‘Queen of Blues’ put ‘stamp on’ genre
With her distinctive voice and performances, Alberta Adams captivated audiences in Detroit and across the country, earning her the moniker as the city’s own “Queen of Blues.”
“She had her own stamp on it,” said RJ Spangler, the singer’s manager, producer and band leader. “She had a unique way of singing the blues. … I think that she was the last of the post-World War II era blue singers still alive.”
That voice has been silenced. The legendary entertainer died Christmas Day at a nursing facility in Dearborn, Spangler said. She was 97.
Adams spent decades entertaining — starting off as a dancer in the 1940s and performing in a city club among artists such as John Lee Hooker, according to the website for her label, Eastlawn Records.
She earned a contract with Chess Records and toured with artists as prominent as Duke Ellington. The musician so adored her voice, he once paid Adams $500 a week just to sing a single song, “Hey Ba Ba Rebop,” according to Detroit News archives.
Adams also rubbed elbows with other greats.
“By her account, she advised a young Jackie Wilson (the late R&B singer) how to get on and off stage,” said Matt Lee, her longtime publicist and friend. “She just prided herself on knowing things you have to know in show business.”
Adams also cut singles for the Savoy and Mercury labels and was a fixture on the blues club circuit. But “Born With the Blues,” released in 1999 on the now-defunct Cannonball Records, was her first full-length album.
She later joined Metro Detroit-based Eastlawn Records, which released other albums. The most recent, in 2008, was titled “Detroit Is My Home,” on which she sang “boogie-woogie, slow blues, ballads, New Orleans style R&B,” her label said.
Even until the last few years, and despite health issues, Adams performed when possible, Spangler said.
“She was always happy to be anywhere to perform,” he said Thursday night. “She was a consummate professional.”
Born in Indiana, Adams was raised by a relative in Detroit, where she kept a home.
She performed at many spots across the city as well as events such as the Detroit All-Star Revue. “She’s been singing in Detroit for 60 years,” said her grandson, Aaron Tinsley.
Other survivors include a daughter, Barbara J. Tinsley, and eight additional grandchildren. Her son, James Drayton, also a singer, predeceased her.
Funeral arrangements were pending Thursday night.