Song of Salvation

R&B legend Sam Moore finds serenity in Scottsdale

During this time, Moore signed on to perform as part of a European R&B package tour, with Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge and others. (The tour bombed after Pickett had a psychotic episode onstage in Brussels, nearly starting a riot.)

Joyce and Sam were married during the tour, but there was little wedding bliss when the musical caravan ended up stuck and broke in Amsterdam -- the drug capital of the world. The days in Holland passed tenuously, but Joyce was somehow able to help Moore maintain his sobriety.

The couple returned home to L.A. and back to the clinic to begin the final phase of Moore's treatment. Tests revealed that he had flushed his system of the heroin and was ready to begin taking the anti-opiate called Naltrexan. His first dose caused a violent reaction. Gradually, he eased into the treatment, showing a marked physical improvement.

"I consider myself to have been very fortunate. My life could have ended a whole different way."
"I consider myself to have been very fortunate. My life could have ended a whole different way."

Still, the needle beckoned. "A part of what happens with an addict is that they're going to go back and try it," says Joyce. "I knew that it would happen."

When he did relapse on the eve of his live solo debut in Houston, Sam decided to shoot up and then take the anti-opiate, causing the episode that sent him hurtling toward his hotel-room epiphany.

"You may not believe it, but this is true," says Sam, drawing out the words slowly, "I never thought I would not be a junkie. I always thought I would shoot dope. I always felt as though my life was going to be as a junkie or a drug dealer."

There were, as Joyce describes it, "a couple more close calls." And though he remained at risk for several more years, Moore had finally beaten his jones. Joyce had triumphed in helping save his life. The battle to save his career loomed.

In October 1982, word began to spread that Sam and Dave were back on the road. The only problem was, Sam Moore knew nothing about it.

Dave Prater had hired the first in a series of "fake Sams," going out on tour billed as "The Sam and Dave Revue." This was not only a questionable move, but an illegal one -- Prater had sold his rights to the name and partnership to Moore in 1968 for $38,000 to settle a debt.

Prater's camp also began spreading rumors as to why Moore wasn't performing.

"They came up with every story," says Joyce, bristling. "That Sam had cancer, that he was retired or locked up in rehab. That the fake Sam was actually the real, original Sam who had gone in the Army years earlier -- just total bullshit. Every kind of story and rumor and fantasy was perpetrated.

"It was a disgrace. They were playing these dives, opening for wet tee-shirt nights and ruining the name of Sam and Dave, and effectively Sam Moore."

Sam says, "We tried to get him to stop. We offered to reunite, to do specials, record, whatever. But he never responded. He just kept going."

The damage caused by Prater's barnstorming act still rankles the couple.

"There was only a limited amount of goodwill left with the industry toward Sam and Dave," says Joyce. "It took years for us to convince people that Sam wasn't the fake Sam. To this day we have people coming up and telling him, 'Hey, I booked you in 1986' and, 'Boy you sure look different' or, 'You sure sound different.'"

The Moores spent much of the '80s in court, getting injunctions, contempt orders, arrest warrants, chasing after Prater and the fake Sams. In fact, Joyce was ready to serve him with yet another injunction at a show New Jersey when the call came that Prater (who had been sentenced for selling crack cocaine a week before) had died in a car accident.

Moore's contempt for his late partner has mellowed. He remembered him fondly during the duo's induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. He sang at Prater's induction into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

But the years after his recovery were tortuous.

"People never knew we had a hard time eating," says Moore.

With little or no royalty income and a growing stack of legal bills to fight Prater and Atlantic, Joyce eventually lost her house and had to pawn her jewelry. At one point, the Moores, her daughter, his grandson and two dogs lived in a motel room in West Hollywood.

"People never knew we were that down," adds Joyce. "Because in this business, you have to maintain an image. But it got pretty bad for a while."

Throughout the '80s, Sam's phone would ring with the occasional offer: a recording session with Don Henley, a role in the film Tapeheads, a duet with Lou Reed for the soundtrack to the comedy Soul Man.

The appearances left a false impression. "Whenever you saw him, it was on TV or at some big-time affair, but then we'd go home and starve. The truth is, during that period he might get five gigs a year. Sometimes more, sometimes less," remembers Joyce.

At its lowest point, it was enough to make Sam yearn for the security of heroin. But he resisted the temptation.

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