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Al Hibbler Al Hibbler

A distinctive baritone singer who came into prominence with the Duke Ellington Orchestra in the 1940s, and scored a hit later with his version of the song “Unchained Melody.”

Albert Hibbler was born in August of 1915 in the little town of Tyro, Mississippi. In 1927 his family moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, and Hibbler who had been born blind studied music at the Conservatory for the Blind in that city and sang with his church choir.

He first vocalized with local territory bands in Arkansas and Oklahoma such as Dub Jenkins. In 1942 he won a talent contest in Memphis, and was asked to join the band of Kansas City pianist Jay McShann which included future jazz legend Charlie Parker. His first record was with McShann with the tune “Get Me On Your Mind” for Decca Records.

Developing his style paid off as one year later he was invited to replace Herb Jeffries as vocalist with the orchestra of Duke Ellington. He was with the Ellington band for eight years and recorded vocals with them.His most famous vocal with Ellington was “Don't Get Around Much Anymore” on Columbia. In 1947 he won the Esquire New Star Award, and Best band Vocalist for Downbeat in 1949. Hibbler was a featured vocalist with the Ellington band for their Carnegie Hall concerts in 1944, 1946, and 1947, which survive today on live recordings. Hibbler made a number of recordings for the Sunrise and Miracle labels in the late 1940’s.

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