Frank Adams

From Bhamwiki
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the jazz musician, for his son, see Frank Adams Jr.

Frank Eaton "Doc" Adams, Sr (born February 2, 1928 in Birmingham; died October 29, 2014) was a jazz clarinetist, saxophonist and bandleader. He taught for 47 years in Birmingham City Schools and was a charter member and the second executive director of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.

Adams grew up in Smithfield and was introduced to music early. His father, Oscar Adams Sr had been a trombonist for W. C. Handy's Alabama A&M University orchestra and his older brother Oscar Adams Jr played clarinet. He continued to learn under William Handy, W. C.'s nephew at Lincoln Elementary School and under Fess Whatley at Industrial High School.

As a high schooler, Adams was reluctantly recruited into Whatley's big band to take the place of Amos Gordon on saxophone, and traveled to performance dates around the South. He later joined a second big band put together by his former schoolmate, Sonny Blount (later known as "Sun Ra"). He enrolled at Howard University in Washington D. C. in 1945 and founded the Howard Swingmasters big band. From there he began playing for some of the giants of jazz, including Tiny Bradshaw, Lucky Millinder and Duke Ellington.

Back in Birmingham, Adams formed his own band that featured his wife Dot as vocalist, playing a regular gig at the Woodland Club. He served as a music instructor at Lincoln Elementary for 27 years, producing top-rated bands, before being promoted to music director and program specialist for all Birmingham City Schools. He joined the Birmingham Heritage Band in 1976. In 1978, Frank Adams was inducted into the inaugural class of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, which he later headed as executive director. He continued afterward to serve as Director of Education Emeritus, conducting tours which he famously peppered with impromptu clarinet licks.

Adams also continued to perform as a member of several groups, including the Birmingham Heritage Band and the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame All-Stars. He died in October 2014 after a brief hospitalization.