Valley Rhythms by Lola Rossi-Meza
The members of the Indian Wells Country Club call Marlene Adams “Our Little Songbird”
Marlene Adams loves to sing and just returned home from a week of competition as part of the 12th Annual Talent Quest National Karaoke Singing Contest held at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Laughlin, Nevada. “I have been part of Talent Quest for four years now. I love it,” said Adams. “Singers from all over the United States and Canada participate. Many of the same people go every year, it’s like visiting and having fun with family.” www.TalentQuest.org. Karaoke was introduced to her by a close friend, Cathy, over 7 years ago. “I really didn’t want to sing Karaoke because I was used to singing with bands. However, it keeps me singing regularly.”
Along with many other Karaoke fans, Adams sings a few songs every Thursday with T-Bone from 8 p.m. until midnight at the Tack Room Tavern, 81-800 Avenue 50, Indio. (760) 347-9985; Every Friday with T-Bone from 9 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. at the 19th Hole, 42-305 Washington Street, Palm Desert. (760) 772-6696; Every Sunday with Karaokie Jo from 7 p.m. until 1 a.m. in The Lounge at the Agua Caliente Casino, 32-350 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage. (888) 999-1995; and every Wednesday for “Golden Era Karaoke” with Becky from 4 until 7 p.m. at Neil’s Lounge, 80-956 Highway 111, Indio. (760) 347-1522.
Born Marlene Kleinman in Los Angeles, California, she remembers singing when she was three years old. She had an older brother and sister, but neither of them were musically inclined, nor were her parents or any other relative. The family later moved to Ocean Park, a suburb of Santa Monica, where she attended Washington Elementary School and sang in the chorus. “I was always one of two people who didn’t have to audition to be part of the choral groups.” She continued singing in the chorus at the John Adams Junior High School and later at the Santa Monica High School.
After graduation, she studied voice with renown vocal coach Harriet Lee, from Hollywood, for four years. “She worked for the studios and later branched out on her own. Her most famous student was Margaret Whiting.” In 1963, she met her husband and together they moved to Palm Springs in 1965. “I met pianist Bob Stevenson who was performing at the Firecliff Inn on El Paseo. I told him I was a singer and I sang a few songs with him. He asked me if I would be interested in working with some local bands.”
She kept busy by working in the grocery business and as a waitress. “Bob called me a week later, I auditioned for the band and my first professional singing gig was opening the season at the Lake Arrowhead Country Club in 1966. While we were on a break, I remember Woody Woodward asking me, ‘how does your husband feel about you being out of town with 5 strange men?’ I told him that he was fine with it, he trusts me. Then Woody said to me, ‘do yourself a favor, don’t get pregnant and don’t make your husband mad.’ Two months later, I was pregnant and had my daughter Linda. The guys called me to work, but I had to wait a few months to get back into shape.”
Adams would go to all the jam sessions in town and knew all the musicians. She would also sing in the vocal contests that Bobby Milano would have in the late 70s. “Whenever I needed to put a band together, I called Dale Garber and Terry Thomas. I sang at La Paon and alternated with vocalist Vicki Knight on her off nights.” She started working as a waitress in 1986 at the Marquis Hotel in Palm Springs. In 1987, she was part of the staff that opened the Hyatt Grand Champions in Indian Wells for three years and in 1989, she finally landed her most favorite waitressing job at the Indian Wells Country Club, where she worked until 2010.
“I had only been working there for one week, when entertainer John McCormick performed for the ladies golf tournament. I went up to say hello, and he asked me to sing ‘Crazy’. After my performance, I received a standing ovation and from that point on, it became a tradition and I was asked to sing a song with the bands who performed there.” Adams was very well liked by the members and referred to as “Our Little Songbird.” As a result, she would meet more musicians and worked with many of them on other gigs.
Adams celebrated her 75th birthday on August 15 with her Karaoke friends. On a personal note: May God continue to bless you Marlene, as you touch the hearts of those who hear your beautiful voice!