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Soul Man Speaking: Lisa Iannucci's "lost" Sam Moore interviews

Updated: Jun 28

June 27, 2024

Sam Moore and Bruce Springsteen in action at The 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concerts in 2009 - photo by Kevin Mazur - used with permission

In 2022, Bruce Springsteen described Sam Moore to Rolling Stone's Andy Greene as follows: "He’s the greatest high harmony, high tenor I’ve ever heard in my life. When we sing on anything together, it’s just incredible. He’s probably the greatest living soul singer right now." Moore duets with Springsteen on two tracks that highlight Bruce's latest officially released studio album, Only The Strong Survive (Covers, Vol. 1.) The tracks are "Soul Days" and "I Forgot To Be Your Lover."

Moore also is among the major figures interviewed in HBO/Max's excellent and essential new documentary series Stax: Soulsville, U.S.A.

So this is a perfect time for us to share with our readers Lisa Iannucci's two "lost" interviews with Sam Moore. Iannucci interviewed Moore in 2006 and 2010, each time with the intent to publish a feature on Moore for the late, great Backstreets Magazine. For various reasons, the feature never happened, and no material from either interview ever got published.

But now, we at Letters To You are happy and proud to present both interviews below, in their entirety. They are wide-ranging, informative, deadpan-funny at times (not surprisingly, if you know Sam Moore at all,) and offer a great overview of Sam Moore's life and career, with a special focus on Moore's pre-Only The Strong Survive encounters with Bruce Springsteen. Special thanks to both Lisa Iannucci and our friend Chris Phillips, Editor/Publisher of Backstreets, for helping this to happen. Take it away, Sam & Lisa!


Lisa Iannucci - first "lost" interview with Sam Moore - 2006

Lisa Iannucci (LI:) Good morning; it’s such a pleasure to talk to you. I’m so excited... I’ve been a fan of yours for years, and I can’t believe I’m really talking to you.

Sam Moore (SM:) Oh my goodness, you just got me gushing all over. Thank you.

LI: Well, you know, it’s funny. I’ve known Dave Marsh for some time, and I know he’s good friends with you and your wife.

SM: Oh yeah, Dave Marsh. What did he say this time?

LI: Um, I don’t know. I don’t want to say in mixed company.

SM: So that’s the way it is; okay. Well yes, he and Barbara [Carr, Dave Marsh's wife and Bruce Springsteen's former co-manager] are among our best friends.

LI: How did you get to meet him? How long have you known him?

SM: It’s been about thirty years that I’ve known Dave; I’ve known him that long. And he’s been a rock and a warm place. When I did the book [For The Record (series) - Sam and Dave: An Oral History] and everything, it was Dave Marsh who did it with me. We have a great admiration and mutual respect for one another, and Barbara is a wonderful lady and whatnot, so we have been pretty close.

LI: I’ve known Dave because I’m a big Springsteen fan and I work for the magazine and all, and I wrote him a fan letter, and he’s always been very supportive of my career.

SM: Right, he’s that way. If he can do anything to help others, whom he sees want it or will accept it, Dave is right there for you. You wouldn’t think he is, but he really is and he’s very bright, very smart, and he can be very tough, but he’s very fair.

LI: Okay, so I have to ask you about Bruce because that’s what the magazine [that I write for] is all about. Yeah, there’s a magazine all about Bruce; isn’t that scary?

SM: Oh, that’s cute. Bruce all the time, I like it; I love it.

LI: I’ll make sure you get a copy when it comes out. So I want to talk to you about when it was that you first heard Bruce’s music. When did you first sort of realize who Bruce Springsteen was, and what was your reaction to that?

SM: When Dave [Prater, Sam Moore's late partner in Sam & Dave] and I played The Stone Pony, I was a friend to his big sidekick, Clarence [Clemons,] and whenever we played Asbury Park and the Stone Pony, at the time I was told that [Bruce] would visit The Stone Pony and sometimes perform. But I didn’t actually meet him then. Many times I had actually seen him over at Clarence’s house. I’d seen him when he was doing rock’n’roll – this was before he became “The Boss,” and all this stuff. I [first interacted extensively and personally with Bruce in the early 1990s] when there was a call made—we [Moore and his wife Joyce McRae Moore] were still living in L.A. at the time—and there was a call that came in when he was doing Human Touch, and they asked me if I would come in to do some background. So I went in, and that was the first time I actually spoke one on one with him. Before that, usually he would come over to Clarence’s house and I’d just say "hi" and that was it. But I met him then, and I think his wife was having the first baby then, back in 1990, ’91. And we did one song, and I went back to my house in Arizona and I got another call, and later I got another call—another song and another song, and then I went back and got another call. Actually, there were four songs. [To date, only three of the Moore/Springsteen collaborations from the Human Touch sessions have been released officially: "Soul Driver," "Real World," and "Man's Job."]

