en producer Roland Janes remembered Adams from that time: ''Billy was a long, lanky guy. When I first met him he was playing mandolin and singing and he started doing an Elvis Presley-type
act. Then he started playing the drums. I used to see him at Doc McQueen's house. That was J.P. McQueen who worked as a banker, but he wanted to be a songwriter and a
musician and he had a tape recorder in his house where musicians would all go to jam and try out things''. McQueen had a swing band at Charles Foren's
Hide-A-Way Club in Memphis and also tried forming a small rock and roll group at that point. Billy Adams got himself involved in all these ventures and then started gigging with other groups. For
a time he played with Charlie Feathers, and between 1958 and 1960 Adams worked off and on as a touring road drummer with Johnny Cash,
Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Patsy Cline. In particular, he worked in Las Vegas with Carl Perkins, an experience that would stand him in good stead when he developed his own
showband in Memphis clubs.
In 1960 Adams married a ''striking brunette'' named Jessie, and came off the road to form his own band to take the residency at Hernando's
Hide-A-Way. Hernando's was located at 3210 Old Hernando Road in South Memphis, a nightclub of some note for many years where the band gave exposure to numerous up-andcoming
Memphis musicians. It was at this time that pianist and singer Bill Yates started to play at Hernando's, and Yates became an important part of Adams's group. Yates
was born in Georgia but his father was a traveling preacher and the family had spent some time in Mississippi in the 1940s, between Tupelo and Corinth,
so Adams and Yates may have known each other from that time. The other regular members of the Adams band were bass player Jesse Carter, guitarist Lee Adkins, sax player Russ Carlton, and multiinstrumentalist
Jesse Carter remembered that the Adams band was formed at a time of burgeoning musical opportunities in Memphis. ''Back then there was a night club on every
corner in Memphis. It's dead as a hammer now (2008), because the nightclub business went down with the drink driving laws and all, but back then if our club closed at 1 a.m. We could go somewhere else and play til four. That was our routine''. Carter married Mary in 1961 and they had a daughter, Tamera, when he decided to get out of
the touring life. ''I quit the road first in 1964 and then in May 1970 I quit going to clubs. I wasn't getting any family life, so I took a job at a machinery
company''. He later ran a recording studio in Olive Branch, Mississippi.
The Billy Adams band used Gene Parker as a saxophonist on stage, but mainly as a drummer on recording sessions. This was because
Adams already had an established sax player in his band, Russ Carlton, a man who not only had a great reputation among his peers but who was also reliable. Carlton is known for his later
work with Jerry Lee Lewis, on stage and on sessions such as the Southern Roots album, but he had been part of the Memphis club scene for years, playing jazz and rocking
blues. He ran a band in the 1970s that was booked into the Holiday Inn chain and worked a lot in Kentucky, but he died soon after that.
So, by 1961, Billy Adams had learned his trade, toured with recording
stars, and become leader of a band whose musicians were highly-regarded and becoming regulars at the recording studios around town. The next
step for Adams was surely to get a recording contract for himself. The established label in Memphis was Sun, followed by the emerging operations at Hi, Stax, and Fernwood. Other smaller fly-by-night
labels came and went but one that looked promising had just been opened by Ruben Cherry, and named Home Of The Blues after Cherry's local
In 1960, Scotty Moore was hired by Sam Phillips to be Production Manager for Sun Records at the Phillips studio on Madison Avenue. He took with him the link to HOTB that he had
only just set up at Fernwood, and Cherry's Billy Adams and Bill Yates tapes were mastered for release at Phillips studio at 639 Madison Avenue.
They were not recorded at Sun, though. Jesse Carter remembered: ''Adams sang and played drums on a session at Hi Records studio. The first record he made, ''Lookin' For My Baby'', was one song we
recorded there, and we made some instrumentals there too''. The Hi studio was named Royal Recording and was a converted movie theater at 1320 South Lauderdale in
At some point in the early 1960s Billy Adams and Bill Yates came onto Sam Phillips radar, possibly through their shows at clubs around town or when Phillips' new studio at 639 Madison
Avenue was being used master the HOTB sides. Phillips said, ''I built the new studio because I just felt that recording technology was improving
and that we needed to move along and keep pace technically. This did not mean that I had abandoned the sound that had been so successful... You see... good rock and roll and that's all we were trying
to achieve, doesn't need fifteen pieces all of the time. Billy Adams was one of the artists I produced for Sun later on. He was really a novelty type of act who worked
at the old Hide-A-Way Club. He liked to sing rhythm and blues things, and he was not an original, but he had some talent as a drummer and they were a really
There were at least five sessions at Sun for the Adam/Yates band. Bass player Jesse Carter described them: ''Sam Phillips produced and engineered the sessions himself. He'd come
into Taylor's restaurant next door and talk with us like we were old friends, then we'd do the session. He really made you feel part of things. He
did not have a lot of input to what was recorded – he let us come in with our songs – but he was always in on how the recording would be developed. He would let you start it your way,
and then he'd let you know real quick if something was lacking. Ultimately, some originals and some favourites. All the songs we recorded was
mainly Adams' Hide-A-Way band, plus Al Jackson Jr. who played drums on some sessions, when we needed somebody. Billy Adams sometimes just sang on his records and didn't always play drums''.
through the time he was recording at Sun, Billy Adams maintained his band residency at Charles Foren's Hernando's Hide-A-Way club. When Foren sold out to Gordon Wade in 1965, Adams continued working
for the new man until sometimes in 1969 when he moved to the new Vapors Supper Club on Brooks Road in south Memphis, set up by Foren.
