John Louis Adams (aka Louie)

News Obituary Article
John Adams Sr., 82, moved by music

John Louis Adams Sr. loved music so much that he once struck up a conversation with a cello-carrying stranger on a New York City bus and became so engrossed that he followed the cellist off the bus, leaving his startled wife and children on board.

He loved music so much that when he bought a new car, he didn’t care about the make or model as much as he did the stereo system.

He loved music so much that “he actually told us to open our window wider and turn the stereo up louder,” said former next-door neighbor Pat Howorth of Gainesville.

From the 1950s to the 1970s, Mr. Adams performed with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra while also teaching at Agnes Scott College — instructing students by day, cramming private lessons into every spare moment, then hurrying to rehearsals and symphony performances.

He played in pops concerts at Chastain Park, recorded with Tony Joe White and Joe South, toured with Henry Mancini, performed with James Brown, even joined R&B singer Barry White’s tour as a member of the Love Unlimited Orchestra.

“There’s a saying that musicians lead very complicated lives, subject to last-minute changes, and that’s a very good description of his life,” said his son, John Adams Jr. of Decatur.

Mr. Adams, 82, of Decatur, died of complications from cancer Saturday at Northlake Medical Center. The body was to be cremated. The memorial service is 11 a.m. Thursday at Decatur Presbyterian Church. A.S. Turner & Sons is in charge of arrangements.

In 1946, he married fellow musician Romaigne Adams of Decatur, then earned his master’s degree from the Eastman School of Music in 1948.

After a short teaching stint at Shorter College in Rome, he joined the ASO as one of its earliest professional members, according to Nick Jones of the ASO.

Mr. Adams started as a violist in 1950 and became principal violist in 1951. In 1962, he switched to violin and became assistant concertmaster. In 1968, he became principal second violinist and retired from the orchestra in 1972.

He settled in a Decatur neighborhood filled with other ASO musicians in 1953 and joined Agnes Scott as an assistant professor of music, retiring in 1976.

“He laughed a lot and he had a gentle, humble and yet extraordinarily capable way about him,” said former student Dr. Perky Daniel of Decatur. “And he taught by example as much as direction. He taught by the quality of his playing as much as he did by telling you what to do. He showed as much as he told.”

Incorrigibly sociable, Mr. Adams loved chatting with fellow house boaters on Lake Lanier, connecting with Rotary Club members wherever he traveled and waving to his long-distance friends from his second-row Braves seats.

“He had season tickets right behind the dugout and his friends would see him on TV any time a left-handed batter came up,” his son said. “And if they didn’t see him, they knew he must be out of the country.”

On the road, Mr. Adams would make a point to track down jazz violinist Stefan Grappelli at a suburban Paris club, to locate La Scala in Milan and to get himself to church, no matter what.

“On Sunday morning it didn’t matter if he was in Paris or Rio de Janeiro or Buenos Aires, he was going to find a church,” his son said. “Any denomination, as long as it had a fine organ.”

Survivors also include another son, Tom Adams of Decatur; a daughter, Janet Lori of Tucker; a brother, George Adams of Cleveland, Ohio; and three grandchildren.

© 2006 The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionPublished by Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Sep. 20, 2006.