We got close; we don’t socialize but it’s the time that we’re in one another’s company that we enjoy. At least I can speak for myself. I can’t speak for Bruce and I won’t do that. But it’s a joy, it’s a pleasure, and it’s an honor to be in this guy’s company. And to my wife and to everyone else, he’s so sweet. We get to laughing and giggling, and we’re goofy. I’ll give it to you short. One time he was in Asbury to do a performance, and I just wanted to see him—I didn’t go to see the show; I came to see him—and I walked into the dressing room and he was like “What key is ‘Hold On I’m Comin’' in, Sam?,” and I was like, “I didn’t come here to sing.” But we wound up at the end of the night doing “Soul Man,” and he wanted to do the steps of Sam & Dave, and I told him, "We didn’t have no steps; what are you talking about? There ain’t no steps, we just did something." And he laughed. But we do that, and the most wonderful time was when he did the Christmas show (in Asbury Park.) That was a lot of fun. And I admire this man so much because he has worked so hard to get to what he is today. And there are no pretensions with him. What you see is what you get. Mostly it’s about the music, writing good stuff, and performing [well] when he gets up onstage. You know what I love is that with Bruce, you don’t see all the smoke and the big stage, and all the lights getting into your eyes so you can hardly see the artist and whatnot; this guy walks up there and he’s the working man’s entertainer... You know you have been entertained with this guy. And I believed it then, and I still believe it now.

LI: I really see that a lot of that came from you, that he watched you and learned from you over the years. I wanted to ask you—you said that on your record [2006's Overnight Sensational, Moore's duets album that featured a Moore/Springsteen collaboration on "Better To Have And Not Need,"] you really wanted to hear his soul voice, that you thought it was something that a lot of other people didn’t know about. I always thought he was a soul singer, too, but I think a lot of people haven’t thought of him that way. What is it in him that you heard that you thought that nobody else heard?

SM: One time he was doing a show, and he jumped up on the piano, and he had the audience in such a state. It was an amazing thing; he took the audience over. 'Cause he was preaching, and through his preaching, if you’re listening, he was testifying. He was actually testifying. And I don’t think he even knew that he was doing that, and I said, “Oh my God, who is this guy? This guy sounds a little like C.L. Franklin [father of Aretha], that squall in his throat and all that stuff, this guy can really [do that.]" And I told Jon [Landau,] and Barbara [Carr,] and even Dave [Marsh.] We discussed it, because Dave has listened to gospel as much as I have, he’s on that stuff, and he said, “Why don’t you get him to do it?” And I said, “I don’t know. Well whenever I can get something where I can get him to do that, I’ll try." I can’t make him, you know. And with that song, I listened and listened, and I said, “Uh oh, I see something I think he can do. I can get squall, that C.L. Franklin squall.” And I’m proud to be the one to set it up, where he just went there. And the call and response, like in the church…I just set it up in a way that he would have to do that squall, and when he did it and they sent the file back to me, I screamed. I called Dave and I said, “Dave, doggone it, he did it!” Oh my god, can you believe how he sounds on that?

LI: Yeah, it’s amazing to me. You know, I’ve always heard that in his voice. I grew up hearing gospel and R&B, and I never understood why people insisted on putting him in that corner... "You’re a rock’n’roller; you’re not a soul singer." And that’s part of his Jersey Shore roots, as well.

SM: It is. I mean, some of the earlier songs that he has written, they’re very church orientated. Some of the songs he started writing before Born to Run, all that stuff really [shows the] gospel in him. When he does a song sometimes, I’ve heard him, he’ll do it with that Soul Stirrers high C, during that nine-chord interlude going out. And you’re going, “Wait a minute? Where’d he get that from?” When he does that stuff, you know, you want to talk about a soul singer…He ain’t gonna like it, but that’s all right; I can do that. You talk about a soul singer; he can really do it. His approach—the way he attacks ---you can say wow, this man is really soulful. He can really be, he can really be.

