- Terelle Jerricks
By Andrea Serna, Arts and Culture Writer
DJ Gary Wagner, host of radio program Nothin’ But the Blues, said that the key to understanding the blues lies in understanding its roots.
“The ability to adapt to circumstances demonstrates wisdom,” Wagner said. “It is the wisdom of human adaptation that created the music we call blues. It was born of a sense of outright oppression, and was intended as a distraction from the cruelty of life. That is why it works.”
Arthur Adams, from Medon, Tenn. embodies the soul of the blues. Recently Adams appeared at a Labor Day Fundraiser for KKJZ, the Blues Bash at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles.
As a young man, Adams attended Tennessee State University, where he studied music and played in the school’s resident jazz and blues band. For many years, Adams led the house band at BB King’s Blues Club in Universal Citywalk. BB King was a major early influence on the young Adams.
“My mom and dad wouldn’t let me listen to the blues but when the gospel music would go off the radio, I would stay up and listen to BB,” Adams said.
“I met him in 1979 and then again in 1990. I was playing at The Mint on Pico Boulevard. BB King came to see me and that’s when we talked. After that we went into the studio and recorded ‘Mean and Evil’ and ‘I Got Something up My Sleeve.’”
Adams said his music lives on in the world of hip hop. R&B singer Montell Jordan has sampled his songs.
A prolific songwriter and vocalist with a soul-driven sound, Adams has collaborated with some of the most successful songwriters in the country.
On his 1999 album Back on Track, Adams collaborated with King and Will Jennings on the songs “Got You Next To Me” and “Long Haul.” Jennings composed the love theme in the film, Titanic, has been an active collaborator in Adams music.
“Arthur is unique,” Wagner said. “He is a gift. His music is full of the love that is in him.”
Adams returns Wagner’s fondness.
“I would do anything for Gary. He has helped so many of the blues artists. I want to do anything I can to return what he has done for us.”
A big hulking bear of a man, with a sweet tenor voice, Adams sound is often reminiscent of the haunting lilting sounds of Clarence Carter and Tyrone Davis.
Romantically inspired songs such as, “I Thrive on Your Vibe” and “If I Did Not Have You” reveal the big heart inside of the even bigger man.
Onstage Adams displays a powerful energy, demonstrating his freight train guitar styling in a way that evokes envy and amazement from younger guitar hero wannabees.
His writing has set his work apart.
“I try to think of what people would like to hear as they go through the day-to-day of their lives,” Adams said about his songwriting method.
“What makes them feel good, what makes them feel happy, even what makes them feel mad.”
What you hear is sometimes tender and dreamy, sometimes bluesy, and sometimes hard pounding with his blues guitar. His most recent release Feet Back In The Door, is produced by the successful young blues artist Keb’ Mo’.
Another collaboration in Adams career was with the iconic folk/blues/jazz singer Nina Simone.
Adams said he wasn’t playing anywhere at that time, he was at a low point in his music career. He sent a tape to Eddie Singleton, an old friend of his who was co-managing Nina Simone. When he met with Simone she did not want a singer or a guitar player, she wanted a bass player.
“I had never played the bass before,” Adams said. “I borrowed a friend’s bass guitar and learned forty of her songs on the bass.
Adams landed the job and they toured England and the United States as a three-piece act: Simone, Adams and her drummer. It was an educational experience for Adams to play with Simone.
“I was able to follow her because I have a good ear,” he said. “She was good [in every musical category]. It was an experience that I will never forget.”
Adams is working on a brand new album and lucky blues fans can catch him at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano coming up Oct. 13 with Black Label, Jim Summers and Friends.