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. 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."
Al Hibbler in 1946
|Birth name||Albert (or Andrew) George Hibbler|
|Born||August 16, 1915|
Tyro, Mississippi, U.S.
|Died||April 24, 2001 85) (aged|
|Genres||Traditional popular music, jazz, easy listening|
|Labels||Norgran, Decca, Reprise|
|Associated acts||Duke Ellington|
Hibbler was born in Tyro, Mississippi, United States, and was blind from birth. Some sources give his birth name as Andrew George Hibbler. At the age of 12 he moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, where he attended Arkansas School for the Blind, joining the school choir. Later he began working as a blues singer in local bands, failing his first audition for Duke Ellington in 1935. 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.
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. While with Ellington, Hibbler won the Esquire New Star Award in 1947 and the Down Beat award for Best Band Vocalist in 1949.
Hibbler left Ellington's band in 1951 after a dispute over his wages. He then recorded with various bands including those of Johnny Hodges and Count Basie, and for various labels including Mercury and Norgran, a subsidiary of Verve Records, for whom he released an LP, Al Hibbler Favorites, in 1953. 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", which reached # 3 on the US pop chart, sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. Hibbler's version also reached # 2 in the United Kingdom, becoming his only British chart success. Its success led to network appearances, including a live jazz club remote on NBC's Monitor. Other hits were "He" (1955), "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.
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. 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. In 1972 he made an album, A Meeting of the Times, with another fiercely independent blind musician, the multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
Death and legacy
On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Al Hibbler among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.
Solo singles discography
|Year||Titles (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
|Label & number||Chart positions||Album|
|U.S. Pop||U.S. R&B||UK|
|1946||"I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good"
b/w "How Long Blues"
|Aladdin 154||I Surrender Dear|
b/w "Don't Take Your Love From Me"
|Aladdin 155A - 156A|
|"I Surrender Dear"
b/w "Fat and Forty"
|Aladdin 155B - 156B|
|1948||"Trees" /||Miracle 501||Melodies By Al Hibbler|
|"Lover, Come Back To Me"|
b/w "Song Of The Wanderer" (from After The Lights Go Down Low)
|Atlantic 911||Non-album track|
|1951||"The Blues Come Falling Down"
B/w "Old Folks" (Non-album track)
|Atlantic 925||After The Lights Go Down Low|
b/w "If I Knew You Were There"
|"Now I Lay Me Down To Dream"
b/w "This Is Always"
|"What Will I Tell My Heart"
b/w "It Don't Mean A Thing"
|Chess 1455||Melodies By Al Hibbler|
b/w "Lover Come Back To Me"
b/w "Feather Roll Blues"
|"My Little Brown Book"
b/w "I Love You"
b/w "Believe It Beloved"
|Mercury 89011||Al Hibbler Sings Love Songs|
|1953||"Sent For You Yesterday and Here You Come Today"
b/w "Goin' To Chicago"
|Mercury 89028||Basie Jazz|
|"There Is No Greater Love"
b/w "It Must Be True"
|Mercury 89046||Al Hibbler Sings Love Songs|
|1954||"As Time Goes By"
b/w "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You"
b/w "Fat and Forty"
|Chess 1569||Melodies By Al Hibbler|
|"Little Brown Book"
b/w "I'm Just A Lucky So and So"
|Norgran 114||Al Hibbler Sings Love Songs|
|1955||"After The Lights Go Down Low" (Original version)
b/w "Tell Me"
|Original 1006||After The Lights Go Down Low|
|Decca 29441 (US)
Brunswick 05420 (UK)
|Hits By Hibbler|
|"They Say You're Laughing At Me"
b/w "I Can't Put My Arms Around A Memory" (Non-album track)
b/w "Now I Lay Me Down To Dream" (from After The Lights Go Down Low)
|Atlantic 1071||Non-album track|
b/w "Breeze (Blow My Baby Back To Me)"
|Decca 29660||Hits By Hibbler|
