Gary James' Interview With Sam Moore Of
Sam And Dave
They are best known for songs like "Soul Man", "Hold On, I'm Comin'" and "I Thank You". "Soul Man" has been recognized as one of the most influential songs of the past half century by the Grammy Hall Of Fame, The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, Rolling Stone magazine and the R.I.A.A. Songs Of The Century organization. They are members of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, the Grammy Hall Of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame. We are talking about Sam And Dave! Sam Moore spoke with us about the legendary duo's career in music.
Q - Sam, I was watching Piers Morgan on CNN in January (2014). He had as his guest, Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees.
A - Oh, yeah, yeah.
Q - Barry was talking about this club, The Speakeasy. It was a private membership club. He said on any given night you might see The Beatles, The Stones and The Who, all in the same room with Sam And Dave or Otis Redding performing on stage.
A - (laughs)
Q - Do you remember that club?
A - I remember Bog O' Nails. A place where you'd see and be seen. A lot of the artists, if they were in town, would go there and you know, sit around and meet and greet each other, tell stories. Before the night was over, somebody was gonna get on stage and perform.
Q - From the way Barry Gibb was talking, it was like Sam And Dave were the hired entertainment for that evening.
A - I don't recall The Speakeasy. After a show someplace, well, they still do it today I would imagine, you would go after the show and you would go to this club to sit back and relax. You might have a girl or you're gonna pick up a girl. Before the night was over you were gonna be on the stage, singing. If you were pretty big, everybody would know your song. I'm talking about from the band (on stage). "Sam And Dave is in the house. Maybe they can get up here and sing a couple of songs." And we'd do a song. I do recall that. Oh, yeah.
Q - They had a coffin by the front door of The Speakeasy where you'd have to show a card to get in. Does that ring a bell?
A - I don't recall the coffin. (laughs) I wouldn't know. It's been so long. I remember the club. I don't remember the coffin sitting in front of it.
Q - Did you ever meet The Beatles at one of those clubs, whether it would be The Speakeasy or The Bag O' Nails?
A - We were doing a show in Berlin and they came by. They were in the audience. I remember the manager of the club or the owner said some guys were here. They were watching Sam And Dave. We were doing a show. Some of the guys were there. Most of the guys I would imagine. Let's put it like this, I met them before they became as famous as they did. It was just the "Hello. How are you?" At that time they called our kind of music The Blues. I do remember meeting them before they became international, coming into a club we were working. Just to sit down, one on one, I don't recall doing that.
Q - Is it true that you and Dave were, for the lack of a better word, "discovered" by record producer Steve Alaimo? He saw you at The King Of Hearts nightclub in Miami.
A - He didn't discover us, no. The man that actually owned The Big Time was Henry Stone. Steve became sort of a producer at Henry's place in Miami. We were doing local stuff around there. Everybody wanted to cut a record. We didn't even know the business. We just knew we wanted to sing on a record. Steve told me not long ago he went to Henry and said, "I hear you have these guys, Sam And Dave. What do I do with them? What kind of style do they have?" He didn't even know what was going on. He knew about the local stuff, like at the clubs. He'd come by The King Of Hearts and see the local bands, which was Sam And Dave. We were signed to, I think Roulette Records in New York. He said, "What do I do with these guys?" So, there was a song Steve wrote called "Keep A Walkin'" and it had sort of a Country hook to it. When you're the new kid on the block and you're in the studio, you're excited. Plus, you gotta understand we were new because we were coming out of the Gospel field. So, we were not too into Rhythm 'n' Blues or Root Music or whatever you want to call it. We were doing Gospel. So, what happened is, Steve said he got in contact with the people of Sam Cooke in California. He came up with a song The Soul Stirrers had done called "Build A Fence All Around Me". The song Steve raised, and when I say raised I mean the song he covered, he turned it around to be called "No More Pain". Dave and I did that. The only thing that was changed were the words. That's all. We did a couple more songs, but Steve didn't discover us. The man who discovered us was a man by the name of John La Mello, at The King Of Hearts. We were local guys and that club was local. We were the local come-to-see. On weekends, Sam And Dave were around from Miami to Jacksonville to Nassau to Cuba. If Sam And Dave was in town, you'd go see Sam And Dave. We didn't have no big record. We were doing everybody else's material. We were doing, my God, Clyde McPhatter, Bo Diddley. At the time, would you believe it, at the club there was a young man you should remember, a comedian on the show name of Flip Wilson.