LI: You mentioned that holiday show from a couple years ago. To me, that was just the most exciting thing. Seeing you walking out on that stage—it was such an emotional moment for me, and I’m sure for a lot of the audience. And I heard later on that you were sick, but those were some really great, passionate performances. What was that experience like for you?

SM: I was sick. And I’ll tell you what, [Patti Scialfa] was such a gracious, wonderful lady that she called—and I had fever all day—and she called and she spoke with my wife and she said, “If you can get Sam up to get to a doctor, I have called a doctor.” Yeah, she really did this. And [my wife] Joyce said, “Well, he’s still full of fever and he’s still sick, but he’ll come.” And Joyce checked with me, and we got in the car, and [Patti] set it up, and we went to the pediatrician...Who goes to this pediatrician? Bruce’s children!

LI: Well, you could never tell [how sick you were] from the performance. And I have to tell you that it was a high point in my life, seeing you onstage with him.

SM: So yeah, we did all the Sam & Dave stuff, and that’s okay, that’s fine. But you know what, just being up there with him for “My City of Ruins”—he was standing there, and I was standing there, and it was just….whew. And ever since then, he and I, we have been trying to figure out a way that we could just sing songs we enjoy, you know... Sam & Dave songs that we like, and just be up there together and have a good time being together. He is much closer [to me] as a performer than my former partner [Dave Prater] was. I’m not lying to you; I’m not blowing smoke here. I feel closer to him than I felt with my former partner. When it comes to performance and all that stuff, I feel much closer. I am so comfortable when I perform with him and whatnot. Now, you may ask about the others [on the Overnight Sensational album]—I’ve never performed with anyone else that’s on the album, so that’s why I single him out. Other people—Vince Gill and Sting and Jon Bon Jovi, those are my backups—but Bruce, whew—we’ve done some pretty good performances onstage.

LI: Speaking of performing, what you do is almost a forgotten art. Soul music and R&B—I grew up with it, and it seems to be disappearing. Why do you think that is?

SM: I don’t know. Maybe it’s the writing, the material. I don’t know. This is 2006, and it’s been fading into the background for years. I’ve heard—it’s been said to me—that it’ll never sell [now.] Well, I think we’ve put a damper on that [idea] with this album. I mean, Sting, Jon Bon Jovi... we’re not singing any of their material. We’re singing [R&B]. Now, we didn’t go out to do that [live]. But these lazy record companies—get out there and promote it, and do something about it. [And I will also say that] I basically just don’t think some of these kids are qualified to do it. I mean, when the camera’s on, they’ll say “My inspiration was Aretha Franklin," "My inspiration was Whitney [Houston]," "My inspiration was Luther [Vandross]," or "My inspiration was Bruce." But wait a minute! Nobody’s doing [R&B]. I mean, the inspirations that they fall back on now would be like, “Oh, the greatest soul artist in the world would be Solomon Burke, Betty Lavette, Candi Staton.” Wait a minute—Candi’s been a minister for over thirty-some-odd years and now she comes out and does a pop act [His Hands, 2006] and you say that that’s [R&B]... Come on.

LI: I think people just aren’t exposed to it the way I was, the way you were. They don’t hear it on the radio, they don’t learn about it in school. It’s not treated like it is a part of our culture.

SM: You’re right; it ain’t even on the radio. You don’t hear nobody learning from Jackie Wilson or Sam Cooke or [Little] Willie John or Otis Redding, but the rappers will sample these people, the James Browns, the Sam & Daves, and things like that, and they say “Oh, that was my inspiration.” That’s not singing, you dig what I’m saying? And I’m not putting down hip-hop or rap, ‘cause I listen all the time and I love—I’ll hear something and say, “Oh, that’s a lift from Otis or a lift from Sam & Dave or a lift from James Brown,” and I keep on going. But you understand what my point is—these R&B artists are being lifted. But you don’t hear nobody lifting from Bruce. ‘Cause Bruce doesn’t stay in one position all the time. He moves. And that stuff he puts out there. I mean, “Jacob’s Ladder,” all that stuff he’s doing right now, this is old. This is Sister Rosetta Tharpe, The Pilgrim Travelers, The Soul Stirrers, you know, Mahalia Jackson.

