Alberta Adams is convincing and forceful on her Cannonball Records releases, 1999's Born With the Blues and 2000's Say Baby Say: Life's Trials and Tribulations According to Miss Alberta Adams. Both albums were well received by blues critics and blues DJs, and they helped relaunch her touring career, as she frequented festivals around the U.S. and Canada in the late '90s and in 2000.
She began performing in the late '30s. Born in the early '20s in Indianapolis as Roberta Louise Osborne, she was raised by an aunt in Detroit. She first made her mark on Detroit's bustling Hastings Street club scene as a dancer, and a short time later she began singing. The manager of the club was so impressed with her singing, he encouraged her to expand her repertoire and she's been singing ever since. She got to know and got an education from her contemporaries on Hastings Street's club scene, and they included John Lee Hooker, Big Maceo, Eddie Burns, and Eddie Kirkland.
On Hastings Street, the Chess brothers of Chicago first heard Adams sing, and that led to a contract with Chess Records. Recording with Red Saunders' band, several of her early recordings have been reissued in CD anthologies by MCA Records. Adams also recorded for the Newark, N.J.-based Savoy Records label, releasing a single with the T.J. Fowler Band, "Say Baby Say." Adams was part of vocal group the Bluesettes, who toured as part of Tiny Bradshaw's big band. As her reputation spread beyond Detroit, she had the chance to perform with other touring bands, including those of Duke Ellington, Louis Jordan, Wynonie Harris, James Moody, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, and T-Bone Walker. Adams counts Big Joe Turner, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, and LaVern Baker among her earliest influences, but she's largely a self-taught vocalist.
Born With the Blues for the now-defunct Minneapolis-based Cannonball Records label, Adams took part in the label's Blues Across America series, which showcased up-and-coming and veteran bands and artists from the Motor City blues scene. Adams recorded four tracks with Johnnie Bassett & the Blues Insurgents, and that led to her own record deal with Cannonball. Born With the Blues made Living Blues magazine's Top 25 albums for 1999, and she followed up her debut with more witty semi-autobiographical self-penned songs on the Say Baby Say release, which featured a remake of "Say Baby Say," one of her most collectable 45-rpm records.