Joe Adams, Ray Charles’ longtime manager, dies at 94
Joe Adams was at the helm of the Ray Charles Corporation until his retirement in 2008
Joe Adams. Courtesy, the Ray Charles Foundation
Known as the ‘man behind the man,’ Joe Adams was instrumental in Ray Charles’ rise as a cultural icon
LOS ANGELES — Joe Adams, the longtime manager of legendary musician Ray Charles and former chairman of the board of The Ray Charles Foundation, died at the age of 94 in Los Angeles, on Tuesday, July 3.
Charles and Adams designed and built the RPM International office and studios on Washington Boulevard in Los Angeles. As the CEO in charge of RPM, Admas supervised the many activities of the parent company, including its business holdings and publishing companies, Tangerine and Racer Music. His work with Charles extended to Ray Charles Enterprises, which covered the activities of the Ray Charles Orchestra and the Raelettes.
Adams produced Ray Charles’ numerous appearances overseeing every detail from stage lights to Charles’ wardrobe — which he personally designed for Charles, and the Raelettes as well.
A Los Angeles native raised in Watts, Adams was the son of an African American mother and Jewish father. Adams’ father was a local businessman who owned Gold’s Furniture store on Central Avenue during the late 1960s and 70s, and it was from him that Adams attained his keen sense for business and the value of money.
During the 1940s, as a teenager, Adams was the first African American deejay at the Art Grogan-owned Santa Monica-based radio station KOWL-AM. Within two years, Adam’s daily radio show was the #1 rated deejay show in Los Angeles.
During an era when deejays were required to solicit their own sponsors, Adams attracted an incredible 56 paid advertisers to pay for airtime on KOWL, marking the beginning of an auspicious radio career that eventually spanned 20 years. In addition to radio, Adams enjoyed success on both television and film as an actor appearing in more than 26 motion pictures. Among his most notable roles were as Frank Sinatra’s psychiatrist in “The Manchurian Candidate,” and as Husky Miller in “Carmen Jones.” The latter earned Adams a Golden Globe in 1955 for New Star of the Year, making him the first African American man to win the award.
An integral part of the renowned Tuskegee Airmen, Adams honed his skills and later became a qualified commercial pilot. Among his many talents and skills, Adams was also a professional photographer and was well versed in entertainment contract law
Adams was at the helm of the Ray Charles Corporation until his retirement in 2008. For 10 years he served as the Chairman of the Board of the Ray Charles Foundation where he was responsible for shepherding the legacy of Ray Charles and implementing the philanthropic goals that both men shared. He and wife Emma established The Emma and Joe Adams Foundation where they donated millions to support educational institutions.
It was Adams who presented Watts’ Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science with a $1-million donation — at the time, the largest one-time individual gift in the school’s history. The money funded student scholarships and established the Adams Scholars which provides $10,000 to cover tuition for undergraduates based on their financial need.
Funeral arrangements are pending and will be announced at a later date.