LI: You mention Otis Redding, and I have read several places that he was always in awe of you onstage. But who were some of your influences when you were first starting out?

SM: Well starting out, naturally, it was gospel. So that was Soul Stirrers, The Pilgrim Travelers, The Nightingales, you know, things of that nature. Mahalia, Aretha’s father C.L., you know, that was when I started out. But when Dave [Prater] and I switched over [to soul], naturally it was Sam [Cooke], and Bobby Womack, and Jackie Wilson. And that’s the only reason I didn’t actually go with The Soul Stirrers. You know, they came out with Jimmy [Outler] and Johnnie [Taylor], but before that when they came to Miami, they were rehearsing to go back to Chicago, and I just went to see these guys... So those were my influences, and things of that nature. And I learned from some of the stars, the Sinatras, and I had a chance to do that. I was fortunate enough to be able to do those kinds of things. So I am blessed and lucky.

LI: One last question, because I know you’re a busy man. Any plans to do any live shows with this record and/or any performances with Bruce?

SM: Okay, I am glad you asked that, because I want to set the record straight. Yes, when it comes to the album, I am going to promote. With Bruce, that’s up to Bruce. If I’m someplace and Bruce calls and says, “Man I wanna go,” I’m up for it. But I am not - let me repeat - I am not going to infringe on that friendship, that relationship, by asking him to do that. I feel too close to him to do that, but if he calls and says he wants to do something, he would like to sing a song or even have me come on his show with his stuff, I’m all for it. But you will see me on stage with this record. I do have a band together. I’ll learn the songs and wait [until they’re ready.] That’s all I can do.


Lisa Iannucci - second "lost" interview with Sam Moore - 2010

LI: So since I talked to you last, you did the Wilson Pickett tribute at the Grammys, played this year’s Grammys After-Party, and The 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concerts at the Garden last fall. Since you put out the record in ‘06, people have been calling you up. How does that feel?

SM: Well, this [Hall of Fame Concerts] call was also [Bruce’s] because he was in a position to invite someone that you’re comfortable, that you like singing with and whatnot. So I was fortunate enough that over the years…that the relationship that we had over the years - you wouldn’t believe because we really don’t socialize or [act] buddy-buddy and all that stuff - but it’s still gratifying and wonderful when someone in his position – we’ve known each other since the ‘70s – asks you to do things. I did the [2003 Holiday Show] one time in Asbury Park, and then this. So anytime he calls and requests, and says, “I want Sam..." It’s not that I have to climb, and neither does he. But we’re comfortable enough that we can have a good time doing what we do best.

LI: Well the [Hall of Fame event] was exciting because young people are just starting to know who you are, and it was great to see you come out there and get that kind of reception.

SM: Well it used to bug me a lot... It goes back to the “Soul Man” thing, when The Blues Brothers covered the “Soul Man” song, [which was] Sam & Dave’s. And I remember we were playing My Father’s Place there on [Long Island] in New York, and these kids came up to us after the show and said, “You know that song ‘Soul Man’? Well you cats do it better than them,” and Dave just went berserk. And I intervened and said, “Well look, they covered it, but originally it was Sam & Dave.” It was like that even when Dave and I were together. And then later [after Dave left], it was “Who’s going to do the other part?”. And that went on for oh, six or seven years.

LI: But really, does that bother you? Because in all honesty, that is where a lot of people discovered you.

SM: Well, honestly, that didn’t bother me as much as [it did] after Dave and I split in 1981, and then people would come up and say—you know, promoters did it—they would say, “You know, I like your [solo] show, I like what you’re doing, but it would make me feel more comfortable if you had a partner and we could put ‘Dave’ up on the marquee.” So yeah, after the split that did bother me for a long time. And then doing these things with Bruce and whatnot, and all of the people that I’ve sung with, a lot the time it was “Which one are you?”. And some of my friends tried to make it racial, and it wasn’t racial, it was just people didn’t know.

And that’s still true today. People just don’t know. And what you have to do, [is] you have to work. It makes you work much harder to get that name as a single artist. You have to work much harder to get that name [out there]. And if that’s what you gotta do, that’s what you gotta do. And so that’s what I did. I did a lot of stuff—oldies shows—I sang with or opened for this person and that person and I’m gonna tell you, I had to sing my brains out. I really had to sell—not Sam & Dave so much. I had to sell Sam Moore as a single artist. And that was difficult.

