JOHNNY ADAMS was not one to pander to the purists, belonging to that eclectic tradition of blues and soul whose most notable representative is Aaron Neville. He was equally ready to sing Cole Porter's "Love for Sale" or Ann Ronell's "Willow Weep for Me" as more classic blues offerings, and in 1994 he produced an album of Christmas songs, which was more a return to his gospel roots.
Born in New Orleans in 1932, Adams began his singing career in a gospel group, the Soul Revivers, moving in the mid-1950s to Beside Griffin and her Soul Consolators. It was when an upstairs neighbour, songwriter Dorothy Labostrie, heard him singing "Precious Lord" in the bathtub and persuaded him to record a song of hers, "Oh Why", for the local Ric label, that he began to be recognised as a secular singer.
That first session was produced by an 18-year-old Mac Rebennack, later known as Dr John, and the song, retitled as "I Won't Cry", gave Adams a sizeable local hit.
Dr John was also involved, as co-writer, with Adams's 1962 R&B national hit, the slow ballad, "A Losing Battle", which was followed in 1968 by a slice of country soul in the Ray Charles manner, "Reconsider Me", for Shelby Singleton's SSS International label. There was talk of his signing for Berry Gordy Jnr's Motown label, and he made some disappointing albums for Atlantic, before signing with Rounder for a series of nine albums, including the superb One Foot in the Blues (1996), and what was to turn out to be his final collection, Man of My Word, released only last month.
In the latter years of his life, he achieved minor international acclaim, but it was the appreciation of his peers in the Crescent City - who dubbed him the "tan canary" - which has assured him a place in the history of modern New Orleans music.
Laten John Adams, singer: born New Orleans 5 January 1932; married; died Baton Rouge, Louisiana 14 September 1998.
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