A distinctive vocalist who had two big yet unlikely hits five years apart – and one ocean apart – but otherwise was a fairly minor figure on the scene for the bulk of her career.

The large woman born Ollie Marie Givens in Texas in 1925 had no desire to be a professional singer and was goaded into trying out for Don Robey’s Peacock Records at the urging of her husband. However she impressed Robey enough that he gave her a contract which immediately paid dividends when her debut single made a slow climb up the charts where it resided for most the summer of 1952, nearly a year after it was released under her married name, Marie Adams.

A strong vocalist with good range and a lot of attitude in her singing, Adams was unable to follow that up with another hit while at Peacock over the next few years but during that time met and began to work with Johnny Otis who had come to the label mostly to produce and took a liking to her style.

With his own vocalist ranks having been sorely depleted with defections and drug addictions, he took Adams on and featured her along with two sisters of equal girth – Francine and Sadie McKinley – and dubbed them The Three Tons Of Joy, primarily as a live attraction where their size was as much of an attraction as their singing, though all three were talented vocalists.

When Otis signed with Capitol Records in 1957 he had them cut a version of the 1920’s song “Ma, He’s Makin’ Eyes At Me”, knowing that it’d go over well live and because as always he was determined give ample exposure to all of the revue on their own singles in order to boost their drawing power. With overdubbed crowd reactions taken from their show at The Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles, it was obvious he was viewing this as the three ladies showstopper in their own mini-set each night.

What not even Otis could’ve expected was for it to become a #2 smash in Great Britain of all places, even without the visual accompaniment that would go over so well as the group was unable to tour in England thanks to the country’s requirements calling for an equal exchange of musicians and singers to be “traded” to America for a tour of their own, the theory being this way they wouldn’t be taking any jobs while they were in the country.

With so many members of Otis’s revue – and so few (read: none) British stars who’d draw any interest or recognition in the States in 1958, Adams never got to fully enjoy the brief burst of stardom she might’ve had in different circumstances. A follow-up did make the UK Top Twenty but both records fell on deaf ears with American audiences.

By 1960 she and the McKinley sisters left Otis, as he’d moved on to other projects, and while they continued singing with Adams even getting a few minor singles in the 1960’s.

By the early 1970’s she returned to the fold with Otis and was finally able to tour England and belatedly enjoy some of the acclaim she was due. By now they were no longer a current act with new music to promote, but she did well enough touring with Johnny to sustain her career for the rest of the decade… a career she claimed not have wanted when starting out.

Adams passed away in 1998 at the age of 72.
MARIE ADAMS DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date on Spontaneous Lunacy):

(Peacock 1583; November, 1951)
An unusual song with its crude skeletal arrangement and lack of much plot, but Adams’ defiant attitude in declaring her intentions fits right in with rock’s overall perspective and the subversive melodic hook in the primary refrain does the rest. (7)

(Peacock 1604; July, 1952)
Though Adams herself is really good here, controlling and yet still revealing her emotions as the song dictates, the arrangement featuring an intrusive trumpet that not only is a bad fit on a rock song but also contradicts the mood she’s setting virtually ruins this. (4)

(Peacock 1610; August, 1952)
A crass short-sighted business decision forces Adams to cut an unnecessary cover of Johnny Ace’s hit that can’t change it up enough to stand out, yet alters it too much to work aesthetically even as her voice remains appealing in its own right. (2)

(Peacock 1610; August, 1952)
Though it contains most of the requisite parts a rock song needs from a rolling rhythm with the right instruments to a good Adams lead vocal, the song lacks a memorable vocal hook and the arrangement comes across as slightly disjointed, a decent effort but not a memorable one. (4)