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Once more, for the blues



Detroit legend Alberta Adams in town for GLC show

Who: Alberta Adams

When: July 1

Where: GLC

She’s the undisputed Detroit Queen of Blues, and she makes her second Whistler appearance this week.

Alberta Adams, whose songs are described as "raucous" and "happy" blues, continues to maintain her title. A nomination for Best Traditional Female Artist at the 2002 W.C. Handy Blues Awards is entered as evidence.

Last year, she picked up the award for Outstanding Blues Vocalist at the Detroit Music Awards, as well as Best Blues Recording for the single Say, Baby, Say.

Adams’ first Whistler appearance was in 2000. No Good Man and I Cried My Last Tear are two originals from the album Say, Baby, Say (Cannonball Records, 2000) she will perform this time around.

"Nobody taught me nothing about singing, I taught myself," Adams says in an aol.com interview about blues music. Her experience includes cutting a "lost session" with legend Dizzy Gillespie.

Her discography includes Uncut Detroit II (a compilation from Venture, 2000), Born With the Blues (Cannonball, 1999), and Women Blues Singers , a MCA compilation which features songs from Adams.

Adams, seventysomething, frequently performs at outdoor concert venues, like the MGM Grand Detroit Casino for their summer series.

Born in Indianapolis during the 1920s, she moved to Detroit in her youth. She was orphaned and raised by an aunt during the ’30s.

Detroit proved to be an ideal stomping ground for someone interested in a career in live entertainment.

In www.livingblues.com magazine, Adams reflects on those early times. She was dazzled by the panache of dancers in the Vaudeville scene.

"Groundhog and the Step Brothers would come to town and they would be on the corner all night, and I would be out there with them," says Adams.

"I wanted to be in show business!"

Born Roberta Louise Osborne, she started in show business as a tap dancer. "Alberta" was a professional name given to her by fellow dancers.

A chance performance at the local Club B & C in 1942 gave her a start, when vocalist Kitty Stevenson fell ill. Adams stepped in for two songs after begging the manager to let her go on. The rest is history.

In 1953, she began singing in a duo with Velma "Chubby" Newstead, performing at hot night spots like the Apollo Theater.

Singers Sarah Vaughn and Della Reese were friends growing up, as well as a legend Detroiters simply called "Coachman."

Throughout her time Adams opted to search for, and find, her own sound.

Pressed to describe her brand of Delta blues, Adams will only state, "I only play my own sound."

Chess Records began recording her sound in the early ’50s. Many of those tunes were re-issued in the ’90s as a box set of recordings.

In the 1960s she recorded with Thelma Gordy for the Thelma label.

A recording for Blues Across America: Detroit; mastered in 1997 by Cannonball, later became two solo albums, Born with the Blues (released in 1999) and Say Baby Say (released in 2000).

She is currently working on a third solo album.

"A blues song is supposed to tell a story," she says.

"It’s not like sitting down reading the paper – you gotta write what you write and have some appeal to it," she says.

Adams is now a legend in her own right. She has sung with, among others, Big Joe Turner, King Porter, the Todd Rhodes Quartet, and the T.J. Fowler Band.

In 1994, Adams performed at the world-renowned Montreux Jazz Festival with guitarist Johnny Bassett.

An image of Adams at Sportree’s Music Bar, circa 1948, shows her surrounded by colleagues King Porter, Honey Brown, Joe Askew and others. The club photo captures the feeling of revelry in an era when going out, meant going all out.

"I feel like when you are on stage your appearance is as important as your singing, ’cause they might say, ‘she can’t sing, but she does look sharp!’" Adams told one interviewer.

"Some of these band boys look terrible now. But back in those days everybody dressed," says Adams, often pictured in ivory-coloured, floor-length gowns, the surrounding admirers in ties, fine dress and hats.

Listen for additional songs like Everyday I Have the Blues and When I Lost My Baby at the Whistler show.

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