The voice of Art Adams is rock and roll in its purest form, distilled with just the right blend of country music and rhythm and blues. During the 1950s, Art helped lead the rock and roll revolution in Indiana, cutting a pair of 45 RPM singles for the Cherry label that earned him status in both the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the Indiana Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Art's latest project, a Kickstarter campaign raising funds for a box set of three 45 RPM singles, features music he recorded during a 2016 session at the legendary Sun Records' studio in Memphis, Tennessee.
The box set, called Memphis Dream, represents the fulfillment of a dream Art hatched nearly 60 years ago. While an aspiring young Indianapolis rock and roller in 1959, Art hopped in his car and headed for Memphis with the hope of landing a recording contract with the rock and roll juggernaut Sun. Art's trip yielded a meeting with legendary Sun producer Jack Clement, who encouraged him to come back to the label with some more up-tempo material.
And 57 years later, Art returned, but he needs help to get the project pressed to vinyl. Visit Art's website at ArtAdamsBand.com to find out how you can help support Art's Memphis dream.
I caught up with Art and his bassist Mike Strauss to get the inside story on the Art Adams Band's Sun sessions.
KYLE LONG: When I first interviewed you Art, I was so fascinated by this story you told me about your trip to Sun Records in 1959. You didn't make an appointment at Sun you just showed up and knocked on the front door?
Art Adams: That's right, and for anybody who has never been to Sun Records it just sits right on the street. I walked in the front door and I said to the lady there, "Is Sam here?" She said, "You mean Mr. Phillips? He's not here, but Jack Clement is. I see you've got a tape. Mr. Clement will listen to it." He did listen to it. He told me what I should do, He told me to make some changes and come back. But I never did come back.
KYLE: For folks that don't know, Jack Clement was an incredible producer and songwriter. He was a big part of the Sun Records' operation and an important recording artist himself. He produced Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" and wrote Cash's early hit "Ballad of a Teenage Queen," among many other accomplishments. What kind of guy was Jack to sit and talk with?
Art: He was young at that time, but he became a legend. Jack treated me well. He said, "I'll explain things to you like I did Johnny Cash." He really helped Johnny Cash a lot. He played rhythm guitar on most of Johnny Cash's recordings. He not only wrote songs for Johnny Cash, he wrote a hit for George Jones called "A Girl I Used To Know." He actually discovered Charley Pride and helped a lot of people.
KYLE: So releasing the Memphis Dream project is the fulfillment of a dream you've carried for over 50 years?
Art: That's right, but I never thought too much about it. But the Art Adams Band, which was part together by my friend Mike Strauss, I had told them the story about me going down to Sun and Mike encouraged me to write a song about it. So I wrote a song called "Memphis Dream."
Well, one day after that my guitar player Tim Gibson called me and said, "We're going to Sun to record." I said "What?" [laughs] So actually the guys in the band set it all up before I ever knew we were going to do it. So we went down there and they had it booked from six in the evening until midnight that night. We recorded for a total of six hours.
KYLE: It must have been surreal for you to finally be recording at Sun all those years later.
Art: Well, in lieu of a better word, it was kind of eerie. I think we all had some tears while sitting in the recording studio, or at least our eyes got a little teary. We recorded everything the way they did back in the '50s.
Go to ArtAdamsBand.com to contribute to Art’s Memphis Dream fundraising campaign, and catch the Art Adams Band live in Indianapolis on Friday, February 10th for Motorama at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, or Friday, February 17th at Fifth Quarter for St. Patrick's Day.