|Alberta Adams performing at the Southfield Public Library in 2011.|
When harmonica player and singer Little Sonny moved to Detroit from Alabama in 1953, singer Alberta Adams was already a fixture on the Detroit blues music scene.
Adams, known as Detroit's Queen of the Blues, died on Christmas Day at the age of 97.
“I got to know her many, many years ago and I knew her very well,” Little Sonny said. “She was always a nice, beautiful lady, and she always had nice things to say.”
Little Sonny, 82, remembers Adams as a popular performer at the Flame Show Bar and other Detroit blues clubs of that time.
“She was playing with all the big stars, Cab Calloway, T-Bone Walker and those guys,” Little Sonny recalled. “She did shows with all those big-timers. She had a long history in the blues and she is one of the last of our blues legends.
“She paid the dues. People like that helped set the path for people like me.”
Little Sonny’s sons -- musicians Aaron Willis Jr. and Anthony Willis -- performed with Adams on different shows, he said. According to Little Sonny, Adams excelled at performing old-time blues.
“She was doing blues back then that was not as modern as the blues I or John Lee Hooker were doing. In her day, she was doing blues like Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith and Sippie Wallace did. She was in that era and never came completely came out of that. She didn’t change with the trends and move into the modern era, but it worked for her.”
Adams began her career as a dancer in the 1940s, but soon switched to singing, touring with big name musicians such as Duke Ellington, Louis Jordan, and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson.
Her solo career enjoyed a resurgence starting in the 1990s with her association with manager/musician RJ Spangler. She recorded two CDs for the now defunct Cannonball Records label and then moved to Detroit-based Eastlawn Records. Adams also recorded for the Chess, Savoy and Thelma (Gordy) labels.
Adams was honored at a tribute event titled “To Alberta With Love” on March 2 at the Detroit Pub in Clinton Township.
Little Sonny recalled Adams as a wonderful person.
“Every time I met her, she had that nice smile. She was a beautiful lady. I’ve never seen her with a bad attitude. That’s something to say. She was never cocky. She was always pleasant and had a nice conversation for you. That’s what I loved about her.
“She was a very outspoken person and I loved her for that too. She was a natural and she wasn’t a flaky type person who thought she was so much more than anyone else. Give and receive, that’s the way she was.
“She played a big part in Detroit blues. I’m glad the Lord extended her to be here for a long career and to be able to continuously go, until the last minute almost.
“She was a legend in Detroit.”
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