Adams told the local paper about the Vapors: ''I did the tea dance and nighttime shows for two years, working 47 hours a week which is more than an average factory worker''. He also
started widening his career by dabbling in booking his band and other musicians into clubs and arranging recording sessions. He had taken a role with the Local office
of the American Federation of Musicians, coordinating bookings, and this led him to working on his own account with clubs around the mid-South. Adams
told the Memphis Press-Scimitar that he opened the Memphis Artists Attraction booking agency in 1970, and operated it out of his home. He figured he worked 90 hours a week, booking Gene Simmons,
Narvel Felts, Rufus Thomas and others. He added a line of work for the AmCon division of Holiday Inn, coordinating the booking artists into their lounges. He told
the Press-Scimitar that he booked 22 different bands and for Holiday Inn you have to have all types of music, not just rock or rock-pop. Just recently when Governor
George Wallace made a political appearance in Indiana I did the whole works, and for Wallace fans you have to have all types of music to''. Adams also booked out a Tupelo band named the Electric
Toilet but they don't sound like a Wallace kind of band.
By now, Adams was father to four children, a daughter Kim and triplets, born in 1970, (Billy Jr., Tammy and
Terri) and he kept his own band going to augment his income as a booking agent. On October 17, 1970 Billboard reported on the annual dinner-dance of the Memphis AFM,
''where entertainment was organized by Billy Adams who plays at the Vapors and has his own booking agency'' and his hectic movement after that can
be traced through ads in the local press, The Delta Democrat-Times of September 8, 1971 reported on a benefit show in Greenville: ''among the performers are the Billy Adams Combo from the Vapors
Supper Club in Memphis and the band from the El Capitan Club – all have agreed to contribute their talents toward raising emergency
funds for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis''. The Key TV Guide for April 1973 captured the local club scene, carrying ads for the Admiral Benbow Lounge – ''Billy Adams' Shoe
and Danceband plays nightly except Sunday... Bill Yates, pianist, plays at cocktail time Mon-Fri'' – and for the Downtowner Motor Inn on Union Avenue –
''The Billy Yates Trio appears from 8 to 1 six nights a week''. In 1973 Adams and Yates were competing with other entertainment, dining and dancing options that included
Linda Ann, a ''vivacious blonde'' playing at the Casino Lounge, Eddie Bond and his TV Stompers at the E.B. Ranch, Charlie Freeman at the Admiral Benbow Club Lounge,
Jesse Lopez (brother of Trini Lopez) at the Rivermont Holiday Inn, and Larry Garrett and Lee Adkins at the Vapors. In 1974, Billy Adams and the Memphis
Show and Danceband played nightly 8:30 to 1:30 at the Poplar Music Cantina in the Holiday Inn while Lee Adkins, Bill Strom and Larry Garrett were headlining at the Vapors daily. Larry Garrett
remembers: ''I worked with Billy Adams in the early 1970s, in a band with Lee Adkins and Russ Carlton; we played six nights a week for three years or so. After that
I played spot gigs with Billy when he put on special shows. Billy was the greatest shuffle drummer I ever played with''.
Memphis-based pianist Jerry ''Smoochy'' Smith said he: ''knew Billy Adams and
Bill Yates well because I played on several shows with them in the late 1960s. Billy Adams was a fun guy. He went from recording into
the booking agency business and he booked me on several shows. Adam was left handed. I was going to record in a studio where he was working and my drummer had to change the drums around. I also worked
on some shows with Bill Yates. He always said I played better than he did and I always said 'well you sing better than I do''. Drummer
Danny Ivy played with Adams when he moved to Memphis after working with Gene Parker in Mississippi: ''At the Vapors in 1970, Billy Adams was playing drums. He had Lee Adkins
playing guitar, Bill Strom or Lou Roberts playing keyboard, Don Culver on bass, Ted Garretson on trumpet, and Russ Carlton and Ed Logan on sax. Before we moved to
Memphis, I would go up and set in for Billy Adams at the afternoon tea dance. That's when I first met Billy. I used to hear him sing ''Betty And Dupree''. Another drummer, Tom Lonardo told me, 'Billy Adams and I crossed paths just once. He used my drums on a gig where his band plated before mine. When I got to the set to play, there
was a plate with some chicken bones and sauce and a drink he had left on the floor tom. He never hit it. He just used it as a table''.
