Remembering Dave Prater

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Remembering Dave Prater

On this date in 1988, David Prater, Jr., the man who put the “Dave” in the R&B duo Sam and Dave, met an abrupt and all-too-early demise in a car crash at the age of 50, leaving behind a musical legacy filled with a whole lot of soul.

Born on May 9, 1937, in Ocilia, Georgia, Prater started his musical career in his church choir, a gig which helped him hone his skills as a singer and doubtlessly had a great deal to do with him eventually finding a place as a member of the gospel group The Sensational Hummingbirds. It wasn’t until 1961 that Prater met his future partner, Sam Moore, but it wasn’t long after their initial encounter at the King of Hearts Club in Miami that they joined forces and signed a deal with Roulette Records.

While Sam & Dave didn’t see much chart success on Roulette, their subsequent signing to Stax Records proved to be a real game-changed for the duo: after finding their footing with their first two singles, “A Place Nobody Can Find” and “I Take What I Want” (both released in 1965), they went on to see their next ten singles turn out to be top-20 R&B hits, including their huge crossover pop hits “Hold On, I’m Comin’,” “Soul Man,” and “I Thank You.”

Unfortunately, over the years, the relationship between Prater and Moore grew more and more strained, often turning volatile, and the decline in their chart successes combined with the end of their contract with Atlantic Records made the ‘70s a pretty rough decade for the duo. In fact, they actually split up in June 1970, with each trying their hand as a solo artist, but the level of success they achieved is best clarified by noting that they reunited in August 1971…only a few months before they were dropped by Atlantic. (Good thing there was still a desire for Sam & Dave live shows, both in the States and overseas.)

Prater and Moore found a new home at United Artists a few years later, but their lone album for the label, 1975’s Back at Cha, didn’t do anything to change their chart fortunes, and the subsequent release of a pair of singles in the UK and Germany – “Why Did You Do It” and a cover of the Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out” – proved equally unsuccessful from a comeback standpoint. With that said, however, the Blue Brothers’ cover of “Soul Man” raised the duo’s profile considerably, and in the realm of things you’d never believe were true if there wasn’t documentation to back it up, Sam & Dave also opened for the Clash in 1979.

Although the ‘80s began with Prater and Moore appearing in Paul Simon’s film One Trick Pony and found the duo mining their back catalog – and those of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding – for a two-volume set entitled Soul Study, Sam & Dave performed what proved to be their final gig on New Year’s Eve, 1981. It was, per Moore, the last time the two men saw or even spoke to one another.

Man, are you as depressed as we are right now? Let’s shrug off that sadness and remember Prater in much more cheerful fashion: by listening to some Sam & Dave tunes.