For many artists their career is a case of what might have been. That’s the case with Sam Dees. He had the talent and potential to become one of the biggest names in soul music. Sadly, Sam Dees didn’t enjoy the commercial success and critical acclaim they deserve. Instead, his music is only enjoyed a discerning circle of music lovers. They cherish each of the three albums Sam Dees has released. That’s why  Sam Dees is described as: “a prolific songwriter and occasional performer.” 

That’s true. While Sam has written nearly four-hundred songs, he’s only released three albums. Sam’s debut album was 1975s The Show Must Go On. After a gap of fourteen years, Sam returned in 1989 with Secret Admirer which was released on his own label, Pen Pad Records. Another nine years passed, before Sam released 1998s Lovers Do. Since then, nothing has been heard of Sam Dees. As a result, it looks as if Sam Dees will never fulfil his potential. Sam Dees career, it seems is a case of what might have been. Things looked very different when Sam Dees  was growing up.

Sam Dees was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in December 1945. He was born into a large family. Sam stood out though. The reason for that was his voice. From an early age, it was obvious that Sam was a talented singer. When he was just nine, Sam was a veteran of talent contests. He’d won numerous talent shows, so decided to form his own group The Bossanovians. By the time Sam was ten, it became apparent Sam had a way with words.

Unlike most ten year olds, Sam was writing poetry and songs. Looking back, Sam Dees was something of a musical prodigy. So, it’s no surprise that he would make a career as a songwriter. Before that, he had dreams of becoming a singer.

Although Sam was a still teenager, he was already travelling from his Birmingham home to perform. This was the equivalent of Sam serving his musical apprenticeship. Then in 1968, Sam caught a break, He got the chance to record his debut single.

Given Sam was an aspiring soul singer, it sees strange that he made his recording debut in Nashville. I Need You Girl was released on SSS International. Sadly, it wasn’t a commercial success. Neither were Easier To Say Than Do nor It’s All Right (It’s All Right), which sam released on Lo Lo Records in 1969. Then as a new decade dawned, Sam’s luck changed.

Since 1968, Clarence Carter had been signed to Atlantic Records. He’d released a trio of albums, to varying degrees of success. His fourth album, Patches, was released in 1970. Produced by Rick Hall, and featuring some of Memphis’ top musicians and backing vocalists, including Chalmers, Rhodes, Chalmers, Patches featured songs from some top songwriters. This included Sam Dees. 

He wrote Changes, a heartbreakingly beautiful slice of Southern Soul. For Sam Dees, an up-and-coming singer and songwriter, writing a song for Clarence Carter was something of a coup. He was, after all, signed to Atlantic Records, one of the biggest soul labels. Little did Sam realise that in a few years, he’d be signed to Atlantic Records. Before that, Sam signed to another famous label, Chess Records.

1971 proved to be an important year for Sam Dees. He signed to Chess Records, releasing two singles, the Larry Weiss penned Maryanna and Can You Be A One Man Woman. Despite the quality of music, Sam wasn’t making that important commercial breakthrough. At least other artists were covering his songs.

Rozetta Johnson covered A Woman’s Way. It  was the B-Side to her single Mine Was Real. Sam wrote both songs with his wife Lillian Dees. He co-produced the songs with Clinton Moon. Released on Clintone Records, it reached number ninety-four in the US Billboard 100 and thirty-nine in the US R&B Charts. This was the first hit single Sam had written. Despite this, Sam saw himself as a singer first, and then a songwriter.

Having written and produced his first hit single, Sam hadn’t given up hope of forging a successful career as a songwriter. After leaving Chess, Sam signed to Clintone Records as a solo artist in 1972.

By then, Sam was no stranger to Clintone Records. Using the alias Black Haze Express, he had released Won’t Nobody Listen as a single in 1971. A year later, Sam’s solo career began at Clintone Records.

Just like his time time at SSS International, Lo Lo Records and Chess Records, Sam Dees wasn’t exactly prolific at Clintone Records. Far from it. He only released one single on Clintone Records. This was Claim Jumping Man, which was released in 1972. Sadly, Claim Jumping Man didn’t replicate the commercial success of Rozetta Johnson’s Mine Was Real. Despite this, Sam’s career was on the up.

