by Sandra Stringer
Starting this Saturday, May 6 and then every Saturday, the Soulful Sam Singleton and Friends will be performing at Blues Cajun Kitchen at 815 Folly Road, next door to Roadside Seafood.
Sam Singleton had a very successful run as a regular performer at the How Art Thou Café and has moved his act to the Blues Cajun Kitchen, a family owned restaurant that has all the beef burgers that y’all love (plus the best portabella burger on the Island, IMHO).
Sam’s music features a lot of classic soul and blues songs. I caught his Valentine’s Day show at the How Art Thou, and he really puts on a fantastic, fun show.
I sat down with him prior to the Valentine’s Day show and managed to get his life story in the interview below. Enjoy!
Interview with Sam Singleton
Sandra Where are you from originally?
Sam My father was from Georgetown, SC and my mother was from Adams Run. They went to Charleston. Father was an AME minister. When I was about five he got assigned to a church in Long Island. Then we moved to Camden, New Jersey and then to Morristown, New Jersey where I spent most of my high school days. My father was known as the “Singing Minister” and my sister was a prodigy. She was 12 years old and she was the Minister of Music for my father.
Sandra How did you get started with music?
Sam I started performing on the street corners with my friends. Back in those days we were called doo wop groups. And I started singing in the hallways and the gymnasium because they had good sound acoustics. I was a big guy even then, so I couldn’t sing lead. I had to sing bass. The lead singer was always a little short guy, the cute guy, whether he could sing or not. Didn’t make any difference. He had to be up front. All through high school I thought I was going to do something about that, so I learned all five parts plus falsetto.
So when I went to college, which I did on a basketball scholarship, at University of Nebraska in Omaha, so I started singing again with some Jersey Italian boys who were on the football team and basketball team. We started singing in the hallways at the university!
I met a guy who was in a band and he says, “Well, do you want to be in a band?” And I said, “Okay.” He said, “I want you to be the lead singer.” Holy mackeral! After all this time, finally I’m not too big to be a lead singer.
I began to sing in local bands around the Nebraska area, and we toured. That’s while I was playing basketball.
Sandra You were an athlete too?
Sam I got drafted by the Seattle Supersonics with the National Basketball Association, so a short stint doing that. Came back to NJ, got involved again in the music industry, stayed for little while, went back to Nebraska, did the same thing again.
In the process of all this, I had a family, and we had identical twin sons who were born in Omaha, Nebraska. We ended up living in New Jersey because I was working for General Public Utility. I was the personnel director for Three Mile Island.
After the twins, Chris and Kevin, finished high school, they were very fortunate to be good enough to get athletic scholarships to the University of Arizona. There Chris became a Consensus All-American. Unfortunately Kevin didn’t, because he developed childhood leukemia in his senior year. Of course, if you’re going to get leukemia it’s always good to have an identical twin brother around so you can have a bone marrow transplant. Chris went off into the pros, played for eleven seasons with New England, Miami, and San Diego. Kevin did not have an opportunity to play professional football.
They now live in Arizona with their own families, and they’re doing fine.
Sandra Why did you come back to South Carolina?
Sam When I retired from corporate America in 2005, I decided I wanted to come back home to South Carolina. I wanted to just concentrate on music, so I started my own production company, and I started working in booking bands. It was a very difficult process, especially for a new guy from NJ who thought he knew everything! I did that for a number of years.
Then I took a job with the city working for Mayor Riley’s son. I ran an after-school program called “School’s Out” for a couple of years. It was a very interesting assignment, because my responsibility was to evaluate the effectiveness of after-school programs in the whole school district.
Then I went back into the music business again. In 2014 I decided to take a break and move to Arizona with my kids, and that was a very interesting experience because there were more opportunities. I immediately found a restaurant that was interested in bringing in live entertainment and had the capacity of about 350 people. So I started doing as I do here. Once a month I would do a show. I had a lot of friends who had retired in the area, so I started bringing them into that once a month show. It was very successful because there were so many retired people living in the area.
That worked for a while, but I decided that it was time for me to come back home, which I did in 2015. I was substitute teaching, and I went down to this school, and this guy in the office area walks up to me and says, “Who are you?” I said, “Well, my name is Sam Singleton.” He says, “Well, I’m Oscar Rivers.” One thing led to another and we started talking about music. I told him I was a singer. He said, “Well, why don’t you drop by sometime? I’m playing over at a place called How Art Thou over on James Island. There’s a real nice owner there. Maybe we can see if we can work something out.”
So I came by and did a few songs one night, and then I went into the office and proposed the same thing I did in Arizona…
Sandra What kind of music do you do?
Sam I sing jazz, R&B, blues, pop…and I mix it all in a format so that everyone can get something.
Go see him perform at Cajun Blues Kitchen
Soulful Saturdays with Sam Singleton and Friends will take place at Blues Cajun Kitchen at 815 Folly Road starting Saturday, May 6. Doors open at 5:30 and the show starts at 6 pm. There is limited parking, so get there early. If you have a group reservation, call Sam Singleton at 843-300-8141.