Frank "Doc" Adams, Oral History


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Frank "Doc" Adams, Oral History


Dr. Frank “Doc” Adams (b. Feb 2, 1928, d. Oct. 29, 2014), Director of Education at the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and The Carver Theatre. Well known for his proficiency as a sax and clarinet player, and for his stints with Duke Ellington and Sun Ra’s bands, Dr. Adams taught music in the Birmingham school system for nearly 40 years. On this interview, he takes calls from 12 Birmingham radio listeners and he and Bob reflect on his career and teaching philosophy. They play a lightning round to get Doc’s reflections on his contemporaries in jazz. No bumper music. Doc does all the breaks.


Frank Adams
Bob Friedman


Birmingham Black Radio Museum


October 25, 2002


Mark Usry
Emily Bibb








Bob Friedman


Frank Adams


Transcript from audio snippet:

Frank Adams: I started off in elementary school and of course, uh, we started then early. I started around the third grade on the Mr. William Wise Handy, who was the nephew of W.C. Handy.

Bob Friedman: Wow

FA: …who wrote “The St. Louis Blues” and what I did I, I learned how to play, uh, the little marches and things. And when during the, uh, the Second World War, uh, I was drafted into the Maker Musicians Band, Professor..Whatley, Fess Whatley.

BF: 'Fess Whatley

FA: And my job, now of course is, I’m the director of the education division of the Jazz Hall of Fame. And we have a wonderful person there. Uh, Mr. Ricardo Morris, who is the executive director and it, it goes to say that, uh, history, uh sorta comes together when, you know, that in, in, in Birmingham. Uh, they, uh, so many music teachers involved in fact.

BF: Uh huh

FA: Birmingham has, more music teachers teaching choral and band music than, anybody, any other system.

BF: Is that right?

FA: And they've always had that. That's because the people of Birmingham have always put their interest in music.

BF: Mhm

FA: More so than New Orleans and any other system.

BF: Mhm

FA: So I grew up in, uh, in an environment that was conducive to jazz. And of course as I, I said during that Second World War, Mister Whatley recruited me to his band because all the good musicians were off in the service and...

BF: uh huh

FA: And, and that's the thing I can tell ya about at the Hall of Fame. But it was a terrific experience, uh, playing at, at Mr. Whatley's band.

BF: What year was that?

FA: This was in the ‘40s. This was, … I finished high school.

BF: You're not, you're not 20 years old yet and you're...

FA: Oh, well. I mean, yeah. I was. This, in Whatley’s band.. I must've been 14, 15 years old.

BF: Oh my goodness.

FA: Yeah.


Full Interview: 76 minutes
Audio Snippet: 2 minutes


Frank Adams and Bob Friedman, “Frank "Doc" Adams, Oral History,” The Birmingham Black Radio Museum, accessed April 10, 2021,

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