Q - Oh, yeah.
A - (laughs) But Flip got a break from The Beaches, not The King Of Hearts.
Q - You didn't have much success at Roulette in getting a hit record, did you?
A - No. I was still writing at the time. I was writing a couple of things. I wrote a song, "Got A Good Thing Goin' On" and some stuff that got passed by. The guy writing with me at the time was Sam Taylor. Johnny Nash wrote "So Nice While It Lasted" for Sam And Dave. I remember that very well. It should've gone some place because it was really Pop sounding. It was just a nice song that he had written. "Thing Goin' On" had the taste of "Fever". You have to understand what we were becoming and who we were dealing with at the time, which we didn't know. They weren't doing anything with us. They didn't know what to do with us because we didn't have any style. We were just two guys from Miami that had Gospel backgrounds. We were recording for Morris Levy on Roulette Records. You got me now?
Q - Loud and clear!
A - (laughs) We wanted our contract. We wanted to go someplace else. I noticed a lot of record companies I put out to see if they would take our contract, they turned us down. "Not now, Sam." So, it didn't happen until after we thought we got away from Roulette and years to come we found out we didn't. (laughs) Atlantic signed Sam And Dave. That is the story up to signing with Atlantic.
Q - How did you guys develop your dancing on stage? Is that something you thought of or did someone else develop it for you?
A - We'd make up stuff. If I started doing a dance move or a Holy Ghost move or whatever you may want to call it, and Dave saw it, most of the time he would pick it up. It wasn't choreographed. If he did something I liked, I would stand there and see what he's doing and I would join him what he's doing. But none of that was choreographed. None of that was designed. None of that was teaching each other. It was just stuff made up from church, from when I went to church. Dave would follow what I was doing. If you want to know the truth, we were actually mimicking Jackie Wilson and James Brown. We got that because we were on the show and we would see James Brown at The Apollo or we would see Jackie Wilson, who turned out to be a very dear friend of mine, and we copied stuff with the microphones. I tried with the Joe Tex side with the microphone and that didn't work too well. (laughs) I bust open my mouth a couple of times that night, so I stopped that, not knowing he was using a magnet in the bottom of the microphone. So, it wasn't choreographed. It was just something that we made up. That's all.
Q - Can you watch someone who just stands on stage and sings or do you prefer someone who moves around on stage?
A - Being in the business as long as I have, if you're going to perform, I believe and I think I can testify to this, I like to see you entertain me. What does that mean, Sam? Thank you. Glad you asked. It means if you're gonna sing, sing! Tell the story. If you're gonna move, try to move as you're telling the story and if you feel it, fine! It's good, 'cause it happens. I don't want you to just stand there like a stick. But move! If you're gonna move, move! And the next thing is to keep it clean. And the next thing I like, if you're gonna entertain if I come to see you, for God sake stay off that floor! Don't be fallin' all over the floor. We did that one time.
Q - When you say fallin' on the floor, you mean...
A - Like getting down on your knees like Jackie used to do, or James used to do. But they had a way of doing it! When they came up they were still pounding the floor, standing on their feet. I like a person that can control, sing to the audience. They're the ones that paid their hard earned money to come to see you. Give them what they paid for. Give them a complete you. Whatever you're singing, whatever you're doing on stage, but you don't need to do all that nasty, fall on the floor, playing with your crotch. You don't need to do that. Sing, man! If you feel it, go for it! I've been around six times I would say.
Q - How did life change for you when "Hold On, I'm Comin'" became a hit? You went on Ed Sullivan, didn't you?
A - Oh, Gary, yeah. I'm trying to think... I think we did it one time. One or two. I can't remember right now. But yeah, we did Ed Sullivan. "Hold On, I'm Comin'" shot us right out there. We were doing touring and to have "Hold On, I'm Coming", by that time everybody knew who we were, nationally. We had "I Take What I Want", "You Don't Know Like I Know". Stuff like that. So, by the time "Hold On, I'm Comin'" came out, we were traveling all over the place. I had gotten this big band. Oh, my God, we stayed out on the road. I stayed so long I should be like Dr. Dre now. I should be a billionaire. (laughs) We traveled a whole lot, man.
