s Troubadour on Grammy weekend to salute Nelson by covering his songs, showing [...]

  • Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez. Kristen Anderson-Lopez,

    Kristen Anderson-Lopez Talks Responsibility, Representation in 'Frozen 2' and the Biz

    Gender parity isn’t an issue in Oscar-winning songwriting-composer Kristen Anderson-Lopez’s house, what with her longstanding collaboration with husband Bobby Lopez, but at the Oscars luncheon on Monday, it was a different story. “There were 13 female directors represented in the shorts and documentary fields,” Anderson-Lopez notes, adding, “but how do we get from there to [...]

  • Mrs. Doubtfire BroadwayCon panel

    Listen: 'Mrs. Doubtfire' the Musical, Live From BroadwayCon

    In the Broadway-bound musical version of “Mrs. Doubtfire,” actor Rob McClure has the unenviable job of following in the footsteps of comedy great Robin Williams, who memorably played the title role in the 1993 film on which the stage show is based. Listen to this week’s podcast below: How does McClure hope to fill those [...]

  • Lizzo

    Osheaga and Firefly Festivals Reveal Lineups: Lizzo, Kendrick Lamar, Billie Eilish, More

    Two of the summer’s biggest festivals — Firefly in Delaware and Osheaga in Montreal — announced their lineups this week, and both feature some of the most important artists working today. Delaware’s Firefly Festival will feature headliners Billie Eilish, Halsey and Rage Against the Machine (the latter of which is also set to headline Coachella). [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content