“I wasn’t there at the Harlem Square Club in Miami when Sam Cooke recorded his famous live album in 1963, but I can tell you my first record was on Chess Records and I knew Sam Cooke and I saw Sam at the Apollo up in Harlem with J.W. Alexander.
Later, I wrote a song to one of the Soul Stirrers songs and they were on the label SARS Records and I wrote a pop song, it had secular lyrics set to one of the Soul Stirrers songs called “I Am Faithful,” and Sam said, “Send Steve Alaimo permission to do it,” and then sent me the actual music track to the original gospel record which is “Jesus Be A Fence Around Me” with Johnnie Taylor singin background on it, the Soul Stirrers singin background on it. And it was a pretty good little record, so that’s how close I was with Sam and J.W.
J.W. I saw here a lot, Sam wasn’t here much really. Sam Cooke used to hang out with Muhammad Ali a lot when he was here.
I met Ali. He was in my living room. A friend of his came over to see me and brought him right into the living room of my house and said, “I want you to meet somebody,” and there standing in my living room is Muhammad Ali. In North Miami Beach. On Atlantic Isle, I had a house there, that’s where I lived. He was right in the livin room. I’ll never forget it as long as live. We didn’t really have a conversation or anything, just “Hi, howya doin,” but Angelo Dundee and all those guys were all my buddies.
The only thing that messed him up was that he spoke up for what was right and what was humanely correct and he got grief for it. And they just made up shit. Certainly more honorable than John F. Kennedy. I mean, what, he didn’t wanna go in the army and kill people, cause they didn’t do anything to him.”
Interview ©Jacob Katel 2017, story ©Steve Alaimo.
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