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Noted Singer Johnny Adams Passes Away

photo by Rick Olivier

New Orleans singer Johnny Adams died yesterday morning, September 14, 1998, after a long battle with cancer at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge. He was 66 years old. Johnny was regarded by fans, critics and musicians throughout the world as one of the finest singers associated with New Orleans R&B and jazz.

Born Laten John Adams in New Orleans on January 5, 1932, Johnny was first drawn to gospel music, and was featured with Bessie Griffin and the Consolators while in his early twenties. He crossed the line to secular music with his 1959 hit, "I Won't Cry", and subsequently enjoyed a string of regional best-sellers, including "Reconsider Me" (Billboard Top 40 hit in 1969; reached No. 8 on the Billboard R&B Chart), "I Won't Cry", and subsequently enjoyed a string of regional best-sellers, including "Release Me" and "Hell Yes, I Cheated", which lasted through the 1960's and 1970's. During this time, he worked the circuit of black nightclubs throughout the South, where audiences marveled at both the range and beauty of his infinitely expressive voice.

In 1983, Johnny teamed up with producer Scott Billington and Rounder Records, and the nine albums they created brought Johnny to the world at large. On such recordings as "Room With a View of the Blues", "The Real Me: The Songs of Doc Pomus", and "One Foot In the Blues", Johnny explored the full range of his talent, singing jazz, R&B and blues, winning praise from criitcs around the world. Among his many awards are a W.C. Handy Award, a NAIRD Indie Award, six Big Easy (New Orleans) Awards and several OffBeat (New Orleans) "Best of the Beat" Awards.

Among the musicians who worked and recorded with Johnny in recent years are Aaron Neville, Harry Connick, Jr., David Torkanowsky, Dr. John, Duke Robillard and jazz greats such as organist Dr. Lonnie Smith and saxophonist Houston Person.

During the last decade, Johnny became a regular attraction on stages around the world, performing frequently in Europe. His most recent album, "Man of My Word", was released in August 1998, and finds him returning to the classic soul music sound.

Johnny Adams at the 1994 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

Additional Johnny Adams Resources:

Quotes & Reviews:

  • "There isn't a tune out there that Johnny Adams can't spin into gold" - Boston Phoenix

  • "Adams combines the forcefulness of David Ruffin with the elegance of Billy Eckstine" - Washington Post

  • "Adams is the type of artist who transcends normal boundaries of style: his music is his alone, regardless of where the musicologists may wish to slot it" - Dirty Linen

  • "Mr. Adams can invest life and death into every song he sings, moving from shouts to quivering phrases that seems to be dripping tears" - N.Y. Times

  • "Every syllable he sings is as heady as new car smell in a Cadillac" - Blues Access