Singer and entertainer Adam Wade made history on this day in 1975 by becoming the first African-American host of a nationally televised game show. The CBS afternoon program, Musical Chairs, ran from June 16 and ended on October of that year. Wade, who had a series of hit singles in the early 1960s, said that his placement on the show was wrought with hate mail and criticism from racist viewers.
Born Patrick Henry Wade on March 17, 1935 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Wade’s career began in 1959. He scored an early hit with the song, “Ruby” in 1960.
The following year, three of Wade’s ballads made it to the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. He wouldn’t have major charting hits of that sort in the latter part of the decade but continued to make music. During a WNPR interview, Wade said he fashioned himself after his “boyhood idol” Nat King Cole.
When music shifted from doo-wop crooners to more raw R&B, Wade took up voice acting, filming commercials, and performing in venues around the country.
Wade appeared in the hit “blaxploitation” film Shaft, and had bit roles on The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son and other shows. His time on Musical Chairs was not without incident despite the historic aspect of his appearance as the show’s host. In his WNPR profile Wade said that the show was banned from a station in Alabama because of his race.
Wade also added that hate mail was sent to CBS in droves. The producers of Musical Chairs shielded him from much of the racist viewer backlash but he wasn’t immune to all of it. One viewer wrote in saying, as Wade remembers, that he “didn’t want his wife sitting at home watching the Black guy hand out the money and the smarts.”