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Mon, 08.16.1915

Albert Hibbler, Singer born

Al Hibbler

*Albert George Hibbler was born on this date in 1915. He was a blind Black jazz singer.

Born blind in Tyro, Mississippi, after moving to Little Rock at 12, he began singing soprano in the choir of a school for the blind. Though motivated by ballad singers like Bing Crosby and Russ Columbo, Hibbler's voice soon deepened, and he began singing the blues at area roadhouses. After winning a talent contest in Memphis, he joined Jay McShann’s Orchestra in 1942 and debuted with Duke Ellington's Orchestra a year later, replacing Herb Jeffries. One of the most significant singers Ellington ever showcased, Hibbler appeared on a range of Ellington standards, including Do Nothin' 'Til You Hear from Me, Ain't Got Nothin' But the Blues, Don't Be So Mean to My Baby, and I'm Just a Lucky So-And-So.

He spent eight years with the Ellington band, leaving in 1951 after a dispute over raising his salary. Signing on with Verve Records, Hibbler continued to record with musicians (Harry Carney, Count Basie, and Gerald Wilson), and in 1954 released an LP of old favorites entitled Al Hibbler Sings Duke Ellington. One year later, he signed with Decca and hit the pop charts with two million-selling singles; Unchained Melody and He, spotlighting his distinctive delivery of growling vocals to carefully studied accents.

In 1956, Hibbler hit the Top Ten again with After the Lights Go Down Low, which proved his last hit. By the late '50s, Hibbler had begun taking an interest in the American Civil Rights movement, marching with protesters, and was arrested in New Jersey in 1959 and Alabama in 1963. Frank Sinatra signed him to Reprise, where he released Monday Every Day in 1961.  Hibbler recorded very sparingly after collaborating with Rahsaan Roland Kirk in 1972, resurfacing only occasionally during the 1980s and '90s for recordings or special performances.

His voice was strong, emotive, and masculine, with a steady vibrato that carried every record he made. Albert Hibbler died Apr 24, 2001, in Chicago, Illinois.

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