Ocilla, Ga. – Macon musician Newton Collier, an original member of the Sam and Dave band, will be the guest speaker at the 2016 Prater Music Festival in May.
Collier, 71, will share his “Reflections on the road with Ocilla’s own Dave Prater.”
Ocilla is located in Irwin County, about two hours south of Macon just east of I-75. It is the birthplace of the late R&B singer who shot up the record charts in the mid-1960s as half of the Sam and Dave singing duo. They are best known for hits “Soul Man,” “Hold on, I’m Coming,” and “When Something is Wrong with My Baby.”
With the help of Stax Records, Macon booking agent Phillip Walden and Macon soul singer Otis Redding, Sam & Dave toured the country and the world entertaining audiences with their high-energy singing and dance performance. Those electrifying shows helped the duo – billed as Double Dynamite – win the Grammy Award for best performance by a group or duo for “Soul Man” in 1968.
Collier was a young trumpet player when he met Sam Moore and Dave Prater in Augusta in 1965. He recounts his time spent with Dave during the early years as the group toured the country entertaining audiences. Collier recalls traveling in cramped cars and old tour buses during those early years. Prater had long legs and the two shared the space on the back seat – which faced backward – in an old Comet station wagon.
“He knew I was from Macon and he and I had a closeness about Georgia,” Collier said.
Collier describes the first time he met Sam and Dave. It was in Augusta in 1965. Collier was only 20 years old and had been asked to play a set for a new group. The duo was actually auditioning him and afterward, Moore asked him to join their band. From that meeting, Collier went on ‘Chitlin Circuit’ and played such venues as the Apollo Theater in Harlem and the Ed Sullivan Show on national television. They also played throughout Europe and in Japan during the late 1960s.
The Prater Music Festival will be held May 12-14 in Ocilla. This is the festival’s second year. Organizers have expanded the celebration from two to three days.
“We’re excited and happy that the Prater festival is returning to Ocilla for a second year,” said Ocilla Mayor Matt Seale. “There are very few adults who haven’t heard a Sam and Dave song over the years. Their music went global. We are extremely proud to be the birthplace of such a musical legend as Dave Prater.”
Seale added: “In future years, we hope to add more events and musical groups on multiple stages. We want to attract visitors from far across the state and the region to Ocilla and Irwin County.”
The 2016 Prater fest schedule includes:
More information about the event can be found at www.PraterMusicFest.com or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/PraterMusicFest) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/PraterMusicFest).
During the 2015 celebraiton, the city erected signs on both ends of the two major state highways (129 and 32) declaring Ocilla the “Home of Dave Prater, Sam and Dave ‘Soul Man,’ 1997 Georgia Music Hall of Fame Inductee.”
That event drew hundreds to downtown Ocilla and attracted positive media coverage for the region. This year, planning committee organizers moved the event to May to correspond with Prater’s May 9th birthday and warmer weather for the street fest.
“We’re excited about all the plans,” said Prater’s sister, Helen Deberry of Berrien County, in south Georgia. “It will be a treat for us to hear Newton Collier talk about what it was like being on the road with Sam & Dave during the height of their careers.”
Prater was born in Ocilla on May 9, 1937. He was one of 11 children born to Dave and Mary Prater and grew up picking cotton, tobacco and other crops on the farmlands in and around Ocilla. His siblings remember him singing as he worked in the fields and every Sunday in the choir at Mt. Olive A.M.E. He graduated from Ocilla High and Industrial School in 1957 and moved to Miami shortly afterward.
He began singing in a gospel group called the Sensational Hummingbirds with older brother James “J.T.” He got his big break in about 1962 when he met fellow Georgia native Sam Moore in Miami. Moore was hosting a talent night competition at the King of Hearts Club in the Liberty City section of Miami. Prater chose a Jackie Wilson song and by the end of the song, Moore, who was a Jackie Wilson fan, joined him on the stage sharing the microphone. The “Sam and Dave” duo was born.
Prater died at age 50 on April 9, 1988, in a car crash on Highway 32 in Sycamore (Turner County) while in route to his mother’s house from Atlanta. Collier recalls seeing Prater a few days before his death after playing a Stax reunion show in Atlanta. The last words he recalls Prater saying after the show were: “I’ll see y’ll later, man…. I’m going to see my mother.”
Collier said he was back home in Boston, where he lived at that time, when he heard the news of Prater’s death. He thought it was a hoax at first, until he started to hear the news from other musicians. “I took it sort of hard. I thought about a lot of things we had done together.”
In 1992, Dave Prater was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1997, the Georgia Music Hall of Fame inducted him and in 2015 the Memphis Music Hall of Fame inducted him into their annals of music legends.
The Prater tribute dinner tickets are $10 if purchased before May 10 and $15 at the door. Tickets are available for purchase at City Hall, 111 N. Irwin Ave., the Ocilla Irwin Chamber of Commerce, 620 S. Irwin Ave., and from Prater music festival planning committee members.
For out-of-town visitors, advance tickets can be purchased with a major credit card by calling Ocilla City Hall at 229-468-5141.
Several local businesses and individuals have already signed on as sponsors of the event. Those that give at least $300 will be listed on banners and marketing materials, including the event website.
For more information about becoming a sponsor or participating in the 2016 Prater Music Festival, contact Kayla Wilson at 229-468-5141.