Born Ollie Marie Givens, 19 October 1925, Linden, Texas
Known affectionately as TV Mama (the one with the big wide screen), by her colleagues in the Johnny Otis band, singer Marie Adams never aspired to sing professionally. She had to be coaxed by her husband to audition for Houston entrepreneur Don Robey at his record shop. Robey put a copy of Dinah Washington's "Harbor Lights" on the turn- table. "Betcha' can't sing that sonofabitch", Robey playfully goaded his visitor. Not only did Marie convince Robey she could sing "Harbor Lights", she went on to give Robey's label, Peacock, one of its earliest national chart records with "I'm Gonna Play the Honky Tonks" (# 3 R&B). Thus began the recording career of Marie Adams in 1952. Initially she was being billed as Ollie Marie Adams, but by April 1952 she had dropped the Ollie and was simply Marie Adams. Altogether she had seven singles released on Peacock between 1952 and 1955. On her earliest recordings she was backed by the bands of Bill Harvey and Pluma Davis, but starting 1953 she was produced and accompanied by Johnny Otis, who was also contracted to Peacock at that time. Her final Peacock 45 was a tribute to the recently deceased Johnny Ace, "In Memory" (1955). Marie joined the Johnny Otis Revue and relocated to Los Angeles where she recruited sisters Sadie and Francine McKinley to form The Three Tons Of Joy, an appropriate name as the three women weighed around 800 pounds together.
Marie soon became a mainstay of the revue and toured extensively with Otis. But she did not record throughout 1956.
In the summer of 1957 the Johnny Otis Show (as the band was now called) got its first major label deal, when they were signed to Capitol Records. The label showed the strength of its commitment by issuing no less than four singles simultaneously in October 1957, making sure that the various individuals of the revue were all highlighted. Capitol certainly got the reaction they were looking for, albeit not on home territory. By January of 1958, Marie Adams and the Three Tons of Joy found themselves at # 2 on the UK charts, with their version of the oldie "Ma (He's Making Eyes At Me)", overdubbed (by producer Tom Morgan) with some of the wild audience reaction that the Otis Revue had received at the Orpheum Theatre in L.A. As a follow-up to "Ma", EMI rushed out a duet between Marie and Johnny Otis entitled "Bye Bye Baby", which also made the British Top 20. But another hopped-up oldie, "What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For?" (coupled with the excellent "A Fool In Love"), met with indifference in both the USA and the UK and by the spring of 1960, Marie Adams and the Three Tons of Joy left the Johnny Otis Show to work in and around Los Angeles, managing to pull a good crowd on the strength of their name.
Marie did two solo sessions for small L.A. labels (Sure Play, Encore Artists) in 1962-63. The resulting records went unnoticed. In 1958 there had been attempts to make arrangements for a Johnny Otis tour of the United Kingdom. Unfortunately the draconian rulings then applied to work permits for musicians prevented any chance of a British visit. But in the summer of 1972 Johnny Otis finally visited the UK, with Marie Adams back in the fold. The visit was a triumph for both Otis and Adams. She remained with Johnny Otis for most of the 1970s and then drifted into obscurity. It is unclear how she spent the last two decades of her life, which ended on February 23, 1998. Marie Adams made enough recordings for Peacock (18) to fill a whole CD, but at present (June 2012) such a release does not exist. "I'm Gonna Play the Honky Tonks" is available on several compilations and "I'm Gonna Latch On" was included on the 2-CD Various artists release "Men Are Like Streetcars" (1999), but that's about it where the Peacock material is concerned. Ace Records in the UK released the 26-track CD "The Greatest Johnny Otis Show" in 1998, annotated by Stuart Colman (Ace CDCHD 673). It features eight Capitol tracks by Marie. Three live tracks from a 1958 TV show are available on the CD "The Johnny Otis Show" (Ace 981, 2003). A more recent Ace compilation, "The Johnny Otis Story : Midnight At the Barrelhouse, Vol. 1 1945-57" (2011), has "Ma" and "Bye Bye Baby" among its 25 tracks.
More info : http://home.earthlink.net/~v1tiger/madams.html
Acknowledgements : Stuart Colman, Dave Penny, Galen Gart.
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