October 8, 1919 --
Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Harold ("Hal") Singer studied violin as a child but, as a teenager, switched to clarinet and then tenor saxophone, which became his instrument of choice. From the late 1930s he began playing in local bands, including Ernie Fields', before joining Jay McShann's orchestra in 1943 and then moving to New York. After working in other bands, he joined Oran "Hot Lips" Page's band in 1947 and began working as a session musician with King Records.
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" with a B side "Rock Around the Clock" (not the same title made famous by Bill Haley). For the Savoy label of Newark, New Jersey he recorded the instrumental "Corn Bread," which made #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 performing at the Metropole Club in New York with leading jazz musicians such as Roy Eldridge and Coleman Hawkins.
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, featuring Singer on saxophone and singing; Robin Hemingway, vocals, arrangements and album production; and Manu Dibango, saxophone, organ and arrangements won a French Record Academy award for best international LP in 1969.
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" (JSP 1028), was recorded with a compatible group of 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 ("Big Blues", JSP 1032).
The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame presented Hal Singer with the Jay McShann Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.
- 1948: "Fine As Wine" & "Rock Around the Clock" (Mercury)
- 1948: "Corn Bread" - as leader
- 1949: "Beef Stew" - as leader
- 1959: Blue Stompin' - Hal Singer - Charlie Shavers Quintet (Prestige)
- 1960: Blues by Lonnie Johnson - Lonnie Johnson Quintet(Bluesville)
- 1963: Blues in the Night - as leader ((Fidelio)
- 1968: A funky day in Paris - Johnny Letman (Black and Blue)
- 1968: Milt and Hal -Milt Buckner (Black and Blue)
- 1969: Paris Soul Food - as leader (Polydor)
- 1971: Blues and News - as leader (Futura)
- 1975: Soul of Africa - as leader (Chant du Monde)
- 1977: Le Grand Voyage / The Long Trip - as leader (Pastoral)
- 1981: Rocket 88 - Rocket 88
- 1981: Swing on it - as leader (JSP)
- 1990: Royal Blue- as co-lead with Al Copley - (Black Top)