|"This Love Of Mine"
b/w "Every Hour On The Hour" (from Al Hibbler Sings Love Songs)
|Norgran 143||Non-album track|
|1956||"11th Hour Melody"
b/w "Let's Try Again"
|Decca 29789||Hits By Hibbler|
|"Never Turn Back" /||Decca 29950||Non-album tracks|
|"Away All Boats"|
|"After The Lights Go Down Low" (re-recording)
b/w "I Was Telling Her About You" (Non-album track)
|Decca 29982||Starring Al Hibbler|
|"Don't Take Your Love From Me"
b/w "I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good"
|Aladdin 3328||I Surrender Dear|
|Decca 30100||Non-album tracks|
b/w "White Christmas"
b/w "The Town Crier"
|Decca 30176||Here's Hibbler|
b/w "Because Of You"
b/w "Around The Corner From The Blues"
|Decca 30337||Non-album tracks|
|"When Will I Forget You"
b/w "Be Fair"
|Decca 30397||Hits By Hibbler|
b/w "The Crying Wind" (Non-album track)
|1958||"My Heart Tells Me"
b/w "I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore" (Non-album track)
|"Ain't Nothing Wrong With That Baby"
b/w "Honeysuckle Rose" (Non-album track)
|"Softly, My Love"
b/w "Your Hands"
|Decca 30684||Non-album tracks|
b/w "Love Me Long, Hold Me Close, Kiss Me Warm and Tender"
|"Warm Heart - Cold Feet"
b/w "Mine All Mine"
|1959||"He Is Always There"
b/w "What Tis? What Tis? Tis Spring"
|"It Won't Be Easy"
b/w "Lonesome and Cold"
|Top Rank 2089|
|1961||"Tall The Sky"
b/w "Look Away"
b/w "I've Convinced Everyone But Me"
|1966||"Good For A Lifetime"
b/w "Once Before"
|1967||"Let's Make The Most Of A Beautiful Thing"
b/w "Early One Morning"
- Sings Duke Ellington (Norgran, 1954)
- Favorites (Norgran, 1954)
- Melodies by Al Hibbler (Argo, 1956)
- Sings Love Songs (Verve, 1956)
- Starring Al Hibbler (Decca, 1956)
- After the Lights Go Down Low (Atlantic, 1957)
- After the Lights Go Down Low, Atlantic, 1957)
- Here's Hibbler (Decca, 1957)
- I Surrender Dear (Score, 1957)
- Torchy and Blue (Decca, 1958)
- Al Hibbler Remembers (Decca, 1958)
- Hits by Hibbler (Decca, 1958)
- Sings the Blues: Monday Every Day (Reprise, 1961)
- Big Boy Blues (Grand Prix Series, 1964)
- Shades of Blue (Sunset, 1968)
- A Meeting of the Times with Rahsaan Roland Kirk (Atlantic, 1972)
- Christmas with (Holiday, 1981)
- Solitude (Pickwick, 1997)
With Count Basie
- The Chronological Al Hibbler 1946–1949 Classics, 2002)
- The Chronological Al Hibbler 1950–1952 (Classics, 2003)
- List of artists under the Decca Records label
- List of artists who reached number one on the Billboard R&B chart
- List of artists who reached number one on the Australian singles chart
- List of people from Little Rock, Arkansas
- J.C. Marion (2004). "Remembering al Hibbler". Home.earthlink.net\accessdate=2015-08-17. Archived from the original on 2008-10-10. Retrieved 2007-08-14.
- "Colin Larkin, ''The Encyclopedia of Popular Music'', excerpted at". Oldies.com. Retrieved 2013-06-10.
- Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues - A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. pp. 222–223. ISBN 978-0313344237.
- Ratliff, Ben (2001-04-27). "Obituary by Ben Ratliff, ''New York Times''". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2013-06-10.
- Bush, John. Al Hibbler at AllMusic
- "Al Hibbler at". Jazzhouse.org. Retrieved 2013-06-10.
- Archived August 25, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
- Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 17 - The Soul Reformation: More on the evolution of rhythm and blues. [Part 3]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 74. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- John A. Drobnicki, "Hibbler, Albert George ('Al')," in The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Vol. VI: 2000-2002 (Scribner's, 2004), p. 232.
- Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
- Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 313. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 191.
- Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952-2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. p. 355. ISBN 0-00-717931-6.
- The record reached #1 in the rival Record Mirror singles chart.