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November 20, 2012

Vintage Track: Faye Adams “The Hammer”

by @thoughtontracks

New Jersey native Faye Adams had a string of R&B hits in the early-to-mid 1950s. Born in 1923 as Fay Tuell, she began her career at age five alongside her two older siblings as the Tuell Sisters gospel group, regularly appearing on Newark radio broadcasts. She became a staple of the NYC nightclub circuit after marrying Tommy Scruggs in 1942. However, it wasn’t until legendary R&B songstress Ruth Brown spotted Fay during a performance in Atlanta, nearly a decade later, that the singer earned an audition and was subsequently signed to Herald Records.

Under her new stage name Faye Adams, the singer quickly found success fronting the band of labelmate Joe Morris. In 1953, the group released a pair of singles that reached number one on the U.S. R&B charts: “Shake A Hand” and “I’ll Be True.” The former would be Adams’s biggest hit, sitting atop the charts for eight weeks. She continued to have moderate success both as a solo performer and with Morris’ band over the next couple of years. By January of 1955, Adams had sold more than 2 million records for Herald.

By the end of the decade, the public’s demand had shifted from traditional R&B to the rock n’ roll stylings of Elvis and his African American predecessors. As a result, Adams gave up the game and headed back to New Jersey to focus on family, rediscovering her gospel roots. Adams earned a Pioneer Award from the Rhythm & Blues Foundation in 1998 for her contribution to the genre.

Her single “The Hammer” has been included in a terrific new compilation called Jukebox Mambo. The compilation is available in a stunning book featuring six, 10″ vinyls on Jazzman Records. Jukebox Mambo is available on CD and digital download for the non-vinyl enthusiast. “The Hammer” was originally released in 1956 as the b-side to “Anytime, Any Place, Anywhere.” The track is bookended by Adams’s haunting howls, with the band working itself up to a confident saunter in between. Listen to the track and check out the packaging for Jukebox Mambo below.

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Written by Rob Peoni

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