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Renewing His Dedication to the Messages of the Blues : Veteran guitarist Arthur Adams, in his performances at B.B. King's venue, is focused on what he does best.

August 31, 1995|STEVE APPLEFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

To hear Arthur Adams now is to hear a man dedicated to the eternal messages of the blues.

He's 54 now, and the singer-guitarist has enjoyed a long and successful career as a performer, session player and songwriter since arriving in Los Angeles in 1964. But this blues commitment has only emerged in the last few years, at local clubs like the Mint and, most recently, at B.B. King's Blues Club at Universal CityWalk.

"As you grow, you learn a lot about yourself, and about what you do best," said Adams, who will be performing Friday and Saturday at King's club. "The blues is really what I'm supposed to be doing. I do R&B and dance music, but I do the blues the best. I live the blues."

Adams has been playing at the club since its opening last September. "It keeps you challenging yourself," he said of his regular appearances there. "It makes you learn new songs, come up with some original material. I have to really stay focused."

Adams, who is originally from Tennessee but now lives in Gardena, is enough of an authentic blues man to have written two songs for King's 1991 album "There Is Always One More Time." He also played on Bonnie Raitt's 1989 Grammy-winning "Nick of Time" album. And at his appearances at King's club, Adams plays a mixture of songs by blues masters Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker and Etta James, along with the rock, soul, funk and pop of Chuck Berry, Otis Redding, Curtis Mayfield and Louis Armstrong.

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He also draws some material from the four albums he released in the 1970s, including his "I Love, Love, Love, Love, Love My Lady" album for A&M Records in 1979. But those albums were mostly rhythm & blues, with little focus on his guitar playing.

"I was looking more at just being a vocalist, and I didn't take advantage of how important the guitar was with me," said Adams. "I wasn't giving all of what I had."

But during that same period, he was busy enough playing on records by Quincy Jones, the Crusaders, James Taylor, Herb Alpert and the Jacksons. He credits his years working as a session player as being crucial to learning about different genres of music, along with various tips on chord progressions and other techniques.

He was working so much, night and day, on those projects and some of his own, that by 1972 he was burned out.

"It was too much work. I was in the studio from morning to night. I didn't have enough sense to say 'No.' "

After some much-needed time off, he returned to full-time playing by touring first with singer Maria Muldaur in 1974, and then with Diana Ross in 1975. At about that time, Adams recorded his single "You Got the Floor," a dance track that was a No. 1 hit in England.

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He still plays an occasional studio gig for other artists, but that part of his career is essentially behind him, he said. "Time moves on, and other guys come in. But I never liked doing sessions that much, because I've been into doing my own projects. I never felt that I was cut out to play all these different kinds of music."

Besides, Adams said, he is preparing to begin recording his own album in the next six months. And that collection will certainly be focused on the blues, which is still enjoying new popularity with the recent appearances of such new venues as B.B. King's and the House of Blues in Hollywood (where Adams will perform with Wilson Pickett on Sept. 23).

"I give a lot of credit to B.B. King. He never stops. He's always saying how much he loves the blues, and he lives it. He kept working with it through all the trials and tribulations.

"It really has never gone away, because it's the roots. You can't get rid of it, because it's part of our lives."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

DETAILS

* WHO: Arthur Adams.

* WHERE: B.B. King's Blues Club, Universal CityWalk.

* WHEN: 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday (and various days most weeks).

* TICKETS: $10.

* CALL: (818) 622-5464.

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