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Adam Wade

Adam Wade was born Patrick Henry Wade on March 17, 1935 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Pauline Simpson and Henry Oliver Wade, Jr. Wade was raised by his grandparents in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood and graduated from Westinghouse High School in 1952. He went on to attend Virginia State College, but married his high school sweetheart and soon left school in order to support his young family.

Wade started singing while still in high school. In 1958, he got his first opportunity to record for the Coed Records label in New York City. Two years later, he moved to New York full-time, and within six months, he was singing at the city’s most prestigious club, the Copacabana. Wade’s first hit, “Ruby,” was released that same year. He had three top ten singles in 1961: “Take Good Care of Her,” “The Writing on the Wall” and “As If I Didn’t Know.” Wade had less success after moving over to Epic Records later that year. In the late 1960s, he shifted his focus to acting. Wade began doing commercials and voice-over work. In 1970, he starred in the film Wanderlove. Wade had a number of supporting roles in films in the early 1970s, and he began to be featured on television, in soaps like The Guiding Light and black-oriented sitcoms like Sanford & Son and Good Times.

In 1975, Wade began hosting the television game show Musical Chairs, becoming the first black game show host. In 1978, he restarted his recording career. Wade also starred in an all-black production of Guys and Dolls in Las Vegas, Nevada. In 1983, Wade and his wife, Jeree Wade, started their own production company called SONGBIRD’S UNLIMITED PRODUCTIONS. They have produced many African American historical revues, including the off Broadway musical, Shades of Harlem which opened at the Village Gate in New York in 1983 and recently stopped touring in 2005. In the 1980s and 1990s, Wade continued to appear regularly on stage and screen including an episode of Hill Street Blues. In April of 2007, Wade began the national tour of the hit Broadway play, The Color Purple, playing the role of “Old Mister Johnson”. Wade has also taken turns as a director, writer and producer. He has received Audelco and Clio Awards for his work.

Over forty years after leaving college, Wade returned to school, earning his B.A. degree from Lehman College and his M.A. degree from Brooklyn College. He works as an adjunct professor of speech and theater at Long Island University and Bloomfield College.

Wade has been married to his wife, Jeree, for twenty-five years.

Adam Wade was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 27, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.168

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/27/2007

Last Name

Wade

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Westinghouse Academy

Lehman College

Brooklyn College

Virginia State University

John Morrow Elementary School

Larimer School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Adam

Birth City, State, Country

Pittsburgh

HM ID

WAD01

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

Making Money Is A Habit And There's Nothing I Can Do About It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New Jersey

Interview Description
Birth Date

3/17/1935

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

East Orange

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Creamed Cauliflower

Short Description

Actor, singer, and stage producer Adam Wade (1935 - ) was the first African American to host a game show on television, "Musical Chairs." Wade recorded hit singles as a singer and his television acting credits included, "Sanford & Son," and, "Good Times."

Employment

'The Color Purple'

Jonas Salk polio research team

Kauffmann's

Coed Records

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Adam Wade's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Adam Wade lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Adam Wade describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Adam Wade describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Adam Wade describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Adam Wade describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Adam Wade recalls lessons from his paternal grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Adam Wade describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Adam Wade describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Adam Wade recalls racial discrimination in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Adam Wade describes his involvement in civil rights protests

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Adam Wade describes his early pastimes

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Adam Wade recalls living in foster care

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Adam Wade remembers the entertainment of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Adam Wade remembers the Larimer School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Adam Wade describes his extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Adam Wade describes the Negro League in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Adam Wade talks about basketball stars from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Adam Wade talks about basketball stars from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Adam Wade describes his athletic career at Westinghouse High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Adam Wade describes his experiences at Virginia State College in Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Adam Wade describes his works experiences at Virginia State College

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Adam Wade remembers his departure from Virginia State College

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Adam Wade describes his position on Jonas Salk's polio research team

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Adam Wade describes his early singing career

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Adam Wade remembers his first records for Coed Records, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Adam Wade describes his early singles, 'Tell Her For Me' and 'Ruby'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Adam Wade describes his transition to acting

