Rockability legend brings life to local church
by Kristina Grossheim
After 42 years in the ministry and a distinct entertainment career, rockabilly singer and musician Billy Adams received a calling to Lewisburg's Church of God.
In his youth, the Adams family moved a lot to find work and experienced hard times, but always shared what they did have with those less fortunate.
During those times, Adams interest in music began to surface, with influences such as the hillbilly music of the Carter Family and Moon Mulligan.
At only 15 years of age, Adams stepped up to the mike to perform a rockabilly classic that remains popular to this day, "Rock, Pretty Mama", which was released in 1957.
Billy Adams and the Rock-A-Teers continued their success with "You heard Me Knocking" and "True Love Will Come Your Way", performing their last show together in 1959.
Although his early rockabilly career came to end that year, it was really only the beginning for Adams. For the next three decades Adams continued to write, record, and perform rock'n'roll, country, and gospel music, using the music as part of his ministry.
"In August of 1965 I gave my heart to the Lord," said Adams. " I am so thankful for this purpose. The first day I preached I brought three people to the Lord and spent the next 21 years on the road preaching. I don't regret a mile of travel for the Lord."
Adams recalled the day he was saved as a new beginning. "I said Lord save my soul and I'll never touch another cigarette. I prayed a simple prayer and fell to the ground. I felt a weight lifted and knew the man got up wasn't the same one that went down," said Adams. "I never touched another cigarette, quit using foul language, got a new good attitude that has never left and been passed on to thousands since."
While passing on the word of god, Adams has still made the time to keep the spirit of rockabilly alive, known for its blues structure, strong rhythm and beat, and emotion and feeling.
In 1998 Adams began recording his album, Legend, bringing back old favorites and introducing new creations. Since then Adams has headlined in Europe with Bill Wyman former Rolling Stones bass player, Albert Lee, and Narvel Felts among others. He has been inducted into the Internet Rockabilly Hall of Fame, and many of his early records are housed in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
In 2001 Adams moved to Tennessee with the purpose of starting a church. His vision began to formulate when he heard on the radio that a Lewisburg church was in need of an interim pastor and happened to be asked to fill that position.
Since Adams arrival with his wife of 46 years, Freda, the Church of God has doubled in size and Adams has been appointed pastor and ordained as a Bishop of the Church, the highest level one can receive in a Church of God.
The rise in attendance may be attributed to Adam's fresh look at services. He believes in traditional and modern Christian music played with drums, bass, and guitar, so that all ages can feel at home and interested.
"It's a church with a new vision based on an old foundation," said Adams. "Everyone that wants to hear the word of God is welcome."
Adams calls his service "Celebration and Worship" and Sunday School is called "Learning From the Word Class", to remove the stigma of "school". Adams also plans to eventually extend the sanctuary and promises to always preach the direct Gospel.
"Our main purpose is to reach the lost," said Adams. "We want to fill the gaps in what people are looking for from church."
Beginning March 25, "Celebration and Worship" will be held every evening at 7:00p.m. until Easter to help the city of Lewisburg become better acquainted with Adams and his beliefs. Easter Sunday Service will be held at 10:00a.m. at the Church of God at Church St., and regular services are at 11:00a.m.
On May 4 at 6 p.m. Adams and his band will be played at Columbia Academy to help support Relay for Life, asking attendees to bring a gift for charity. Adams' charity work focuses on national diabetes, cancer, and heart foundations, as each has touched members of his band.
"I'm so happy I obeyed the will of God. Things here have worked out as he said," said Adams.