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PALM LATITUDES

CLOSE-UP : Am I Blue?

August 21, 1994|Chris Joseph

"Hard Times. Strugglin'. You don't know where your next dollar is comin' from, where your next meal is comin' from."

In a city beleaguered by recession, temblors and a virtual celebrity-trial channel, it's not surprising that the blues are back. And local guitarist and singer Arthur Adams knows where people are coming from--his gut-wrenching lyrics reflect the obstacles in his own life and times.

His music, which includes a mix of Southern blues, soul, rock and R&B, has lately been discovered by a new generation. "There is definitely a resurgence of younger people," Adams says. "Even school kids are getting into it. My daughter's 14 years old, and she's starting to like the blues."

His signature style is wading into a dark and crowded dance floor at clubs like the Mint in West Los Angeles with a wide-eyed intensity, furiously strumming his guitar inches away from a captivated audience. "I like to see people laugh and dance and get off to that. I give the people what they want--and it keeps me workin'."

A Tennessee native, Adams' musical career began in the late '50s. After years of touring the South with the likes of Chuck Berry, T-Bone Walker and Etta James, Adams, 53, arrived in Los Angeles in 1964.

His songs have been covered by B.B. King, Quincy Jones and Nina Simone, and he has recorded with James Brown, Bonnie Raitt, Diana Ross, the Jacksons and Joe Sample, among others, but he has yet to achieve commercial success. Although he released four modest-selling albums in the '70s, he depends on club and festival performances, session work and touring with more prominent acts.

Adams pauses and smiles. "I feel the blues. That's my roots, and I know the meaning of them. It's something I can feel, something that's part of me. Life. Death. Sickness. Hate. Love. Cryin'. I feel all those things when I'm playing the blues. And I know most people can relate to that."

He's thrilled about the rekindled local interest in the blues, particularly with the recently opened House of Blues in West Hollywood and soon-to-open B.B. King's Blues Club at City Walk in Universal City. "It's so exhilarating. This town is accepting the blues. We have evolved."

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