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Hal Singer

Hal Singer

Hal Singer.jpg


Status: Deceased
Origin: New York City, New York
Current Home: Chatou, France
Genre: JazzBluesJump Blues
Years Active: 1948-2014
Labels: Mercury • Savoy • Coral • Prestige • JSP • Black Top
Associated Acts: Ernie FieldsJay McShannOran Page • Rocket 88
Other Names: Hal Singer and the Charlie Shavers Quintet • Hal Singer Sextette


Current Members:
Former Members:
Live Members:
Former Live Members:



Hal Singer was a bandleader who was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma's African-American district, Greenwood. He was a survivor of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot. Singer grew up in Greenwood, where he studied violin as a child but, as a teenager, switched to clarinet and ultimately tenor saxophone.

From the late 1930s, he began playing in local bands, including Ernie Fields, Jay McShann in 1943, and then moved to New York.

After working in other bands, he joined Oran "Hot Lips" Page's band, who had been a member of the Oklahoma City Blue Devils, in 1947 and began working as a session musician with King Records

1948-1964: Hal Singer Sextette & Solo Career[edit]

In early 1948, he left Page, formed his own small group, and was signed to Mercury Records, where he cut his first single, "Fine as Wine / Rock Around the Clock", co-written with Sam Theard.

For the Savoy label of Newark, New Jersey, he recorded the instrumental "Corn Bread", which made No. 1 on the R&B charts in September 1948, and gave Singer a new popularity and nickname. His follow-up the following year, "Beef Stew", was a much smaller hit.

In the early and mid-1950s, he recorded with Mercury, toured with R&B artists such as The Orioles and Charles Brown, and increasingly worked as a session musician.

In 1958, he began recording with Prestige Records as a jazz soloist and began performing at the Metropole Cafe in New York, with leading jazz musicians such as Roy Eldridge and Coleman Hawkins.

1965-1989: Europe & Africa[edit]

In 1965, after touring Europe with Earl "Fatha" Hines' band, Singer stayed in France to settle near Paris. He continued to record and also toured extensively around Europe and Africa, performing with various bands including Charlie Watts' and the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

His 1969 album, Paris Soul Food, featured Singer on saxophone and singing with Robin Hemingway on vocals, arrangements, and album production, Manu Dibango on saxophone, organ, and arrangements. The album won a French Record Academy award for best international LP that year.

In 1974, he went on a State Department tour of Africa with Horace Parlan.

Singer appears on the 1981 live recording Rocket 88 with the UK-based boogie-woogie band Rocket 88. Also in the summer of 1981, Singer visited London, where he recorded two albums for John Stedman's record label, JSP. The first album, Swing on It, was recorded with British musicians, including Jim Mullen, Peter King, Mike Carr and Harold Smith, while the second, recorded a day later with the same group, also featured Jimmy Witherspoon.

Singer shared artist billing on a recording made in 1989, along with Al Copley, titled "Royal Blue" and released on the Black Top label in 1990.

1990-Present: Film & Retirement[edit]

He appeared as an actor in the award-winning 1990 feature film Taxi Blues and, in 1992, was awarded the prestigious title of "Chevalier des Arts" by the French government.

A documentary film, Hal Singer, Keep the Music Going, was made by Haitian-American director Guetty Felin in 1999. It was made in collaboration with the CNC in France and the French cable music network Muzzik. The documentary wove into the narrative Singer's personal super-8 movies, archival images of the jazz era, footage of Singer's home in Paris, in concert, and teaching jazz to the younger generation of musicians in France. Spoken word poet Jessica Care Moore is featured in a duet with Singer. This documentary is the only film on Singer's career to date.

Due to age, Singer retired from playing in 2014, however he is still inspired by music and invited artists into his home to perform. Singer turned 100 in October 2019. He passed away on August 18, 2020 in Chatou, France. He was the last male survivor of the Tulsa race massacre.



Studio Albums: 12
78s: 6
Live Albums:
Remix Albums:
Compilations: 2
Other Appearances:



Studio Albums[edit]



Other Media

Video Releases: 2
Book Releases:

External Links[edit]