LI: Did you get a chance to see any of Bruce’s shows on this latest [Working On A Dream] tour? Because he seemed to be heading more in a soul music direction, especially with a lot of the covers he was doing.

SM: You know, one of his key [band] members that was a friend of mine, Charlie [Giordano], told me about it and you know, he told me that [Bruce] did “Higher & Higher” at the end of the show, and it was almost like a 37-minute interlude before he would start singing the first words. And I had a taste of that at [the] Madison Square Garden [Hall of Fame show,] and I’m going “Whoa.” But you know, he’s been doing that for years. You know, even when we did the Christmas show [in 2003,] when we did “My City of Ruins.”

But I even said to him, “Look, you made me come out here [at MSG...] okay, fine, but let’s do one of your songs.” Well, he doesn’t really like to do that. And he’s not trying to be Dave, he’s not trying to do that. And that’s why I enjoy performing with him more, because, you know, Bruce is Bruce. And I asked him to be on the album, and to sing a duet. And people said, “Well he’s not gonna do a soul song.” But I said, “He’ll do it.” And he said, “Send me the file.” And at the very end of the song—“Better to Have And Not Need”—he’s doing that like a gospel singer. And [producer] Randy [Jackson] said to me “Wanna hear what Bruce did?” and at the end he sounded like Aretha’s father [C.L. Franklin]. When he gets up on the piano and he preaches, he’s going on in these gospel tones—that’s Bruce, he likes to do that stuff. Look, it’s no surprise to me, but a lot of people are surprised by it. And again, it just goes to show that a lot of people just don’t know. And they’re gonna be like, “Why is he doing that?”

LI: That goes back to what we were talking about before. Some people just have never heard soul music before.

SM: You know what, I gotta tell you something. There’s this foundation that I have my name attached to [Sparks Charities] and I was asked to go to Miami and join Jordin Sparks [onstage]. And let me tell you, this kid—well okay, you know she did American Idol and opened for the Jonas Brothers—let me tell you something. This kid—she is as good as any of these hip-hop or pop singers. This kid is really good. And I sang with her. And I was worried about getting up there, being my age with this real young girl. But she asked if we could do “Blame it on the Rain” and I said “I’ll do it with you, but you do all the verses and I’ll ad lib around you.” And I’m telling you, when we did it it was like, we rocked it. And her grandfather came up to me after everything and said, “You know, I really would like for her to do some covers; what do you think?” And I said, she’s as good as…Alicia Keys. I said, “It all comes down to this, sir. It’s about the material.”

It’s not like it used to be [in the sixties,] and it’ll never be like that again [with r&b and soul music.] The product is there, but you’ve got ProTools and you really don’t have to be that great of a singer, you don’t have to be that great of a talent. Because if you look at... You get up on that stage and you’re doing a lot of things that have nothing to do with the song, if you catch my drift. I was sitting in the audience looking at Beyonce and... In my day, if a woman did that what she’s doing, we couldn’t even get out of the place. But this is the way things are done—it’s geared to that kind of thing.

But you know back in my time, a lot of things that we did onstage were not “acceptable.” So you gotta balance it out and say, okay, you may not like what they’re doing, but we were not all that “clean” with what we were doing up on the stage. Even me, I was like, ooh you know, that’s kind of nasty. But you know, that’s the way it is today. And I say, she needs good material, that’s all. ‘Cause this kid, she’s amazing. And I look forward to one day having her on my show and maybe we can do something, and people can really see. And that’s what I’m basically talking about: me staying in with my friends, and I’m enjoying myself.

LI: It must be gratifying to still go out onstage and get the response that you get.

SM: Yeah, it is. And it’s so gratifying to hear young kids that can perform. And they call and want to be on the show with me. I got a call from Joss Stone the other day, and she told me that she’s been looking for something that she and I can do, and I was going “What?” But yeah, you know, I guess it means that somebody still likes what you’re doing.

performing in 2023 at the "Still Playin' Possum" George Jones Tribute Concert - photo by Jamie Gilliam - used with permission from The Photo Access/Alamy Stock Photo


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