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Al Hibbler

Not just a distinctive singer but a true vocal wonder, Al Hibbler featured with Duke Ellington's Orchestra throughout the 1940s and recorded a few hits ("Unchained Melody," "After the Lights Go Down Low," "He") on his own for Decca and Atlantic during the '50s and '60s. His frequent use of a Cockney accent and non-subtle growling techniques kept listeners on their toes though, far from a novelty act, Hibbler's voice was strong, emotive, and masculine, with a steady vibrato that carried every record he made.

Born blind in Mississippi, he began singing early on and sang soprano in the choir of a school for the blind after moving to Little Rock at the age of 12. Inspired by lush 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 and His Orchestra in 1942 and debuted with Duke Ellington's Orchestra just one year later, replacing Herb Jeffries. One of the most important 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 a total of eight years with Ellington's band, finally leaving in 1951 after Ellington refused to raise his salary by $50.

After quickly signing to Verve, Hibbler continued to record with excellent musicians (Harry Carney, Count Basie, Gerald Wilson) for his initial solo work, and in 1954 released an LP of old favorites entitled Al Hibbler Sings Duke Ellington. One year later, he signed a big contract with Decca and hit the pop charts in a big way with two million-selling singles, "Unchained Melody" and "He," spotlighting his idiosyncratic (to say the least) delivery, which veered from growling vocals to a carefully studied, almost Cockney accent only occasionally enforced. In 1956, Hibbler hit the Top Ten again with "After the Lights Go Down Low," but it proved to be his last hit.

By the late '50s, Hibbler had begun taking an interest in the civil-rights movement. While other major artists gave generously to the cause, Hibbler actually marched with protesters and was arrested twice, once in New Jersey in 1959 and again in Alabama in 1963 (after he led an anti-segregation protest). Though the major labels backed away from the potential controversy of owning his contract, Hibbler did gain support from an important source -- Frank Sinatra signed him to Reprise and released an LP, Monday Every Day, in 1961. Hibbler recorded very sparingly after that. He collaborated with Rahsaan Roland Kirk on a 1972 LP for Atlantic (A Meeting of the Times), but resurfaced only occasionally during the '80s and '90s for recordings or special performances. ~ John Bush
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Unchained

1. Unchained Melody

2. Never Turn Back

3. Away All Boats

4. After The Lights Go Down Low

5. Trees

6. I'm Free

7. The Crying Wind

8. Be Fair

9. Don’t Get Around Much Anymore

10. I'll Never Smile Again

11. Flamingo

12. I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues

13. A Tree In A Meadow

14. There Is No Greater Love

15. I'll Be Around

16. Daybreak

17. Because Of You

18. All Or Nothing At All

19. Around The Corner From The Blues

20. Breeze (Blow My Baby Back To Me)

21. Believe It Beloved

22. Sweet Lumber

23. When Will I Forget You

24. Eleventh Hour Melody

25. Softly My Love

26. Lonesome And Cold

27. Please

x

Track List: Sings Love Songs

1. Please

2. Believe It Beloved

3. There Is No Greater Love

4. It Must Be True

9. Don't You Know I Care (Or Don't You Care To Know)

12. I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart

13. Flamingo

14. Solitude

x

Track List: Solitude

1. What Will I Tell My Heart

2. Poor Butterfly

3. My Little Brown Book

4. I Love You

5. Solitude

6. Lover Come Back To Me

7. Trees

8. It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing

9. Fat And Forty

x

Track List: After The Lights Go Down Low

1. 11th Hour Melody

2. After The Lights Go Down Low (1956)

3. Ain't Got Nothing But The Blues

4. Away All Boats

5. Count Every Star

6. Danny Boy

7. Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me

8. He

9. Honeysuckle Rose

10. I Don't Stand A Ghost Of A Chance

11. I Hadn't Anyone Till You

12. Never Turn Back

13. Unchained Melody (1956)

14. Pretty Woman

15. September In The Rain

16. Stella By Starlight

17. You'll Never Know

18. The Very Thought Of You

19. This Love Of Mine (1956)

20. Trav'lin Light

21. Trees

22. Get Me On Your Mind

Comments

Report as inappropriate
debkagay
I love Hibbler. I spent time with him growing up and he was close to our family !
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juanpoet1939
I was Telling her About You. I love this one.
Report as inappropriate
Unchaned Melody
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jgarnett8
Don't forget After the lights go down low
Report as inappropriate
Back in the 50s Al Hibbler had a song out called CRAZY LITTLE PALACE that's my home. I would love to hear this song again, but no one seems to remember it. HELP
Report as inappropriate
dknykurt
al hibler with roland kirk a meeting of our times.master p i e c e of modern interpritati o n of american songbook.the new duke
Report as inappropriate
kelllargo
AL HIBBLER DAY BREAK
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kelllargo
Al HIBBLER DAY BREAK

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