Photo: Gary Adams picks around on a guitar this week at his current promoter’s Hillsboro home.
By Jeff Gilliland – [email protected]
For years the people he played guitar and wrote songs for read like a who’s who list of country music – George Jones, Johnny Paycheck, Marty Robbins, Ray Price, Porter Wagoner, Faron Young, Merle Haggard, to name just a few.
“We was like a big family. We all traveled together and everything,” Greenfield resident Gary Adams said. “Now the big stars don’t even know the other guys’ names.”
A 2004 vehicle accident that wasn’t his fault left Adams unable to play a guitar like he once could. But now he has a chance cap his career in rare fashion.
A couple of weeks ago, Mike Judge, the creator of “Beavis and Butt-head” and “King of the Hill” and co-creator of Emmy Award-nominated “Silicon Valley,” flew Gary and his brothers, Don and Arnie, to Hollywood to shoot footage for a 12-episode pilot that Judge wants to air on HBO and Cinemax, according to Adams and his promoter, Hillsboro resident Johnny Deans.
“We recorded some interviews he will use on the up and coming series that they’ll do some animation on about the stories we told them,” Adams said. “It’s hard to tell what will happen. It came up so fast I never took it seriously until three to four weeks ago when they said they were going to fly us out there. When we got the tickets, I said, ‘I guess it’s for real.’”
Adams said, “It’s a very, very good way to cap off the Adams boys’ careers. Even if nothing comes out of it, we got to go to Hollywood. I’m probably the biggest skeptic in the world, but I do have hope for this one.”
Since he can no longer play the guitar like he once did, Adams said he’s been woking with the steel guitar. “That’s my passion these days. I keep hoping I’ll get better to the point I’ll be like I used to be,” he said.
Adams said he was working on a small Greenfield Internet show, promoting The Adams Boys, when the show started getting a lot of attention because of all the country music stars the brothers played with. That led to a conversation with Richie Mullins, who works with Judge, who happens to play the steel guitar like Adams.
Before long, Adams said, he was talking to Judge, and Judge was talking about stopping by Greenfield on his way to New York. He said Judge told him that if he had just one CD he could listen to, it would be “Dance Town USA,” the only live album George Jones ever recorded, with the Adams boys playing background on it.
“He said we was his heroes, and I was awestruck,” Gary said. “This is the guy that created ‘Beavis and Butt-head,’ ‘King of the Hill’ and was just up for an Emmy. He’s my hero.”
Next thing they knew the Adamses and Judge were talking about a cable television show featuring stories about their days with the kings of country music.
“There’s no one can tell stories better than the band members ‘cause we were on the inside,” Adams said. “There’s so much interest in classic country, and there are so few people left. Me and my brothers are some of the few and know stories on those guys that a lot of people have never heard. They think we have a link between George and Merle and even Paycheck, and we have something to say about everyone.”
Adams said that in Hollywood they shot the video with Judge at Benny Goodman’s house, located between houses owned by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.
“We flew out on Delta and flew back on Cloud Nine,” Adams laughed.
Deans said Adams is humble, but has seen and done it all when it comes to country music.
Adams was the lead guitarist for Robbins when he died. He said he wrote “Baby That’s Love” for Robbins, “That’s What The Outlaws Want to Hear In Texas” for Paycheck and “All American Man,” among other songs, for other singers.
He said he was good friends with Little Jimmy Dickens, got stuck at George Jones’ funeral between Eddie Arnold and Roy Acuff and had to bum a cigarette, and while he was there had a conversation with former First Lady Laura Bush about how she used to go to the Texas clubs before she was married and listen to Jones’ song “The Race Is On,” which the Adams boys played with Jones countless times.
Adams said he started playing the guitar when he 3 and doesn’t remember learning. “We always did play. It was just born in us,” he said.
The Adamses’ father, Frank, and his brothers played a lot church music in the 1920s and ’30s and Adams said the family had a radio program on WCHO in Washington C.H. that he started playing on when he was 7 or 8. Their mother was a Pentacostal preacher.
Adams and his brothers grew up in the Lyndon area just east of Greenfield in Ross County. He said the first person he remembers meeting other than family members was Paycheck, known then as Donnie Lytle.
“He smarted off to one of my brothers and we gave him a good lesson not do that again,” Adams said.
In 1951-52, Adams said the Adams brothers were playing on a weekly country jamboree show on WCHO with Darrell McCall. He said that when the family moved to Greenfield they met Paul Angel and got hooked up with Paycheck again. Angel owned the Greenfield bar where Paycheck got his start and also had a recording studio in his basement that was later visited by most of the country greats of the day.
When the Adamses decided to head to Nashville they hooked up with Paycheck again.
At one time, Adams said, the Adams boys played in two bands – The Greenfield Express and The Lovemakers – and they were both nominated for Band of the Year the same year. “What we did was knock each other out of there,” Adams said.
In later years, he was asked to get Larry Wise, the man Paycheck shot in a Hillsboro bar, to sign a paper saying it was OK if Paycheck was let out of prison early. He said he finally got the paper signed, but had to hang out all night with Wise and his brother singing and carrying on to make it happen.
Adams said that currently he and his brother Don are recording some stuff for Judge, just kind of getting their music out there and testing the water. He said it means a lot to know he had at least somewhat of an influence on people like Judge.
“It’s really enlightening to get this old and get to cap it off with Mike Judge in Hollywood, whether anything comes of it or not,” Adams said.
He said he never made a lot of money as a musician, but that’s not why he played.
“Did you play good enough to maybe change someone’s life and bring them some happiness? That’s been my sole purpose ever since I started,” Adams said. “I never even thought about getting rich. I just enjoyed playing for an audience, and this recent stuff is just a bonus.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.