Perhaps no act epitomized soul music as the secularization of gospel more than SAM & DAVE. The original pairing of Sam Moore and Dave Prater met in Florida in 1961, and they recorded unsuccessfully for several years before being signed to Atlantic Records in 1965. Atlantic persuaded their Memphis affiliate Stax Records to produce them, and in December that year the writing and production team of Isaac Hayes and David Porter delivered the crisply soulful “You Don’t Know Like I Know.” Hayes and Porter became the éminence grises behind Sam & Dave, much as Holland-Dozier-Holland pulled the strings behind the Supremes. They wrote, they produced — and the result was a string of hits, including “Soul Man,” “Hold On! I’m Comin’,” and “I Thank You,” songs that survive as the very epitome of Southern soul. Certainly, Sam & Dave’s hits are among the most soulful ever to crack the Hot 100. Their albums often bore the hallmarks of hasty execution, though. The dissolution of the partnership between Stax and Atlantic virtually sealed the fate of Sam & Dave; there were a few more hits (and, later, a revival of interest thanks to the Blues Brothers), but the glory days were over.
Samuel Moore and David Prater were both raised in the South, where they sang in church as children. During the ’50s, they performed in soul and R&B clubs before meeting each other in at the King of Hearts club in Miami in 1961. Moore was hosting an amateur-night contest where Prater was singing. Once Dave forgot the lyrics to Jackie Wilson’s “Doggin’ Around,” Sam coached him through the song. Following that night, the singers became a duo and soon became a popular local Miami act and signed with Roulette Records, releasing a handful of singles. In 1965, they signed with Atlantic Records, but producer Jerry Wexler moved the band to the label’s Stax subsidiary.
Working with Stax’s house band and songwriters/producers Isaac Hayes and David Porter, Sam & Dave created a body of sweaty, gritty soul that ranks among the finest and most popular produced in the late ’60s. The duo’s 1966 debut, “You Don’t’ Know Like I Know,” kicked off a series of Top Ten 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).