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Adam Wade, R&B Star Who Later Became First Black Game Show Host on Network Television, Dead at 87

Courtesy Everett Collection
Gameshow pioneer Adam Wade in 1975. 
Adam Wade, a prolific musician and actor who became the first Black game show host on network television in 1975, is dead at 87.

Wade's family announced his passing on his official Facebook page on Thursday.

"It is with deep sadness that we inform you of the passing of our husband, father, brother, friend, Adam Wade," the post read. "Arrangements are being made for his memorial and we will keep you updated; it is a great loss for everyone who knew and loved him. Please keep our family in your prayers."

No cause of death was given on the post but his wife singer and actress, Jeree Wade, confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that he died at his home in Montclair, NJ, of complications from Parkinson's disease.

A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Wade followed a somewhat unusual road to stardom.

While working as a laboratory technician for Dr. Jonas Salk, the developer of the polio vaccine, he was asked to audition for a music publisher by a friend. Within a couple of years, he had left college and was recording for Coed Records full-time in Manhattan.

The talented jazz pianist crooner soon became the toast of the town, eventually earning gigs opening for the likes of Tony Bennett and comedian Joe E. Lewis at the legendary Copacabana nightclub.

By the early 1960s, Wade was on fire. Boasting a singing voice often compared to his idol Nat King Cole — whose brother Freddy he had performed with earlier ins his career — he notched three consecutive Billboard Top 10 hits that year.

The ballads “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), made him a star but his career began to stumble late in the decade as the world's tastes in music changed.

Undeterred Wade added acting to his entertainment portfolio and the move from behind the microphone to the front of the screen proved a fortuitous one.

Roles in television shows such as "Tarzan," "The FBI" and "Adam 12" expanded fans' perception of Wade as an entertainer. In 1971 he made the move to the big screen with a role in "Shaft." Several other movies and shows would follow, ultimately giving him the chance to be a pioneer in another industry.

In 1975 he became the first Black game show host on network television. Wade was master of ceremonies for "Musical Chairs," which was filmed at the famous Ed Sullivan Theater and ran daily on CBS.

On the show, contestants competed to complete the lyrics of songs and respond to questions about music. They were helped along by guest performers like The Spinners, Sister Sledge and Irene Cara. The controversial experiment didn't last long. The show, which some affiliates refused to carry, was canceled in less than five months.
His time on the show did not go unrewarded, however. Wade, who returned to recording after the stint and even understudied for Ben Vereen on Broadway in "I'm Not Rappaport" in 2002, met Jeree on the set of "Musical Chairs."

The couple, and frequent collaborators, married in 1989 and had four children.

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