“I love the spirit in your guitar playing,” B.B. King told Arthur Adams at the beginning of their long musical association and friendship. Deep soul and a life force blazing with intensity yet inherent sweetness radiate in layer upon layer of the talents and musical genres through which Adams weaves his magic. Singer, songwriter, guitar-slinger and dynamic performer, Adams’s diverse life experiences and musical history have merged and matured into a unique style that expresses universal emotions through a highly individual lens.
Arthur Adams entered the world on Christmas, 1940 in Medon, Tennessee, making his singing debut in church at the age of six. He started playing guitar on his front porch with a few chords his mother taught him — initially on a guitar his uncle had tuned to an arcane, barely-used scale. Adams copied songs he heard on the radio, adding licks as he toured Tennessee and Arkansas as a teenager in a short-lived gospel group. By 1959 he was playing in Nashville, where he joined tenor saxophonist Jimmy Beck’s band. They toured with Gene Allison, who was still coasting on his 1957 hit, “You Can Make It If You Try.” However, Allison ditched the band in Dallas following a dispute with a promoter. With customary resourcefulness, Adams remained in Dallas for several years, cutting some R & B singles and adding complex jazz melodies and rhythms to his prodigious guitar chops.
Simultaneously, since early adolescence Adams had been nurturing his natural song-writing talent, seeing the first pressings of his efforts emerge during the Nashville years. In 1961, Sam Cooke recorded his song, “Somebody’s Gonna Miss Me.”
Adams moved to Los Angeles in 1964. “I came out to play a few songs, some blues, some R & B and go home.” Instead, he became a sought-after session musician in a voraciously competitive work environment, quickly teaching himself to read sheet music while sitting among formally trained musicians. Adams’ horizons stretched to encompass an array of musical styles for movie and television soundtracks, and for musicians as diverse and demanding as Lowell Fulson, Henry Mancini, Nancy Wilson, Hugh Masekela and Jerry Garcia. He continued to record singles and write songs for top artists, including “Love and Peace,” recorded by Quincy Jones in 1969 on the Grammy-winning album, Walking in Space.
The ‘70s saw Adams’ first four albums, It’s Private Tonight, co-produced by Bonnie Raitt and Tommy Lipuma, followed by Home Brew, Midnight Serenade and I Love Love Love My Lady. During that era he also co-wrote “Truckload of Lovin’” for Albert King. Adams continued to expand his musical vistas, in 1985 teaching himself to play bass in order to accompany Nina Simone on tour in England.
In 1991 Adams wrote two songs for B.B. King’s album, There is Always One More Time. There would be many more times, with King appearing on Adams’ 1999 CD, Back on Track, and Adams spending a decade as house bandleader at B.B. King’s Blues Club in Universal City, California.
Today, in large festivals and small clubs alike, Adams continues to blow away audiences as he walks among them, revving them up with soaring guitar solos and melting ‘em down with his liquid honey voice. Adams’ versatility, deep soulfulness and wide influences are distilled into a smooth but heady cocktail in the new Delta Groove release, Stomp the Floor. It is also the result of a long relationship with the label and its founder, Randy Chortkoff, whom he met before the birth of the label through their mutual passion for blues. (Adams’ musical presence graces a number of Delta Groove recordings, including the first Mitch Kashmar CD. He also toured with The Mannish Boys.)
Adams says of Stomp the Floor, “I’ve done it exactly the way I feel it. It’s all me; not all traditional blues, not all R & B, not all jazz, but a little of all of it.” The way Adams feels and plays it is the spirit of a man born to express himself through music that has been forged and shaped by a lifetime of creative ingenuity, vast experience, and most of all, formidable talent.
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