Singer Alberta Adams, who was known as Detroit’s Queen of the Blues before a career resurgence in her 80s, has died at age 97, her label says.
“On the big scale, she was really the last of the great post-World War II blues singers,” said RJ Spangler, who helped her relaunch her career in the 1990s through his Eastlawn jazz and blues label.
Born in Indianapolis and raised in a troubled home in Detroit, Adams started as a tap dancer in the Motor City’s clubs before her break filling in for ill singer Kitty Stevenson, who was known as the Blues Bombshell in her brief career.
Adams soon became booked to perform with blues greats, including T-Bone Walker, Louis Jordan, John Lee Hooker and Cleanhead Vinson as well as jazz pioneer Duke Ellington.
She toured nationally and abroad and signed to record with the iconic Chicago blues label Chess Records in an era just before the Motown sound defined Detroit.
Her career eventually was reduced to club gigs around Detroit, but her voice remained powerful.
In 1994, she linked up with Spangler’s Eastlawn Records, which specialises in Detroit classics, and released the album Born with the Blues in 1999 with blues guitarist Johnnie Bassett.
“She still knew how to deliver the goods on stage,” Spangler said. “I loved working with her. She was a joy to be around – never grouchy or irritable.”
Adams only stopped performing several years ago as she lost her hearing and her health declined, Spangler said. She died on Christmas Day.
One of her early songs that she re-recorded at age 90 was a version of Leroy Carr’s tune with the opening line, Just remember me baby, when I’m in six feet of cold, cold ground.