Keeping the Blues Alive / Blues News  / Johnny Adams – Blues Video of The Week

Johnny Adams – Blues Video of The Week

Johnny Adams, an American R&B, jazz, blues, and gospel singer who had the nickname “The Tan Canary.” Due to the fact that he can sing so many octaves. Adams sang gospel professionally before crossing over to other genres in 1959.  So, if you are wondering why he was so animated with his performances, it was because he was taking you to church! Adams never enjoyed the breakout success he deserved even though he was friends with many known musicians. His passion for music led him down many musical avenues and with each one, he became polished and succesful in each and every one.

The Early Days in New Orleans

Adams was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the oldest of 10 children. He became a professional musician on leaving school.  He became a local seasoned singer and performer and recorded some local hits. It wasn’t until he signed with Shelby Singleton’s Nashville-based SSS International Records in 1968, when his luck changed.  A reissue of “Release Me”, originally released by Watch, reached number 34 on the R&B chart and number 82 on the pop chart. Its follow-up, “Reconsider Me”, a country song produced by Singleton, became his biggest hit.  

Making the Rounds with Labels

Adams releases two more singles, “I Can’t Be All Bad” and “I Won’t Cry” (a reissue of the Ric recording), which were lesser hits later the same year, and the label released an album, Heart and Soul.  He left SSS International in 1971 and recorded unsuccessfully for several labels, including Atlantic and Ariola, over the next few years.  He also toured nightclubs in the south while performing regularly at Dorothy’s Medallion Lounge in New Orleans.  It wasn’t until he signed with Rounder Records that he found his place and recorded nine critically acclaimed albums.  

His Critically Acclaimed albums

His work with Rounder Records was produced by Scott Billington, beginning with From the Heart in 1984. These records encompassed a wide range of jazz, blues and R&B styles and highlighted Adams’s voice. The albums included tributes to the songwriters Percy Mayfield and Doc Pomus. The jazz-influenced Good Morning Heartache included the work of composers like George Gershwin and Harold Arlen.

Other albums in this series are Room with a View of the Blues (1988), Walking on a Tightrope (1989), and The Real Me (1991). These recordings earned him a number of awards, including a W.C. Handy Award. He toured internationally, with frequent trips to Europe, and worked and recorded with such musicians as Aaron Neville, Harry Connick Jr., Lonnie Smith, and Dr. John.

Sadly, in 1998 he passed away to cancer.  But one thing he was able to do was leave an amazing musical legacy for future generations to come.

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