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Overview for Dave Prater
Dave Prater

Dave Prater


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Also Known As: Died: April 9, 1988
Born: May 9, 1937 Cause of Death: Car Accident
Birth Place: Ocilla, Georgia, USA Profession: Music ...


One half of the legendary African-American R&B duo Sam & Dave, Dave Prater first met fellow singer Sam Moore in a Miami nightclub and found that they made a terrific team. Sam & Dave's earliest singles made nary a ripple, but things changed dramatically once they joined Stax Records and entered into a creative partnership with Isaac Hayes and David Porter. The duo became regular fixtures on the Billboard R&B charts, with 10 straight singles in the Top 20 and three consecutive albums in the Top 10. However, by the start of the 1970s, their careers had begun to stall, a result of behind-the-scenes creative changes and drug abuse. They enjoyed renewed notoriety, thanks to the success of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd's Blues Brothers act, which recorded a popular cover version of "Soul Man" and used two Sam & Dave songs in their hit 1980 movie. Although Sam & Dave continued to perform together, there was no love lost between the two. When they finally split for good, Prater was taken to court by Moore for using their moniker without his permission. Key figures in the genre of Southern soul, Sam & Dave merged black gospel and pop melody into an unbelievably catchy and rhythmic combination, but a fatal car accident ultimately prevented Prater from having the same career longevity as his partner.

Dave Prater was born Dave Prater, Jr. in Ocilla, GA on May 9, 1937. The Prater family could fill an entire pew at the local church, boasting 10 children in all. It was there that Prater did his first public performing as part of the church choir. When he grew a bit older, Prater sang with a gospel group called The Sensational Hummingbirds, whose ranks also included his brother, J.T. Prater made his way to Miami in 1957 with the goal of establishing himself as a professional singer, but had to rely on more conventional employment to make his bills. He did manage to score some nightclub exposure, however, and made something of a name for himself in the area for his expert covers of Sam Cooke songs. One evening while local singer Sam Moore was performing at the King of Hearts Club, Prater joined him onstage and there was definite musical chemistry.

They decided to work together as an act and "Sam & Dave" began playing club dates in 1961. A contract with Roulette Records followed and the pair recorded a handful of singles. In addition to all of his musical activity, Prater became a husband in 1962 and, soon after, a father (the couple would have four more kids before the decade ended). Thanks to a lack of enthusiasm and promotion, none of their Roulette songs made much of a dent in the marketplace. After leaving the label, Sam & Dave attracted the attention of Ahmet Ertegun, head of the bigger and better established Atlantic Records, which assigned them to their Stax Records subsidiary. Working with up-and-coming song writers-producers Isaac Hayes and David Porter, they began to produce the singles that established Sam & Dave as a force in the world of R&B.

"Hold On! I'm Comin'" (1966) and "Soul Man" (1967) were the best remembered of 10 successive songs to land on the Top 20 Billboard chart. Their albums also performed very well, with three in a row also placing in Billboard 's Top Ten listings. They were honored with a Grammy Award in 1967 and also proved popular in other countries, touring Europe as part of a Stax revue. Sam & Dave made an especially big impression in England, where "Soul Man" reached No. 2 on the local charts. Unfortunately, trouble soon brewed between the two singers and their relationship was never the same. During a domestic dispute in 1968, Prater shot and injured his wife, but was ultimately not charged for the incident. On top of that, the distribution agreement between Atlantic and Stax ended and Sam & Dave were contractually obliged to stay with the former company. A more specialized operation like Stax was a better fit for artists like Moore and Prater, and without their regular creative partners to help polish the final product, they failed to maintain their previous artistic and commercial heights. This additional strain and continued heroin use by both men contributed to the problem. In 1970, they left Atlantic and called it quits.

After attempts to record and perform on their own, Sam & Dave reunited a year later. However, things remained volatile, with Moore stating that he would sing with Prater, but not talk to him. Sam & Dave earned some unexpected but welcome publicity in the late 1970s when comedians John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd unveiled their comic characters, The Blues Brothers, on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ), singing "Soul Man." Rabid R & B fans, the comic partners subsequently recorded Briefcase Full of Blues (1978), which included cover versions of many R & B classics, including "Soul Man," which also was released as a single and reached No.14 on the Billboard chart. The album was a major success, going double platinum, and led to the big budget movie "The Blues Brothers" (1980), which featured Moore and Prater's "Hold on! I'm Comin'" and "Soothe Me" on the soundtrack.

Thanks to two fictional Blues Brothers, Sam & Dave enjoyed a heightened public awareness that led to new bookings, but they were usually in low-quality venues and both men proved unreliable, with one or both sometimes not showing up for concerts. They finally broke up for good after completing a 1981 New Year's Eve concert in San Francisco. The following year, Prater announced a new incarnation of Sam & Dave, with Moore replaced by Sam Daniels. That led to legal action by Prater's former partner that largely failed to prevent the new duo from performing. However, when Daniels and Prater released a single boasting the Sam & Dave name, Moore successfully had it pulled from stores. It was later re-released and credited to "The New Sam & Dave Revue," a compromise that satisfied Moore.

Both Moore and Prater had experienced substance abuse problems over the years, but while the former became clean in the early 1980s, Prater was not so successful. In the summer of 1987, he was arrested for selling crack cocaine and sentenced to three years' probation, community service and a fine. On April 9,1988, Prater was killed after he lost control of his car, which left the road and hit a tree. Moore did not attend the funeral, stating in interviews that he was not invited. In 1992, Prater and Moore were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and joined the ranks at the Grammy Hall of Fame five years later. In 2001, Prater's widow filed suit against Atlantic Records for royalties she felt the label owed his estate.

By John Charles

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