Jazz Singer. Born blind from birth, in 1925 his family moved to Arkansas from Mississippi, and in 1929, he entered school for the first time at age 14, attending the Arkansas School for the Blind. He began his music career in the choir as a soprano. Within the next few years, his voice settled in the baritone range, and he began singing blues at area roadhouses. Blessed with perfect pitch, he became the first black singer to have a radio program in Little Rock (1935–1936) on KGHI. In 1935, he landed a gig with a band called Yellow Jackets. He left Little Rock with Dub Jenkins & His Playmates in 1936, staying with them almost two years. He then spent another two years with Boots and His Buddies out of San Antonio, Texas. In 1942, he joined Jay McShann and his Orchestra and stayed with them for eighteen months before landing an audition with Duke Ellington. It was the beginning of nearly nine years together; recording such American standards as ‘Ain’t Got Nothin’ But The Blues’, ‘I’m Just A Lucky So-And-So’, ‘Pretty Woman’, ‘Don’t Be So Mean To My Baby’, ‘Good Woman Blues’, and ‘It Shouldn’t Happen To A Dream.’ In 1947, he won 'Esquire' New Star Award for Male Singer and the following year, 'DownBeat' Best Band Vocalist. All told, he made eighty-two recordings with the Duke Ellington Orchestra before he left to launch a solo career in 1951. His rendition of 'Unchained Melody' was featured in the film 'Unchained' (1955) and was his biggest hit; in 1957, he sang the title song in the movie 'Nightfall,' and he made the top ten when he hit number four on the charts with 'He.' He then became involved in the civil rights movement, and was once arrested for civil disobedience in New Jersey in 1959 and again in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963. He was then signed by Frank Sinatra to his personal label, Reprise Records, and released the album, 'Monday Every Day' in 1961. He released a collaborative album in 1972 for Atlantic, and played appearances at a much slower rate, thereafter, but never actually retired. He appeared in several documentaries including 'Louis Armstrong: 1900 – 1971' (1971); 'Texas Tenor: The Illinois Jacquet Story' (1992); and 'Reminiscing in Tempo' (2006). He was known throughout his career as Al. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording at 1650 Vine Street.
Bio by: Iola