Adam Wade, actor, singer and first Black TV game show host, dies at 87
(The Wade Family)
Adam Wade, who went from lab assistant for Dr. Jonas Salk to stage, television and movie performer, died Thursday, July 7, 2022, at his home in Montclair. He was 87.
The cause was Parkinson’s disease, said his wife, Jeree Wade.
Mr. Wade, a singer, actor and producer, is also known as the first Black host of a network TV game show: He took over the show “Musical Chairs” on June 16, 1975.
He and his wife, who is a singer and actor, moved to Montclair in 1999 after getting married in 1986. She had performed at a local lounge and took a liking to the area.
When the time came for the couple to settle down, Mr. Wade needed no convincing to make Montclair his forever home, his wife said.
“We just decided, let's try getting a house,” she said. “We're starting out. We're older. We're not young newlyweds, let's live in Montclair. And it worked out.”
Born in Pittsburgh as Patrick Henry Wade, he was raised by his grandparents and attended Virginia State University on a basketball scholarship but never graduated. Despite not finishing college, he became a lab assistant at the University of Pittsburgh for Dr. Jonas Salk, who developed the first successful vaccine against polio.
Known for his good singing voice, a songwriter friend of Mr. Wade’s asked him to perform a few songs for a New York music publisher, according to a 1961 article in The New York Times. Although it was “no sale” for the friend’s songs, Mr. Wade was offered a contract. He sought advice from Salk. “He told me he had this opportunity,” Salk told The Times. “I told him that he must search his own soul to find out what is in him that wants to come out.”
As a performer, Mr. Wade used Adam as his first name because his manager thought there were too many Pats in entertainment, The Times said. Mr. Wade’s first recording, “Tell Her for Me,” became a hit.
His highest-charting song, “The Writing on the Wall,” debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard charts in 1961, only two years after he signed a record deal with Coed Records. Mr. Wade went on to appear in such TV shows as “The Jeffersons,” “Good Times” and “The Dukes of Hazzard.” His movie career included parts in “Shaft,” “Come Back Charleston Blue,” “Gordon’s War” and “Claudine.”
In 2008, he played Ol’ Mister in a touring production of “The Color Purple” but was glad to always come home to Montclair.
“We had a good life,” said his wife, a New York native. “And Montclair was good for us. Because both of us come from very busy cities, Los Angeles and New York.
“We were able to be very calm and peaceful. Here we got a cat, and that cat passed, and then we got another cat. So we have her now. She's missing Adam, but she's still here. And we have had a wonderful, wonderful life.”
In addition to his wife, Mr. Wade is survived by his children, Ramel, Patrice, Jamel and Latoya, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Services will be held on Friday, July 15, at 1 p.m. at Caggiano Memorial Home for Funerals.