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Al Hibbler (1915 - 2001)

Al Hibbler was born in Tyro, Mississippi. Blind since birth he started singing in the choir at Little Rock’s Conservatory for the Blind. In 1943 Hibbler replaced Herb Jeffries as Duke Ellington’s vocalist. For a brief period, Ellington gave up Hibbler to his son Mercer who was establishing his own band. In Duke Ellington in Person: An Intimate Memoir, Mercer discloses that his father (verbally) neither discouraged nor encouraged him, but his every act was to deter a second band in the family. Mercer says, “My band was going very well after Pop had given us Al Hibbler. We were booked so strong that he heard about it and snatched Hibbler back. I had signed contracts to produce Hibbler, but now I couldn’t make the dates and was sued for two months.” Hibbler remained with Duke Ellington until 1951, performing and recording some of Ellington’s best songs. At Decca Records in 1955 Hibbler scored two million-selling hits with “Unchained Melody” and “He.”

-- Sandra Burlingame

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