|Birth name||David Prater, Jr.|
May 9, 1937|
|Died||April 9, 1988
|Associated acts||Sam & Dave|
Dave Prater (May 9, 1937 – April 9, 1988) was an American Southern soul and rhythm & blues singer and musician, who was the deeper baritone/tenor vocalist of the soul vocal duo Sam & Dave from 1961 until his death in 1988. Dave Prater is a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (1992), the Grammy Hall of Fame (1999, for the song "Soul Man"), the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, the Georgia Music Hall Of Fame (1997), and was a Grammy Award-winning (1967) and multi-Gold Record award-winning recording artist.
Sam & Dave were the most successful and critically acclaimed duo in soul music history, according to Rolling Stone magazine, and brought the sounds of the black gospel church to pop music with their string of call-and-response hit records. Primarily recorded at Stax Records in Memphis, Tennessee, from 1965 through 1968, these songs included "Soul Man", "Hold On, I'm Coming", "I Thank You", and other Southern soul classics. Other than Aretha Franklin, no other soul act during Sam & Dave's hitmaking Stax years (1966–1968) had more consistent R&B chart success, which included 10 consecutive top 20 singles and 3 consecutive top 10 LPs. "Soul Man" has been recognized as one of the best or most influential songs of the past 50 years by many organizations, including the Grammy Hall of Fame, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Rolling Stone Magazine, and RIAA Songs of the Century. "Soul Man" was used as the soundtrack and title for both a 1986 film and a 1997–1998 television series.
Nicknamed "Double Dynamite" for their energetic and sweaty, gospel-infused performances, Sam & Dave were also considered by critics to be one of the greatest live performing acts of the 1960s. The duo has also been cited as musical influences by numerous artists including Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, and Stevie Winwood. The Blues Brothers, which helped create a major resurgence of popular interest in Soul, R&B, & Blues music in the 1980s, was heavily influenced by Sam & Dave (their biggest hit was their top 20 cover of "Soul Man", and their act and stage show was patterned after Sam & Dave's).
Early years (1958–1964)
The seventh of ten children, Prater was born in Ocilla, Georgia where he grew up singing gospel music in the church choir, and was a veteran of the gospel group The Sensational Hummingbirds where he sang with his older brother, J. T. Prater. Prater met future partner Sam Moore in The King of Hearts Club in Miami in 1961, signing to Roulette Records shortly thereafter. Sam & Dave released six singles for Roulette, including two songs that Prater co-wrote with Moore. Prater was typically featured as the lead vocalist on these records, with Moore typically singing harmony and alternate verses.
Stax years (1965–1968)
They were signed in late 1964 by Jerry Wexler to Atlantic Records. who structured an agreement for them to record in Memphis with Stax Records. While their first two singles failed to chart, the duo's November 1965 single, "You Don't Know Like I Know," started a series of ten straight top twenty Billboard R&B hits that included "Hold On! I'm Comin'" (1966), "You Got Me Hummin' (1966), "When Something Is Wrong with My Baby" (1967), "Soul Man" (1967), and "I Thank You" (1968). Starting with "Hold On, Im Coming", Moore was typically given the lead vocal (first verse and lead voice in chorus) on most of the future Sam & Dave singles. Prater sings the tenor lead first verse on Sam & Dave's only ballad hit single, "When Something is Wrong with My Baby", demonstrating a very impressive vocal range in the upper register.
All of their biggest hits were written and produced by Isaac Hayes and David Porter. In addition to Hayes-Porter, Sam & Dave's Stax records also benefited greatly from working with the Stax house band and Rock Hall of Fame members Booker T. & The MG's, and the Stax horn section, the Bar-Kays. These highly regarded musicians co-wrote (often without credit) and contributed greatly to the recordings. Sam & Dave's Stax recordings through 1967 were engineered by Stax founder and Co-owner Jim Stewart, who created the "Memphis Sound" at Stax records by recording sessions essentially live in a single take. The combination of all of these respected talents contributed to the unique sound and commercial success of Sam & Dave's Stax recordings.
