“The Tan Canary”
The Big Easy has spawned more than its fair share of musical offspring. But just being a native son does not guarantee success. One has to earn it. There are many who vocalize in R&B and blues, but not too many real soul singers. They have a tendency to get weeded out real quick.
Johnny Adams was a long-time regular on the New Orleans music scene, beginning with his 1959 rhythm and blues hit I Won't Cry. Adams, whose velvety voice could stretch into a high falsetto with ease, mastered a handful of musical styles, including gospel, blues, soul, jazz, and country. Over his nearly 40-year career, he recorded in these varied genres on a number of labels, yet he never reached the national stardom of some of his contemporaries. He performed largely in New Orleans, where he became a local legend.
The eldest in a family of ten children, Adams was born on January 5, 1932, in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was raised in a religious family and sang in the church choir, so it is not surprising that he was first drawn to gospel music. At age 15, Adams left school, got a day job, and began performing at night with the Soul Revivers, a gospel quartet. With this quartet, he honed what was to become his signature style of vocal acrobatics, ranging deftly from low to high notes. From that group he signed on with Spirit of New Orleans, and with Bessie Griffin and the Consolators. Yet Adams's virtuoso voice stood out from the ensemble.