Q - At one point you had a sixteen piece band, a thirty-five person entourage, a plane and a bus. In 1967 through 1969, you worked an average of 280 shows a year.
A - Yes, sir. You've done your home work. That's exactly right.
Q - The money was good then, was it?
A - No. When you get that much around you, you're not really making any money. When Dave and I first started out traveling nationally, it wasn't a sixteen piece band, it was twenty-one. Then I cut it down. But you see, you've got to have the right kind of people around you. The ones that say they're gonna look after you and you just do the show, that's the ones you better look at. You got, like you said, sixteen pieces traveling 280 shows, 35 entourage. That is true. I did have that. An airplane and a car, if I didn't want to ride (in) the bus I would ride in my car. If it was a long ride I would get in the bus. But when you look back, you got a manager, a stage manager, two drummers, girls. You know what you're looking at? You're looking at doing a show, getting off stage, not paying attention to your business and you get some girl and while you're in the room or the suite with the girl, they're putting money in their pockets. They're gutting you.
Q - Isn't that the story of most Rock singers or bands? They're ripped off by either managers or record companies.
A - Yeah, absolutely. How did that happen, you ask? When the guys came off stage, the girls would be waiting for them. Or you're on stage and you look down and you see this girl in the audience and sometimes, believe it or not, you had your agent or you had the manager set you up with the girls in the back or the girls sitting down in the front real pretty. There was always two or three girls. There might have been two girls pretty, but one of the girls is real ugly. Now, there's Sam And Dave. Sam And Dave go to get the two girls, right?
Q - Yeah.
A - But the other girl got away because before the night is over, somebody is gonna have her. Most of the time she turns out to be one of your best friends. See, but you gotta understand, your agent knows about it, so he pays these dummies to keep 'em distracted. So, when you go and get paid that night, the band is getting so and so. The money isn't like it is today. We didn't have any understanding and all that stuff. I think the highest week I got, when I bought Dave out, I think I was paid, if you played The Apollo it was $2,500 a week. On a one-nighter I think it was $2,500, I don't know. It's been so long now.
Q - And Bruce Springsteen can come into a city and gross a million dollars a night.
A - Let's go back to that. That's a good one. Bruce gets a million dollars a night, but you see, that's not where Bruce's money is coming from. It's coming from the t-shirts and the magazines. Believe it or not, when it comes down to the end of the night and they go into the Gents Room, Bruce is right there because that's where his money is made. That's where he makes his money. I've seen that many times. That's how a lot of entertainers make their money. I'm not putting him down. If you got an underwriter, you're gonna make money. You betcha dollar they're making money. You're not, but if you got that underwriter selling your wares... A t-shirt could cost you $25 or $35. (laughs) So, we didn't have that at the time. I think the band members were getting $25 a night and the band leader got $50 (a night). The man that was leading the band, the musical director, got double. I think the most money Sam And Dave got is when we went overseas one time. We were supposed to make a nice piece of money. If we played a big stadium with somebody else and we were headlining, we were supposed to have made big money. But even then, the manager, everybody is making money but Sam And Dave. There were times I went to the record company to borrow money to pay the bills! When it came back, it was re-coupled back to me! I should've made big money, but that was our own fault. We listened to people who were supposed to be taking care of us and they were robbing us blind. The manager we had was getting a third from Dave, a third from me.
Q - Whoa!
A - Yeah, Gary.
Q - And I thought Colonel Parker was bad!
A - The same man that was the manager of Ray Charles turned out to be the manager of Sam And Dave, Jeff Brown. He came to us. He was getting, I found out later, he was getting a third from Sam, a third from Dave, okay? With the two of us he was only supposed to be getting 10% to 15%. He was getting a third from each one of us, okay? And we still paid the band. I paid the band. I paid the bus. I paid Dave. After I bought Dave out because we had a financial situation there. People were telling him I was robbing him and it got to be real ugly, so I said, "What I'll do is just buy you out." So that's what happened. I'm telling you the truth.
Q - By the '70s, you guys were playing small clubs. That must've been terrible for you, or did you look at it as just another gig?
A - By that time we were stable, but we also had problems.
Q - Did you think it was a come down to play those small clubs?
