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Adam Wade, Network Game Show Pioneer, Is Dead at 87


Adam Wade, a flexible, velvet-voiced crooner who scored three consecutive Billboard Top 10 hits in a single 12 months, appeared in scores of movies, plays and TV productions, and in 1975 became the primary Black host of a network television game show, died on Thursday at his home in Montclair, N.J. He was 87.

His wife, Jeree Wade, a singer, actress and producer, said the cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease.

In May 1975, CBS announced that it might break a network television racial barrier by naming Mr. Wade the master of ceremonies of a every day afternoon game show, “Musical Chairs.”

Staged on the Ed Sullivan Theater in Manhattan and co-produced by the music impresario Don Kirshner, this system featured guest musical performances, with 4 contestants competing to finish the lyrics of songs and reply to questions on music. (Among the many guest performers were the group the Spinners and the singer Irene Cara.)

The novelty of a Black M.C. was not universally embraced: A CBS affiliate in Alabama refused to hold the show, and hate mail poured in — including, Mr. Wade told Connecticut Public Radio in 2014, a letter from a person “saying he didn’t want his wife sitting at home watching the Black guy hand out the cash and the smarts.”

The show was canceled after lower than five months. Still, Mr. Wade said, “It probably added 30 years to my profession.”

That profession began when a songwriter friend invited him to Latest York to audition for a music publisher. On the time, Mr. Wade was working as a laboratory technician for Dr. Jonas E. Salk, the developer of the polio vaccine.

He first recorded for Coed Records in 1958, and two years later moved to Manhattan, where he performed with the singer Freddy Cole, the brother of his idol Nat King Cole. Rapidly ascending the show business ladder, he soon opened for Tony Bennett and for the comedian Joe E. Lewis on the fashionable Copacabana nightclub.

“Two years ago, he was Patrick Henry Wade, a $65-a-week aide on virus research experiments within the laboratory of Dr. Jonas E. Salk on the University of Pittsburgh,” The Latest York Times wrote in 1961. “Today he’s Adam Wade, one among the country’s rising young singers in nightclubs and on records.”

That very same 12 months, he recorded three songs that soared to the upper echelons of the Billboard Hot 100 chart: “Take Good Care of Her” (which reached No. 7), “The Writing on the Wall” (No. 5) and “As if I Didn’t Know” (No. 10).

Patrick Henry Wade was born on March 17, 1935, in Pittsburgh to Pauline Simpson and Henry Oliver Wade Jr. He was raised by his grandparents Henry and Helen Wade. His grandfather was a janitor on the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research (now a part of Carnegie Mellon University).

Mr. Wade attended Virginia State University on a basketball scholarship, initially dreaming of playing for the Harlem Globetrotters in the future. But he dropped out after three years and went to work at Dr. Salk’s laboratory on the University of Pittsburgh. Undecided about whether to simply accept the recording contract that Coed offered, Mr. Wade consulted Dr. Salk.

“He told me he had this chance,” Dr. Salk told The Times on the time. “I told him he must search his own soul to seek out out what’s in him that desires to come back out.”

Mr. Wade modified his first name — his agent said there have been too many Pats in show business — and had his first hit with the song “Ruby” early in 1960. His smooth vocal style was often in comparison with that of Johnny Mathis, but Mr. Wade said he was primarily influenced by an earlier boyhood idol, Nat King Cole.

“So I assume that tells you ways good my imitating skills were,” he said.

As an actor he appeared on TV soap operas, including “The Guiding Light” and “Seek for Tomorrow,” and in sitcoms like “The Jeffersons” and “Sanford & Son.” He was also seen in “Shaft” (1971), “Come Back Charleston Blue” (1972) and other movies, and onstage in a 2008 touring company of “The Color Purple.”

He and his wife ran Songbird, an organization that produced African American historical revues, including the musical “Shades of Harlem,” which was staged Off Broadway on the Village Gate in 1983.

The couple last performed at an anniversary party this 12 months.

Along with Ms. Wade, whom he married in 1989, he’s survived by their son, Jamel, a documentary filmmaker; three children, Sheldon Wade, Patrice Johnson Wade and Michael Wade, from his marriage to Kay Wade, which led to 1973; and a number of other grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

For all his success in show business, Mr. Wade said he was particularly proud that 40 years after dropping out of faculty, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Lehman College within the Bronx and a master’s in theater history and criticism from Brooklyn College, each constituents of the City University of Latest York. He taught speech and theater at Long Island University and at Bloomfield College in Latest Jersey.

“I used to be the primary one in my family to go to school,” he told Connecticut Public Radio. “I promised my grandmother back then that I’d finish college someday. A few years later, I kept that promise.”

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