Adam Wade, who had three consecutive Top 10 hits on the Billboard chart in 1961 and broke barriers when he became the first Black host on a network game show in 1975, died on Thursday at his home in Montclair, New Jersey. He was 87.
His wife of 33 years, Jeree Wade, a singer, actress and producer, told the The New York Times that his cause of death was complications of Parkinson’s disease.
In May 1975, CBS named Wade as the host of the weekly afternoon game show, “Musical Chairs,” which was co-produced by Don Kirshner and which featured musical acts including The Spinners and Irene Cara.
As the first Black TV host, Wade’s reception was not warm. He received hate mail and one CBS affiliate in Alabama refused to carry “Musical Chairs.” The show only lasted five months, but Wade told Connecticut Public Radio in 2014, “It probably added 30 years to my career.”
Born Patrick Henry Wade on March 17, 1935, in Pittsburgh, he changed his name from Pat to Adam because his agent told him there were already too many singers named Pat. He had his first hit with the song “Ruby” in 1960.
When he was offered a recording contract from Coed Records, he had to decide whether to pursue his dreams of a musical career, or continue as a laboratory technician for Dr. Jonas E. Salk, the developer of the polio vaccine. He chose music.
In 1961, he recorded three songs that landed in the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart: “The Writing on the Wall,” “Take Good Care of Her” and “As if I Didn’t Know.”
His acting career included appearances on “The Guiding Light,” “Search for Tomorrow,” “The Jeffersons” and “Sanford & Son.” He also appeared in the blaxploitation hit “Shaft” in 1971.
He and his wife ran Songbird Productions, a theatrical company that produced historical African American projects, including the musical “Shades of Harlem,” which was staged Off Broadway at the Village Gate in 1983.
In addition to Ms. Wade, he is survived by their son, Jamel, a documentary filmmaker; and three children — Sheldon Wade, Patrice Johnson Wade and Michael Wade — from his previous marriage to Kay Wade. He is also survived by several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.