After his brief spell at Clintone Records, Sam Dees signed to Atlantic Records later in 1973. Sam Dees released just two singles for Atlantic Records, So Tied Up and I’m So Very Glad. Despite their undoubted quality, they weren’t the commercial success they deserved to be. At least a song Sam cowrote proved much more successful.

Stop This Merry-Go-Round was was a song Sam, Albert Gardner and Clinton Moon had written. Originally, Bill Brandon took the song to number thirty-three in the US R&B Charts. Now, John Edwards a future Detroit Spinner would record the track. His Johnny Taylor styled cover was released on Aware in 1973, reaching number forty-five in the US R&B Charts. Again, Sam was enjoying more success writing songs than singing them. He wasn’t for turning his back on his solo career,

Sam returned to his solo career in 1974. He released two singles, Worn Out Broken Heart and Come Back Strong. Neither were a commercial success, but Come Back Strong proved to be prophetic.

With the last couple of years proving unsuccessful for Sam Dees, 1975 was a big year for him. Sam was about to release his debut album The Show Must Go On. It featured ten tracks. Four were penned by Sam, including The Show Must Go On, Come Back Strong, What’s It Gonna Be and Good Guys. Sam cowrote Claim Jumpin’ and So Tied Up with William Brandon. He also cowrote Just Out Of Reach with James Lewis and Worn Out Broken Heart with Sandra Drayton. Child Of The Streets was a collaboration between Sam and David Cammon. The pair cowrote Troubled Child with Al Gardner. These ten tracks became The Show Must Go On,  and were recorded at two studios in Birmingham, Alabama.

To record his debut album The Show Must Go On, Sam headed to home to Birmingham, Alabama. He recorded The Show Must Go On at two studios, New London Studios and Sound Of Birmingham.  For the recording sessions, Sam drafted in a small, tight band. The rhythm section featured drummer Sherman “Fats” Carson. bassist David Camon and guitarist Glen Woods. Arrangers included Randy Richards, Ronnie Harris, Skip Lane and Sam. Aaron Varnell arranged the horns on Claim Jumpin.’ Sam played piano and produced The Show Must Go On, which was released in 1975.   

Sadly, when The Show Must Go On was released, musical tastes had changed. Disco was now King. Soul albums weren’t selling well. The Show Must Go On wasn’t a commercial success. Neither were the singles The Show Must Go On, nor Fragile, Handle With Care. For Sam Dees, this must have been a huge disappointment. Here he was signed to one of soul’s most prestigious labels, but at the wrong time. Belatedly, however, The Show Must Go On has come to be regarded as a Southern Soul classic, and was the last time we heard from Sam until 1989.

After a gap of fourteen years, Sam returned in 1989 with Secret Admirer which was released on his own label, Pen Pad Records. Another nine years passed, before Sam released 1998s Lovers Do. Since then, nothing has been hear of Sam Dees. As a result, it looks as if Sam Dees will the commercial success and critical acclaim he deserved. 

This wasn’t down to a lack of talent. Far from it. Sam Dees is, without doubt, one of the most talented soul singers of his generation. Especially when it came to ballads. Sam Dees breathes life, meaning and emotion into ballads. Other times the betrayal, hurt and loneliness come to life. Sam Dees sings the lyrics as if he’s lived, loved and survived the lyrics. Other times, he sounds as if he’s experienced the hope and joy that love brings. However, other times, it looked like Sam Dees was going to be seventies soul social conscience. Sadly, commercial success and critical acclaim eluded him. That’s why nowadays, Sam Dees is better known as a songwriter. 

Realising he was never going to become one of soul’s superstars, Sam Dees decided to concentrate on writing songs. He’s enjoyed a long and successful career, writing songs for the great and good of soul music. That’s why nowadays, Sam Dees is described as: “a prolific songwriter and occasional performer.”” However, a better of description of Sam Dees is a man who could’ve and should’ve been King of seventies soul.





















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