Bobbe “Beegie” Long Adair

By Ron Wynn

NASHVILLE, TN — One of Music City’s finest pianists and bandleaders, as well as beloved personalities, passed Sunday. Bobbe “Beegie” Long Adair, 84 died at her home in Franklin. A wonderful melodic stylist, Adair was also extremely versatile. While jazz was her favorite music, she operated easily in multiple idioms and her list of collaborations and associations was extensive. Adair also worked as an educator and session musician.

Her formal musical training occurred at Western Kentucky, where she earned a B.S. in Music Education. She was already playing in jazz bands before and after graduation, and was a children’s music teacher for three years prior to moving to Nashville. During her tenure in the studios Adair was on call for a host of great records. Some of the people whose albums featured her piano work included Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Clifton Davis, Henry Mancini, Delbert McClinton, Joe Williams, Chet Atkins, Steve Allen, Mandy Barnett, Ray Stevens, Hank Garland,  Peggy Lee and Mama Cass Elliott.

Adair was equally prolific in her contributions to local radio and television. She worked on WSM’s “Noon Broadcast,” as well as being part of two landmark TV shows, “The Johnny Cash Show” and “The Ralph Emery Show.” Along with her husband Billy, the couple also started a jingle company to provide music for commercials. 

She really began making an impact locally with jazz in 1982 she and saxophonist Denis Solee formed the Adair-Solee Quartet, which evolved into the Be-Bop Co-Op, a jazz sextet. Adair’s first solo LP was “Escape to New York,” with a rhythm section consisting of Bob Cranshaw and Gregory Hutchinson. 

Adair appeared on over 100 LPs. A very special part of that legacy were the more than 35 studio albums recorded with her trio mates, bassist Roger Spencer and drummer Chris Brown, over the last 25 years.  They ranged across the stylistic frontier, doing everything from  Cole Porter standards to Frank Sinatra classics and romantic World War II ballads. 

Her flair with standards was especially notable on the six-disc set “Centennial Composers Collection.” These were classic tunes written by Rodgers, Gershwin, Kern, Ellington, Carmichael and Berlin,  Her first live album, “The Real Thing,” spent over 12 weeks in the Top 20 on the JazzWeek charts and was named one of the “Top 100 Best Jazz Albums” of 2012. 

In the late 80s, Adair hosted “Improvised Thoughts,” a popular radio talk/music show for NPR, featuring local and international jazz artists. The guest roster included including Tony Bennett, Joe Williams, Marian McPartland, Benny Golson and Helen Merrill. She had two guest appearances on McPartland’s internationally-known “Piano Jazz{ show,  and performed with Nat Adderley, Bill Watrous, Lew Tabackin, Terry Clarke, Urbie Green and Jim Ferguson among many others. 

Another honor for Adair came In 2002. She joined one of the most exclusive rosters in the world, becoming a Steinway Artist. The list of 1600 who’ve also been honored with that title includes  Lang Lang, Diana Krall, Harry Connick, Jr., Michael Legrand, Billy Joel, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Arthur Rubinstein. 

Adair was honored as an international “Jazz Hero” by Jazz Journalist Association. She was inducted into  the Western Kentucky University Hall of Fame; the Cave City, KY Hall of Fame; and was the inaugural Heritage Award recipient from the Nashville Jazz Workshop. In 2012, she was appointed a Kentucky Colonel by KY Gov. Steve Beshear.  Additionally, her hometown named the Beegie Adair Community Center in her honor for her many contributions to music, education and her hometown community. 

A Celebration of Life, a ceremony honoring Adair, will be conducted at a later date.