As house bandleader at B.B. King's Los Angeles blues club, Arthur Adams cranked out searing blues for the well-heeled tourists who trod the length of Universal Studios' glitzy City Walk.
But the great majority of his transient clientele couldn't begin to imagine the depth and variety of the guitarist's career. The shaven-headed Tennessee native began playing guitar in the mid-'50s, taking early inspiration from the man whose name adorned the club that later employed him (Howard Carroll, axeman for gospel's Dixie Hummingbirds, also was a principal influence). He studied music at Tennessee State University, playing briefly with the school's resident jazz and blues aggregation.
Touring as a member of singer Gene Allison's band, Adams found himself stranded in Dallas, where he dazzled the locals with his fancy fretwork. Relocating to L.A. in 1964, he began to do session work for jazz great Quincy Jones, and cut singles for the Bihari Brothers' Kent label and Hugh Masekela's Motown-distributed Chisa imprint. His late-'60s R&B sides for the latter were co-produced by Stewart Levine and featured support from most of the Crusaders. Adams' 1970 debut LP for Blue Thumb, It's Private Tonight, was co-produced by Bonnie Raitt and Tommy LiPuma.
Adams continued to record solo albums through the late '70s, but by the '80s he retreated from the forefront, only occasionally moonlighting as a session guitarist for various groups. In 1992, he wrote two songs for B.B. King's There Is Always One More Time album and 1999 saw Adams' first solo release in 20 years with Back on Track, which featured King as a guest guitarist. In 2004, Adams continued rebuilding momentum with the release Soul of the Blues. Another album, Stomp the Floor, followed in 2009 before Adams teamed up with producer Keb' Mo' for the Feet Back in the Door EP in 2012. Cleopatra's 2017 release Look What the Blues Has Done for Me paired a disc of new recordings with a bonus disc of material from the '70s. ~ Bill Dahl, Rovi