Atlantic years, solo career, and back with Sam & Dave (1968–1981)
When Stax and Atlantic severed their distribution agreement in 1968, Sam & Dave became Atlantic recording artists, and shortly thereafter they lost the ability to work with Hayes, Porter and the Stax musicians. The records made by Atlantic did not have the same sound and feel as the Stax recordings, and most only placed in the lower ends of the music charts if at all. The ending of their association with the Stax record label and their frequently volatile relationship contributed to their first break-up in June 1970.
After the break-up with Sam, Prater went back to their early Miami Label, Alston Records, where he recorded one single, "Keep My Fingers Crossed/Love Business" (Alston A-4596), and also performed sporadically over the next year.
Sam & Dave reunited in August 1971 and performed throughout most of the 1970s through 1981, and enjoyed a brief resurgence in popularity due to The Blues Brothers's 1979 recording of "Soul Man". Sam & Dave also recorded "Come On, Come Over", which appeared on the debut LP of jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius. Dave also appeared in the Paul Simon's movie One Trick Pony as part of Sam & Dave. Their last performance together was on December 31, 1981, at the Old Waldorf in San Francisco.
"The New Sam & Dave Revue" and last performance (1982–1988)
In 1982, Prater started touring under the Sam & Dave name with Sam Daniels, who performed with Dave from the middle of 1982 until Dave's death in 1988. Moore attempted to legally block Prater from using the group's name without his participation and permission, but was generally unsuccessful in stopping the act from performing. The Daniels/Prater incarnation of Sam & Dave played as many as 100 shows per year, including gigs in Europe, Japan and Canada.
In 1985, Prater and Sam Daniels released a newly-sung medley of Sam & Dave hits recorded in Holland, which peaked at #92 R&B and was credited to "Sam & Dave". Sam Moore made the label recall the single for using the "Sam & Dave" name without permission, and the record was re-labelled and re-issued as being by as "The New Sam & Dave Revue". Dave Prater had his last performance with Sam Daniels on April 3, 1988 at a Stax Reunion show at the Atlanta Civic Center, which also featured Isaac Hayes, Eddie Floyd, and Rufus and Carla Thomas. Six days later, on April 9, 1988, Prater died in a car crash in Sycamore, Georgia, while driving to his mother's house.
Prater summed up his thoughts on his career for author Gerri Hirshey in her book Nowhere to Run (1984, Southbank Publishing):
- "I'm a workin' man. Been gettin' down so long. I don't be thinkin' about will I make it up again. Now, what's a music man like me gonna do? What's he do, 'less he entertains till he dies?" (Dave Prater Jr. of Sam & Dave)
Prater was married to Annie Belle Henderson from March 1962 to November 1969, and had five children with her. On December 25, 1969, he married his second wife, Judith T. Gilbert. Prater was a resident of Paterson, New Jersey, from 1974 until his death in a single-car accident in Sycamore, Georgia, on April 9, 1988. He was buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Totowa, New Jersey.
- An Anthology of Sam & Dave - The Stax Years CD liner notes, p. 1, Rob Bowman.
- via Associated Press. "Dave Prater, 50, Dies; Soul Singer of the 60's", The New York Times, April 13, 1988. Accessed November 4, 2007. "Dave Prater Sr., of the soul-singing duo Sam and Dave, was killed Saturday when the car he was driving went off Interstate 75 near Sycamore, Ga., and hit a tree. He was 50 years old.... Mr. Prater had lived in Paterson since 1974 and his body will be returned to New Jersey for burial next week, his widow, Rosemary, said Monday."
- "Sometimes the Grave Is a Fine and Public Place". New York Times. March 28, 2004.
There's no shortage of dead musicians, either.... David Prater, the Dave of Sam and Dave (Soul Man), is in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Totowa.