Down in Greenwood, Mississippi, former Sun singer and club owner
Mack Allen Smith said: ''I booked Billy Adams and his band during the years 1971 to 1976 at my Town and County Night Club. We even did a few battles
of the bands, one band playing and then the other one trying to outdo them. Billy has been described by many as master of the shuffle beat. When I booked Billy Adams they were doing rockabilly like
Carl Perkins, some blues, and country stuff that was popular at the time''.
Musician and producer Kenneth Herman remembered: ''I used to talk to Billy and all the other musicians on
the CB radio in those days. After we all got out from the night clubs we'd be talking and finding out who was where and what was happening late at night. It was the
mobile phone of the day. You always knew Billy because he had a small lisp, but it didn't affect him singing, a bit like Mel Tillis''. Ronald Smith also remembered the early morning jam sessions, meet-ups and talk sessions. He described the effect his hectic and pressurized lifestyle had on Adams.: ''A lot of times, my connection
with Billy was late at night, after a gig, when the musicians would meet up. That was when he filled gigs for his booking agency. He would book
my band. The problem there was that he got into some ditch weed, and he would drink and take pills and often lost track of what he was doing, burning the candle at both ends, booking a band somewhere
and forgetting what he'd done so that two bands would show up. He just floated through all that time – so you either had to ignore
it, or kill him, you know. One time, he booked my band way up in Arkansas somewhere, and when we got there another band was already there. We didn't get our money. I was mad so I called him,
and his wife said he was in the hospital. So I called him in hospital and he said he'd give me a contract for another job, well paying. I said 'I'm coming down to
get my money now', but he said he was in quarantine. And he was: when I got there, I had to put on mask and gloves and everything and he really was sick, and I
felt bad. But I got a contract for a big New Year's Eve job. It wasn't the first problem. He sent me to play with singer Barbara Pittman one time and didn't pay us. A lot
of times he just forgot what he'd done. He had a kickback deal going with a guy at Millington service base where Adams had the contract to supply the officers'
club and the other clubs on base. They'd agree a price and pay the bands less and keep the differences, that sort of deal''.
One way of another Adams was making money, and he had some baubles
to prove it. Kenneth Herman is adamant that: ''Adams had the twin car of the one that President Kennedy was shot in. There were only two made
and Frank Sinatra had the other one and somehow Billy Adams bought it. It was bullet proof and all that. He used to drive around town in it''.
By now, Billy Adams was also dabbling in the recording
business. In 1970 he worked with Tom Phillips at Select-O-Sound studio to produce discs by Jeannie Williams and Bill Stroum, and in 1971 he set up Coleman Records with A.B. Coleman, who ran a successful chain of barbeque outlets. Adams published their songs through a company he named Little Terri Music. He arranged and recorded songs
for saxophonist Joe Arnold including the minor hit ''Brand New Key'', and singer Tiny Bond in 1972. He also recorded Jamie Isonhood from
Benton, Mississippi, coupling a version of ''Lonely Weekend'' with a tune called ''Man, Woman And A Bottle''. He worked with a group, the Castells, one of whom recalled: ''Billy Adams was our agent
in 1969/1970 and wanted us to record ''Miss Froggie'', originally done in 1957. We went to Block 6 studio with Billy Wayne Herbert engineering,
and proceeded to rock and roll. This session got to cooking so good and you oughta seen Billy Adams out in that studio having a ball, jumping up and down hollering 'get it son, get
it son'. Adams was a lotta fun and great guy''.
In the mid-1970 Billy Adams started to suffer some health problems and he retired from playing and booking artists in 1981.
Then, on December 3, 1984, Billy Adams died of a heart attack, aged just 47.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal carried an obituary the next day: ''Billy W. Adams of 4562 Hodge, retired owner of Memphis Artists
Attractions booking agency and former recording artist with Sun Records, died at 4 a.m. Yesterday at Methodist Hospital after a lengthy illness. He ran the Billy Adams Show and Dance Band
and had toured with such artists as Johnny cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Rich, Carl Perkins and numerous others during a 30 year career as an entertainer. His booking
agency worked with many artists in the mid south including Jerry Lee Lewis, Kenny Price, Narvel Felts, Rufus Thomas, Gene Simmons, Ace Cannon, Brenda
Lee, Fats Domino, The Platters and Boots Randolph. Adams was a member of LaBelle Place Baptist church and was an honorary Shelby County deputy sheriff''. Adams was survived at the time by his mother
and two sisters as well as his four children and two stepchildren. Adams' son, Billy T., died young, in 1988, and was buried alongside his father.
Carter spoke for many others when he said: ''Billy Adams was a great guy. He died too early of a heart attack. He was a good singer – he had a stutter but that went when he sang – and
a great drummer''. Pianist and singer T.O. Earnheart played with Adams in the 1970s and said, ''Billy had a heart of gold. In fact he gave
me my start in Memphis as a musician. Billy was recognised throughout the country as the best drummer in the business playing a shuffle beat. I have seen hundreds of drummers try to imitate his licks
on the drums, and were never able to duplicate the sound''.