Soul Man

play it, Steve.

Soul Man
Sam & Dave in Studio A with Stax studio house band, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Dave Prater & Sam Moore, Al Jackson Jr. in the background at the drum kit, 928 E. McLemore Ave., Memphis, TN

I wrote about Sam & Dave winning the Lifetime Achievement Award for this years Grammys for Uproxx, which guaranteed that I was going to do too much research, because it was an excuse to.

My primary sources were Robert Gordon’s Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion [Sidebar: this is a phenomenal, definitive, comfortable read, and downright essential] and Dave Marsh’s oral history, simply called Sam & Dave, as well as various and sundry links and websites. Shortly into this process, I became concerned that I would have to overly focus the piece on the Blues Brothers, because that is where most people know about “Soul Man,” and, to be fair, Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn were the ones who pulled the band together for that album and that movie. I learned that Dan Ackroyd saw Sam & Dave at Expo ‘67.

I learned that, predictably, Briefcase Full of Blues (the album owned by every single adult male who was 15 or older in 1979) is ONE OF THE BEST SELLING BLUES ALBUMS OF ALL TIME, which is like Jewel being the best-selling poet of the 20th century, and the fact that both of these statements are true makes me want to bang my head on the desk. In one of the only times I fervently agree with Robert Christgau, I quote: “Is this a top-ten album because people actually want to listen to it?”

Thankfully I did not have to give this more than a paragraph in my piece. Instead, what I wanted to talk about was their live act, the insanity that was Sam & Dave live. A graf that got chopped:

It is 1967, and the Stax/Volt Revue has headed to Europe. The Revue featured Stax artists such as Arthur Conley, Carla Thomas, Eddie Floyd, Otis Redding, and Sam & Dave. Otis is headlining, as he’s already toured Europe; so Sam & Dave precede him in the lineup. This would prove to be a tactical mistake, as well as a transformative moment: there was a reason that Sam Moore and Dave Prater were known as “Double Dynamite” and widely regarded as the greatest live act in the world of all time. Otis Redding could sing, but his stage act positioned him center stage, rarely leaving the microphone. That was the complete opposite of Sam & Dave. “They had to get a mop out there to wipe some of Sam and Dave’s blood and guts off the stage,” said Wayne Jackson, drummer of the Stax house band. “...They had everybody just in pandemonium. And Otis would stand over there on the side, watching.” It was enough to instantly transform Redding. “I couldn’t believe what was going on--the energy that I had never seen before,” said Al Bell, legendary Stax promotion man. Otis was also heard saying, “I never want to have to follow those motherfuckers again.”

[emphasis mine]

There is a whole other article to be written about the experiences of the Stax and Motown artists when they toured overseas, where they received the respect and accolades and star treatment they deserved, while in the US they… did not. But in the meantime, please, enjoy Sam & Dave from 1966, and see for yourselves. Dig, again, the band. The HOUSE BAND at Stax was fucking Booker T & the MG’s. That was the band you got if you didn’t have anyone else with you, for fuck’s sake. It is an embarrassment of riches.

And then, there is this abomination, for which I apologize in advance.

The Sam & Dave story didn’t really end the way it should have, which is also unsurprising. Atlantic stole them from Stax (along with the entire Stax/Volt catalog, which is another story for another day (read contracts, people—read them). There were drugs, a lot of drugs, there was bad management, and worse management, and more drugs. Sam & Dave would break up and get back together and break up again, and then the Blues Brothers should have given them a second life, but, again, drugs and unethical managers ruined that chance. Dave Prater died in a car accident in 1988; the RRHOF inducted them in 1992. Sam Moore is still with us, even if he is doing things like performing at the inauguration of Individual 1; he is still Sam Moore, with a voice that soars to the heavens.

Be like Sam and buy a copy of Woman Walk The Line! (Photo credit: Holly Gleason)

You can also buy me a coffee.