Hal Singer

 

Featured Inductee

Equally at home blowing scorching R&B or tasty jazz, Hal "Cornbread" Singer has played and recorded both over a career spanning more than half a century. Singer picked up his early experience as a hornman with various Southwestern territory bands, including the outfits of Ernie FieldsLloyd Hunter, and Nat Towles. He made it to Kansas City in 1939, working with pianist Jay McShann (whose sax section also included Charlie Parker), before venturing to New York, in 1941, and playing with Hot Lips PageEarl BosticDon Byas, and Roy Eldridge (with whom he first recorded in 1944). After the close of the war, Singer signed on with Lucky Millinder's orchestra.

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Singer had just fulfilled his life's ambition -- a chair in Duke Ellington's prestigious reed section -- in 1948, when a honking R&B instrumental called "Cornbread" that he'd recently waxed for Savoy as a leader began to take off. That presented a wrenching dilemma for the young saxist, but in the end, his decision to go out on his own paid off; "Cornbread" paced the R&B charts for four weeks and gave him his enduring nickname. Another of his Savoy instrumentals, "Beef Stew," also cracked the R&B lists.

Singer recorded rocking R&B workouts for Savoy into 1956 (the cuisine motif resulting in helpings of "Neck Bones," "Rice and Red Beans," and "Hot Bread"), working with sidemen including pianists Wynton Kelly and George Rhodes, guitarist Mickey Baker, bassist Walter Page, and drummer Panama Francis. One of his last dates for the firm produced the torrid "Rock 'n' Roll," which may have featured Singer as vocalist as well as saxist.

By the late '50s, Singer had abandoned rock & roll for a life as a jazz saxist. He recorded for Prestige in a more restrained manner in 1959, and stayed in that general groove. Singer relocated to Paris in 1965, winning over European audiences with his hearty blowing and engaging in quite a bit of session work with visiting blues and jazz luminaries. The old R&B fire flared up temporarily in 1990, when he cut Royal Blue for Black Top with boogie piano specialist Al Copley.Royal Blue

Zelia N. Breaux (February 6, 1880 – October 31, 1956) was an American music instructor and musician who played the trumpet, violin and piano. She organized the first music department at Oklahoma's Langston University and the school's first orchestra. As the Supervisor of Music for the segregated African American schools in Oklahoma City, Breaux organized bands, choral groups and orchestras, establishing a music teacher in each school in the district. She had a wide influence on many musicians including Charlie Christian and Jimmy Rushing, as well as novelist Ralph Ellison. Breaux was the first woman president of the Oklahoma Association of Negro Teachers and was posthumously inducted into the Oklahoma YWCA Hall of Fame, Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Bandmasters Association Hall of Fame.D.C. Minner was born January 28, 1935. He was raised in Rentiesville by his grand mother, Lura Drennan, who ran a corn whiskey house while he grew up. “There was no electricity anywhere around, so she would have the guys come over with their acoustic guitars. That was my first time hearing live music.” said Minner.

Minner moved away when he joined the service. After he returned, he took up bass and worked out of Oklahoma City with Larry Johnson and the New Breeds. With this band, he performed behind O. V. Wright, Freddie King, Chuck Berry, Eddie Floyd, Bo Diddley and many more.

He moved to California in the late ’60s and had a band with Tony Mathews in Hollywood. Then he moved to the bay area, retired from bass, studied Yogananda, took up guitar and ran into his future wife, Selby. She was playing acoustic guitar and singing blues at clubs in Berkeley and San Francisco. With a desire to learn the electric bass, Selby became D.C.’s apprentice, and they left the bay area in 1977.

D.C., Selby and Blues on the Move toured non-stop for 12 years, and then returned to D.C.’s home place. They re-opened the Cozy Corner as the Down Home Blues Club in 1988, and it quickly became an after hours club. In 1991,
the Minners founded the Dusk ’til Dawn Blues Festival as a way to bring their fans and musician friends together from across the country.

The couple has received the Handy in Blues Education award, for their Blues in the Schools work, the Keeping the Blues Alive Award and in 1999 Minner was also inducted into The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. However, his proudest accomplishment was having his hometown rename part of the road that runs alongside the club in his honor. D.C. and Selby currently reside in Rentiesville, Okla., on D.C. Minner Street.

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