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Al Hibbler

Al Hibbler
Al Hibbler in 1946
Background information
Birth name Albert George Hibbler
Born (1915-08-16)August 16, 1915
Tyro, Mississippi, United States
Died April 24, 2001(2001-04-24) (aged 85)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Genres Easy listening
Traditional popular music
Occupation(s) Singer
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1935–2001
Labels Norgran
Associated acts Duke Ellington

Albert George "Al" Hibbler (August 16, 1915 – April 24, 2001) was an American baritone vocalist, who sang with Duke Ellington's orchestra before having several pop hits as a solo artist. Some of Hibbler's singing is classified as rhythm and blues, but he is best seen as a bridge between R&B and traditional pop music.[1] According to one authority, "Hibbler cannot be regarded as a jazz singer but as an exceptionally good interpreter of twentieth-century popular songs who happened to work with some of the best jazz musicians of the time."[2]


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Activism 2.1
  • Death 3
  • Discography 4
    • Solo singles (chart hits only) 4.1
    • Albums 4.2
  • Listening to 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Hibbler was born in Tyro, Mississippi, United States, and was blind from birth.[1] At the age of 12 he moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, where he attended Arkansas School for the Blind, joining the school choir.[3][4] Later he began working as a blues singer in local bands, failing his first audition for Duke Ellington in 1935.[5] However, after winning an amateur talent contest in Memphis, Tennessee, he was given his start with Dub Jenkins and his Playmates; Jenkins was a popular Memphis saxophonist and bandleader. He later joined a band led by Jay McShann in 1942, and the following year joined Ellington's orchestra, replacing Herb Jeffries.[4]


He stayed with Ellington for almost eight years, and featured on a range of Ellington standards, including "Do Nothin' Til You Hear From Me", the words for which were written specifically for him and which reached # 6 on the Billboard pop chart (and # 1 for eight weeks on the "Harlem Hit Parade") in 1944, "I Ain't Got Nothin' But the Blues," and "I'm Just a Lucky So-and-So". Although Hibbler's style was described as "mannered", "over-stated", and "full of idiosyncrasies" and "bizarre vocal pyrotechnics", he was also considered "undoubtedly the best" of Ellington's male vocalists.[3][4][6] While with Ellington, Hibbler won the Esquire New Star Award in 1947 and the Down Beat award for Best Band Vocalist in 1949.[5]

Hibbler left Ellington's band in 1951 after a dispute over his wages. He then recorded with various bands including those of Verve Records, for whom he released an LP, Al Hibbler Favorites, in 1953.[7] In 1954 he released a more successful album, Al Hibbler Sings Duke Ellington, and in 1955, he started recording with Decca Records, with immediate success. His biggest hit was "Unchained Melody",[8] which reached # 3 on the US pop chart, sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.[9] Its success led to network appearances, including a live jazz club remote on NBC's Monitor. Other hits were "He" (1955),[8] "11th Hour Melody" and "Never Turn Back" (both in 1956). "After the Lights Go Down Low" (also in 1956) was his last top ten hit.[4]


In the late 1950s and 1960s, Hibbler became a civil rights activist, marching with protestors and getting arrested in 1959 in New Jersey and in 1963 in Alabama. The notoriety of this activism discouraged major record labels from carrying his work, but Frank Sinatra supported him and signed him to a contract with his label, Reprise Records.[3] However, Hibbler made very few recordings after that, occasionally doing live appearances through the 1990s. In 1971, Hibbler sang two songs at Louis Armstrong's funeral.[10] In 1972 he made an album, A Meeting of the Times, with another fiercely independent blind musician, the multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk.[5]


He died at Holy Cross Hospital in Chicago in 2001, at the age of 85.[1][3] He is buried at Lincoln Cemetery in Blue Island, Illinois.


Solo singles (chart hits only)

Year Title Label & Cat. No. U.S. Pop[11] U.S. R&B[12] UK[13]
1948 "Trees" / "Lover, Come Back To Me" Miracle 501
2 / 9
1950 "Danny Boy" Atlantic 911
1951 "What Will I Tell My Heart" Chess 1455
1955 "Unchained Melody" Decca 29441 (US)
Brunswick 05420 (UK)
1955 "He" Decca 29660
1956 "11th Hour Melody" Decca 29789
1956 "Never Turn Back" / "Away All Boats" Decca 29950
22 / 77
1956 "After The Lights Go Down Low" Decca 29982
1957 "Trees" (re-recording) Decca 30176


  • The Ellingtonians With Al Hibbler, Mercer 1004, 1951
  • Al Hibbler Favorites, Norgran MGN-4, 1953
  • Al Hibbler Sings Duke Ellington, Norgran MGN-15, 1954
  • Al Hibbler Sings With The Duke, Columbia CL2593, 1954 (recordings from 1947 - 1949)
  • Melodies By Al Hibbler, Marterry 601, 1955 (recordings from 1947 - 1948)
  • Al Hibbler Sings Love Songs, Verve MGV-4000, 1956 (recordings from 1952 - 1954)
  • Starring Al Hibbler, Decca DL8328, 1956
  • After The Lights Go Down Low (Atlantic 1950-56 [1957])
  • Here's Hibbler!, Decca DL8420, 1957
  • I Surrender Dear, Score SLP4013, 1957 (one side only) (recordings from 1946)
  • Torchy and Blue, Decca DL8697, 1958
  • Hits By Hibbler, Decca DL8757, 1958
  • Al Hibbler Remembers The Big Songs of the Big Bands, Decca DL 78862, 1959
  • Al Hibbler Sings The Blues: Monday Every Day, Reprise R9-2005, 1961
  • Shades of Blue, Imperial 9185, 1961 (one side only) (recordings from 1946, same as 'I Surrender Dear')
  • Early One Morning, LMI, 1964 (with The Roland Hanna Trio)
  • A Meeting of the Times (with Rahsaan Roland Kirk), Atlantic 1630, 1972
  • Christmas With Al Hibbler, Holiday HDY1926, 1981
  • For Sentimental Reasons (with Hank Jones), Open Sky, 1982


Listening to

  • Al Hibbler: "After the Lights Go Down Low" (excerpt)

See also


  1. ^ a b c J.C. Marion (2004). "Remebering al Hibbler".\accessdate=2015-08-17. 
  2. ^ "Colin Larkin, ''The Encyclopedia of Popular Music'', excerpted at". Retrieved 2013-06-10. 
  3. ^ a b c d Ratliff, Ben (2001-04-27). "Obituary by Ben Ratliff, ''New York Times''". Retrieved 2013-06-10. 
  4. ^ a b c d Bush, John. Al Hibbler at AllMusic
  5. ^ a b c [3]
  6. ^ "Al Hibbler at". Retrieved 2013-06-10. 
  7. ^ a b [4]
  8. ^ a b  
  9. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 74.  
  10. ^ John A. Drobnicki, "Hibbler, Albert George ('Al')," in The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Vol. VI: 2000-2002 (Scribner's, 2004), p. 232.
  11. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 313.  
  12. ^  
  13. ^ Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952-2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. p. 355.  
  14. ^ The record reached #1 in the rival Record Mirror singles chart.

External links

  • Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame
  • Discography
  • Al Hibbler at Find a Grave
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