Ask any real soul connoisseur who their favorite group is and Sam & Dave will likely be in their top 5. Likewise, ask anybody age 5 to 95 if they’ve ever heard the song “Hold On, I’m Comin’,” or “Soul Man,” and they’ll probably sing you the words.
That’s because Sam & Dave are one of the most successful pop duos in the history of recorded music. From 1964-70 they ruled the Hot 100 with 13 straight appearances and two top 10 singles.
But most people don’t know that the group hails from Miami and were discovered by, and first recorded for Henry Stone and Steve Alaimo.
There was a little club in the heart of the Liberty City projects called the King Of Hearts owned by one John Lomelo. In later years he would become ‘mayor for life’ of the small burg of Sunrise, FL before eventually being indicted for corruption and then being re-elected.
Steve Alaimo used to work the club sometimes as a singer, and Henry used to hang out there a couple nights a week. “John Lomelo was a great guy. I used to love that place,” says Stone.
Sam & Dave were on the talent show circuit of the era, and were known for an explosive live performance that brought the church-feel to the nightclub, and through a combination of powerful singing, dance moves, and on-stage chemistry, they would turn the club out every time they hit the stage.
Alaimo produced and Stone released a few sides on his Marlin and Alston labels. Then he leased a couple of em’ to Roulette Records produced by Henry Glover. They sold what they sold, which wasn’t much, but the group’s talent would not be denied.
One night Henry Stone took Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records to watch them play at King Of Hearts and he was blown away. Soon Sam and Dave signed a recording contract with Atlantic.
Wexler asked Stone what he thought of his recording them through STAX, and Stone suggested he have a couple of young producers he’d been keeping tabs on produce the records. So Isaac Hayes and David Porter took on the project, had Booker T & The MGs back the group, and the rest is history.