Adam Wade

From a profile in Baristanet, December 11, 2012

Coffee With…Adam Wade, Entertainer Extraordinaire

By Dana Hawkins-Simons

Only in Montclair do you discover that your vigorous 77-year-old neighbor—the guy who always smiles and waves from his car, plays pick-up basketball at the local park and coaches at the YMCA—is also an phenomenally successful singer, actor, and the first African-American game show host. Over the course of his half-century long career, Wade has recorded several “Top Ten” hits, and appeared in more than 100 movies, theater productions, commercials and television shows.

Adam and his wife, Jeree Wade, also a talented singer and actress, moved from Harlem to Montclair more then 20 years ago in search of a slower-paced life. “You can feel the stress meter dropping when you’re driving here from New York City,” says Wade. “We chose our home because it reminded us of that Nat King Cole song.” Wade begins to sing, with such tenderness and joy that it stills my breath:

Although I’m rich or poor, I still feel sure,
I’m welcome as the flowers in May.
It’s just a little street where old friends meet,
And treat you in the same old way.”

Growing up in Pittsburgh, Wade hadn’t planned on a career in the arts. “I always wanted to be a member of the Harlem Globetrotters,” he says. Wade played basketball at Virginia State University in pursuit of his dream, but it wasn’t meant to be. His best friend and college roommate, Gene Hudgins, made the team, but Wade didn’t.

While studying at Virginia State, Wade began singing with a dance band at weekend parties. He got his big break when he and a buddy traveled to New York City and spent a couple of weeks brazenly knocking on doors in Tin Pan Alley until they found a music publisher who’d listen to them perform. “It’s amazing how quickly things happened after that,” he says. “The most emotional moment of my career was when I was riding down Broadway with my cousin Phil, and the radio DJ said: ‘Here’s a brand new record from a brand new artist. The song is “Tell her for me,” and the singer is Adam Wade.’ Oh, I’ll never forget that moment,” says Wade, clasping his hands together. “That was the high point!”

But it was actually just the beginning of Wade’s ride to the summit. Wade achieved three “Top Ten” songs in Billboard’s “Hot 100” chart in the 1960’s, including “Take Good Care of Her.” In the 1970’s, he turned to acting, and appeared in several movies, such as Shaft and Gordon’s War, as well as in more than a dozen popular television shows: Hill Street Blues, The Jeffersons, Police Woman, Sanford and Son, and others. He also had stints on a half-dozen daytime soaps, including As the World Turns, Edge of Night, and Search for Tomorrow.

In 1975, Wade became the first African-American to host a television game show: Musical Chairs, which aired on CBS. Wade began to focus on theater roles in the late 1970’s, performing in more than two-dozen shows, and starring in the production of Guys and Dolls in 1978. He had a 3-year run as Ole Mister in Oprah Winfrey’s national tour of The Color Purple until 2010.

Since then, Wade and his wife Jeree, through their theatrical company Songbirds Unlimited Productions, have been developing the musical: On Kentucky Avenue: The Club Harlem Revue. The plot is based on the couple’s collective experiences at the Revue, a hotspot for black performers in Atlantic City in the mid-20th century, where they both worked at different times. It tells the story of a nightclub owner’s relationships with showgirls and struggles with mobsters as he tries to keep Club Harlem afloat.

The show recently performed to a sold-out crowd at the Westminster Arts Center In Bloomfield. The “dynamic duo” as Adam calls himself and his wife, are searching for financial backers to take On Kentucky Avenue to Broadway.

Not one to wait around for the theatrical fates to line up in his favor, Wade is also rehearsing for a tribute concert to Nat King Cole at Trumpets Jazz Club in Montclair this March, then later at the Triad in Manhattan. “Back when I got started, I’d never have believed it if someone would’ve told me I’d have a career that would last 50 years,” says Wade. “And I’m still going strong.”

NFT Credits

Credit Type Production Season
Actor Looking Back 1993-94 Season
Actor Black Girl (1995) 1995-96 Season
Actor The Dance on Widow’s Row 1999-00 Season