It was a lucky day for music lovers when Johnny Adams’ songwriter neighbour Dorothy La Bostrie knocked on the young gospel singer’s door and asked if he would consider singing the demos for two R&B songs she was hoping to pitch to record man Joe Ruffino of Ric and Ron Records. One of the songs was ‘I Won’t Cry’, which started the “Tan Canary” on a career that spanned five decades, gave so much pleasure to fans of New Orleans soul and R&B, and which now features as the title track of a must-have Ace CD.
It was only a local hit, but ‘I Won’t Cry’ set standards for the great music collected in the first-ever compilation to include the A and B-side of all 11 of Adams’ Ric and Ron singles – along with two otherwise unrecorded demos that made their first appearance on a vinyl single in a boxed set of Ric and Rons 45s issued for Record Store Day a couple of years back. It beggars belief that, of these 11, only ‘A Losing Battle’ became a national R&B hit, so high is their overall quality.
Ruffino recorded Adams at Cosimo Matassa’s studio with the best musicians the Crescent City had on tap at the time. Many tracks feature such renowned outfits as Edgar Blanchard’s Gondoliers, Harold Battiste’s A.F.O Studio Combo and individual talents like Mac Rebennack – who also composed several of the best tracks including ‘A Losing Battle’ and its stellar follow-up ‘Showdown’. With arrangements by Battiste and the equally respected Wardell Quezergue, it’s a pity and a surprise that they didn’t reach a greater audience when new.
Over 50 years later, original success or failure is somewhat irrelevant. Johnny Adams’ Ric and Ron 45s provided the first steps to success that would eventually arrive at the end of the 60s via recordings such as ‘Release Me’, ‘Reconsider Me’ and a remake of ‘I Won’t Cry’, and are the foundation on which Johnny’s reputation as one of the great New Orleans song stylists rests.