Seventy-five years ago today, a soul baby named Sam Moore was born in Miami, and the sawgrass swayed in the humid wind.
The son of a church deacon and choir singer, Moore grew up belting out gospel in the South and rocking Miami’s local R&B/soul circuit. One night in 1961, he helped a Georgia singer named David Prater through a rendition of Jackie Wilson’s “Doggin’ Around” at the King of Hearts club, “a local bastion of Miami black nightlife,” according to Rob Bowman’s Soulsville U.S.A. Following the performance, the two fiery and symmetric men regularly torched Miami’s music scene as a suit-clad, synchronized duo and eventually caught the attention of Atlantic Records co-owner Jerry Wexler.
It was 165 degrees in the middle of summer. It was hot and they were hot. It was wall-to-wall people. We were the only Caucasians in there [the King of Hearts]. Ahmet [Ertegun, Wexler’s partner at Atlantic] and I are out there boogalooing like fools, sweating and just having a ball. It was so exciting. When I heard them there that night, that’s all she wrote. I signed them up immediately. — from Soulsville U.S.A.
In 1965, Wexler sent “Sam & Dave” to its Memphis affiliate, Stax Records, which boasted songwriters Isaac Hayes and Dave Porter, house band Booker T and the MGs, and God’s gift to ears: Otis Redding. With Stax, Sam & Dave went on to record some of the 60s’ funkiest tracks, including “Hold On! I’m Comin” (1966) and “Soul Man” (1967).
But the “Dynamic Duo” couldn’t keep it together. At each other’s throats, they broke up for the first time in 1970 and for good in 1981, two years after The Blues Brothers’ recording of “Soul Man” revived their popularity. David Prater died in a car crash in 1988. Sam Moore pursued a solo career that has included many high-profile guest appearances, several film roles, and (embarrassingly) the 1996 release of “I’m a Dole Man,” which presidential candidate Bob Dole played on the campaign trail. On Jan. 15, 1992, both men entered the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
To commemorate this day in Miami history, here are Sam & Dave sweating buckets for an audience conspicuously not of their peers and evidently plagued by bouncy-knee syndrome (see 25 seconds into “Hold On!”).