Park Frederick “Pepper” Adams III (October 8, 1930 – September 10, 1986) was an American jazz baritone saxophonist and composer. He composed 42 pieces, was the leader on eighteen albums spanning 28 years, and participated in 600 sessions as a sideman. He worked with an array of musicians, and had especially fruitful collaborations with trumpeter Donald Byrd and as a member of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band.
Pepper Adams was born in Highland Park, Michigan, to father Park Adams II and mother Cleo Marie Coyle. Both of his parents were college graduates, with each spending some time at the University of Michigan. Due to the onset of the Great Depression, Adams’ parents separated to allow his father to find work without geographic dependence. In the fall of 1931 Adams moved with his mother to his extended family’s farm near Columbia City, Indiana, where food and support were more readily available. In 1933 Adams began playing piano. His family moved to Rochester, New York, in 1935 and in that city he began his musical efforts on tenor sax and clarinet. Two years later Adams began deepening his developing passion for music by listening to Fats Waller‘s daily radio show. He was also influenced at a young age by listening to Fletcher Henderson‘s big band radio broadcasts out of Nashville, Jimmie Lunceford, Duke Ellington, and Cab Calloway. Adams would later describe “[his] time up until the age of eight or so [as] really just traveling from one place to another”. As early as 4th grade, Adams sold cigarettes and candy door-to-door in order to contribute to his family’s income for essential items.