A - No, because we knew being with the agency we were with, we were only with one agency that I felt really taught me all the things I'm telling you now, made me look at things and be business wise and how to do stuff and what not. By the '70s I didn't feel like we were in trouble. I just felt like you're not looking as that you're coming down, but you see your audience and the clubs you're playing and they're not as big as the ones you were playing. You start saying we gotta get a new record. That doesn't matter, because now you're being transferred back and forth from record company to record company. The magic is actually gone, but you're not looking at that. You're looking at, "Wow! Man, we just gotta get another hit record and we won't be playing these clubs anymore." Then the clubs we were playing were basically Black clubs now. It says today that Sam And Dave was a sell-out. So, we're playing these Black clubs and they were going, "Okay, they ain't singing like Sam And Dave no more. They're singing for the Whiteys." Oh, man. So you're okay because you know what? You know you've got a manager that's ripping you off anyway, which you're not aware. You feel like he's a father figure or a mentor. You're not understanding he's taking a third from each one of you guys. You accept what he's saying the night's receipt is. We came down from buses. Now we're riding back in bandwagons. (laughs) The man said he didn't have such a big crowd. He paid us a check. If he paid us a check, you should've went to the bank right then at night, but no, you keep it until the next morning. (laughs) And you go to the bank and a guy says, "Aah, there's nothing in this account sir. He doesn't have an account with us." Now you're stranded.
Q - Barrack Obama, I don't think he was President then, was using "Hold On, I'm Comin'" as his theme song on his campaign trail and you asked him to stop using it. Now, why would that be?
A - Because I didn't want it to appear that was endorsing or voting for him or anything of that nature. Now, that's the only reason I did it. I paid a price for it, but if I had to do it over again and been in the same situation, I would've done it again. I didn't want to appear that I was endorsing or campaigning for him. I wasn't doing that. And they didn't ask. Maybe if they would've asked, "Is it alright?" or whatever, maybe we could have made it okay as long as I don't have to come out there and sing it for you. But they didn't ask and took it upon themselves to do it and I said, "No. That's not right. Stop."
Q - The same thing happened to Bruce Springsteen. When President Reagan was campaigning for re-election in New Jersey in 1984, he was using Bruce's "Born In The USA". He was told to stop using it.
A - Yup. Bruce did that with Reagan. But you see, he didn't do that with Obama. They were together the other night at this function in L.A. So, it happens.
Q - What did you think of The Blues Brothers? They did your song, "Soul Man". Did you like their act?
A - No. When I would watch them on TV doing Ray Charles, (Joe) Cocker, James Brown, I thought it was cute. It was an honor to see Sam And Dave with the "Soul Man" whole thing. But, it started to turn. We played a club in my My Mother's Place in the islands of New York. I remember so well, we came into town and we would finish singing and doing the show, there wasn't no big band. If The Blues Brothers were there, "Soul Man" was that big. Sam And Dave's popularity didn't mean that much. The name did. But what happened is, when we walked outside to get in our van, two kids came up and said, "Hey! That's Soul Man." Yeah. "Man, you all did a job on that song. Man, you did a better job on that song than they (The Blues Brothers) do." I thought Oh, no. Dave got upset. He said, "It is not their song! It's our song.!" It was ready to get ugly. Dave was obsessed with "Soul Man". I said, "They covered it. It's actually Sam And Dave. If you look back and do the research on it, you'll see Sam And Dave had the hit on it" "Yeah, well, you all covered it?" "No, We did it first and they covered it." "Yeah, okay. Alright." Right then I knew we were in a lot of trouble. Our career was like; Yuck! That's when I became aware. We did something in the park with Ray Charles one time. The people were singing the song. I'll never forget. Ray said something. I went by his car. He said "Why are they booing you?" 'Cause they were singing our song. It was the last song on the show before Ray came on. They were booing and saying, "Blues Brothers. Blues Brothers." It was really ugly. We had to really leave the stage. Now that's something a lot of people don't know from the old days. But, that really happened because we sang the song and we got booed on stage for singing something that actually belonged to Sam And Dave. I don't even think my wife knows that. I never discussed that. But that really did happen. By this time, Ray Charles was coming on with this big orchestra for the show. We're faking off somebody else's song? C'mon, man. It really bothered me. It really hurt. I remember Ray got on the stage and said, "How dare you do them like that! It's their song! If you don't stop, I won't play. I will not play. This is not fair! How dare you do them like that!" I tried to get out of my mind. So, that was about it.