A prolific songwriter, with a blues style that incorporated a variety of genres, and a vocalist with a funky, soul-driven sound, Adams is known for his collaboration with many of blues' elite and continues to perform to date.
Arthur Adams was born on December 25, 1943 in Medon, Tennessee. At the age of six, he sang in the church choir, but did not begin playing the guitar until he was a teenager. In the mid-1950s, he learned the instrument from his mother, by copying her finger positions. He was inspired by artists such as B.B. King, Howard Carroll of Dixie Hummingbirds, Elmore James and Muddy Waters, which he listened to on the radio.
Adams formed a group with his cousins, called the Gospel Travelers, who toured Tennessee and Arkansas. The group was disbanded when he moved to Tennessee to attend the State University, where he studied music and played in the school's resident jazz and blues band.
Adams began playing the blues professionally at a local student bar called the Club Baron. He toured with Gene Allison's band as a backup singer. Allison had success in 1957 with "You Can Make It If You Try" on the Vee-Jay label. At the end of an ill-fated tour, Adams was stranded by Allison in Dallas. He remained there from February 1959 until April 1964, working in local nightclubs including the Clubhouse and the Empire Room, playing with Lightnin' Hopkins, Chuck Berry, Elmore James, and Lowell Fulson. On one occasion, Adams supported Buddy Guy, and picked up his showmanship habit of walking through the audience in mid-solo. Tenor saxophonist Jimmy Beck, who had a hit record, the instrumental "Pipe Dream" (on the Champion Records label) hired Arthur in 1959. During his early career, he played gospel and blues.
In the early 1960s, he produced several singles, including "If It Ain't One Thing It's Another"/"Willin' To Die" on Philadelphia-based Jamie Records, which was produced in Dallas by Al Klein, who went on to become a Motown representative.