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Adam Wade recalls his first commercial role

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Adam Wade remembers his mentor, Adolph Caesar

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Adam Wade describes his stage acting career in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Adam Wade remembers his film credits, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Adam Wade remembers his film credits, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Adam Wade reflects upon his favorite acting roles

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Adam Wade recalls his audition for the host role on 'Musical Chairs'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Adam Wade remembers preparing for his role on 'Musical Chairs'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Adam Wade describes the premise of 'Musical Chairs'

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Adam Wade remembers acting in the 'Uptown Saturday Night' television pilot

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Adam Wade describes his acting career in the 1980s

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Adam Wade describes his decision to return to college

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Adam Wade describes the Chicago production of 'The Color Purple,' pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Adam Wade describes the Chicago production of 'The Color Purple,' pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Adam Wade describes the Chicago production of 'The Color Purple,' pt. 3

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Adam Wade talks about his interest in writing

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Adam Wade describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Adam Wade reflects upon his life

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Adam Wade reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Adam Wade talks about his family

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Adam Wade describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Adam Wade narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$1

DAStory

4$7

DATitle
Adam Wade recalls his first commercial role
Adam Wade recalls lessons from his paternal grandfather
Transcript
And so, I worked all around the country and all over the world, you know. And, learning, and then I started studying acting, and then I got into commercials. With the commercials, at first, it was kind of redundantly bad, if that's an expression I can use. Because everywhere I went they would say, "Aren't you [HistoryMaker] Adam Wade the singer?" I would say, "Yes." They say, "Well, we're not looking for singers today." They would throw that in my face, you know (laughter). And, I thought, "Let me drag this guy down to the basement in the dark and see if I can dust him up or something (laughter)." But, finally, 'cause I was gonna qui- I was gonna, I was gonna quite, "That's it, I'm going to give this up." But, Vernee Watson [Vernee Watson-Johnson] who played the mother of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will Smith, she was also studying with the Al Fann Theatrical Ensemble and she encouraged me to go. She said, "Just try one more week, and if nothing happens," and she said, "But, you should--don't give up today." And, I didn't. And, two days later I got my first commercial for Getty gasoline [Getty Oil].$$Okay.$$That was terrific, and the commercial was in the car in Central Park [New York, New York], late at night, kissing this girl in the backseat of the car. I said, "Man, this is wonderful, (laughter)."$$You got paid for it (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) You guy, you guys gonna pay me for this, you know. And, it was Laura Greene who is beautiful anyway (laughter). It was like, "Oh, my, my, my (laughter)."$$So, what year is this, is this--?$$That was in nineteen- I guess, '70 [1970].$$Nineteen seventy [1970]. So, you get paid to kiss Laura Greene in the back of a car.$$In the backseat of a convertible for Getty gasoline, my, my, my (laughter), life is grand. Yeah.$$Okay. So, this--did the rest, did more work follow?$$Yes. Actually, it's like anything else, once the door opens, you know, you step across the threshold and you're in the game, you know.$So, tell me this, when you think back on what people have told you, I guess, about your parents [Pauline Nelson Simpson and Henry Wade, Jr.] and reflect on your [paternal] grandparents [Helen Jones Wade and Henry Wade, Sr.], who do you think you take after the most?$$Probably my grandfather in a, in a lot of instances. My approach to work. My approach to business. My grandfather, he believed in independence. And, when I was eleven, he said, "I'm gonna show you what independence is." He said, "And, freedom in America, helps you become independent. But, you can only become independent if you can earn money." So, he said, "Starting now, this is what you gonna do." So, I got a paper route. I was able to shine shoes. I took groceries home for people. In the summertime, he taught me how to shape hedges, how to paint, how to change tires, change the oil in a car. And, it was just one, one thing right after another. But, I was twelve or thirteen years old, I always had money. And, when I went away to college [Virginia State College; Virginia State University, Petersburg, Virginia], it was just so much fun for me because right away I lined up people's cars that I would wash. I would babysit. I could wax the floors, wash the windows. I could sew on buttons. I could iron. You know, so, all these little things, my grandfather taught me along the way, you know, so I always made money, you know.