Adam Wade, the singer and actor who also made history as the first Black person to host a network game show, has died. He was 87. Wade hosted the 1975 CBS game show Musical Chairs and scored hits with "Take Good Care of Her," "The Writing on the Wall" and "As If I Didn't Know."
Wade died on July 7 at his Montclair, New Jersey home following a battle with Parkinson's disease, his wife Jeree Wade told The Hollywood Reporter. He is also survived by his children, Ramel, Patrice, Jamel, and Layoya; and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Wade made history in 1975 when he hosted Musical Chairs, a short-lived CBS game show created by Don Kirshner and Jerry Schnur. A CBS affiliate in Alabama refused to carry the show. In 2014, Wade told Connecticut Public Radio he received hate mail from viewers. Only 95 episodes were produced before the show was canceled.
"I'm sure [the show's producers] hid some of the letters from me, so I wouldn't get upset," Wade recalled. "One I did see was from a guy who used all kinds of expletives, saying he didn't want his wife sitting at home watching the black guy hand out the money and the smarts."
Although the show didn't last long, Wade said it helped his career. "It probably added 30 years to my career," Wade recalled. "It's crazy. You're nobody, and then you're somebody, and then you're nobody before you snap your fingers. As my friend, the great singer Billy Eckstine, once told me, 'Show business is the only business in the world where you can go to bed a star, and wake up the next day, and be on the other side where nobody knows your name.'"
Wade was born in Pittsburgh on March 17, 1935. After high school, he attended Virginia State University but dropped out in his sophomore year. Wade promised his grandmother he would finish college, he said in 2014. He finally succeeded at 60 years old when he finished earning degrees from Brooklyn College and Lehman College.
After working as a lab technician for Dr. Jonas Salk, Wade turned to music. In 1959, he signed with Coed Records and had a hit single the following year with "Ruby." His music career took off in 1961 with the Top 10 hits "Take Good Care of Her," "The Writing on the Wall" and "As If I Didn't Know." His vocals earned comparisons to Johnny Mathis, but he told Connecticut Public Radio he was really influenced by Nat King Cole.
Although Wade had a few other charting singles through the remainder of the 1960s, he began focusing more on acting as the 1970s began. In 1971, he had a role in Shaft and scored parts in Across 110th Street and the underrated 1974 film Claudine with James Earl Jones and Diahann Carroll. He could also be spotted in episodes of Good Times, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Jeffersons, Hill Street Blues, True Blue, and a 2004 episode of Law & Order. He also performed in regional theater and was Ben Vereen's understudy for the 2002 Broadway production of I'm Not Rappaport.