Adelaide Hall

Adelaide Hall [1901 - 1993]

Adelaide Hall was born in Brooklyn, New York, United States, to Elizabeth and Arthur William Hall. Adelaide and her sister Evelyn attended the Pratt Institute, where William Hall taught piano. Unfortunately, Adelaide’s sister died of influenza in 1918, and it appears her father had already died, leaving her to support herself and her mother.

In 1924, Hall married the British sailor Bertram Errol Hicks, born in Trinidad and Tobago. Hicks managed many successful clubs throughout his life, starting with The Big Apple in Harlem, New York. They became significant figures in the Harlem Renaissance; she was an actress and singer, and he was at the forefront of a live jazz scene.

Hall made her professional debut as a chorus member in Shuffle Along in 1921, a musical which helped establish African American show business. After appearing in Runnin’ Wild, she toured Europe as the star of the successful revue Chocolate Kiddies. Later, Hall appeared on Broadway in Desires of 1927, Town Topics, Blackbirds of 1928, Brown Buddies and Jamaica, and when she arrived in the UK in 1938 to take a starring role in a stage-adapted musical version of Edgar Wallace’s The Sun Never Sets at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, she was already a star.

In Britain, she was so successful and became so popular with British audiences that she stayed and made her home there, becoming one of the most popular singers and entertainers of the time. Hall lived in London from 1938 until her death.

Hall was the first female vocalist to sing and record with Duke Ellington. Along with Louis Armstrong, she pioneered scat singing, one of the world’s first jazz singers, regarded as such by Ella Fitzgerald. She holds the accolade of being the 20th century’s most enduring female recording artist; her recording career spanned eight decades.

In 1941, Hall replaced Gracie Fields as Britain’s highest-paid female entertainer. Langston Hughes, in his book Famous Negro Music Makers (1955), listed her as one of the outstanding jazz vocalists of the time; her pioneering wordless vocals on Creole Love Call, which she recorded with Duke Ellington in 1927, were forever memorable. Hall entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s most enduring recording artist in 2003, ten years after her death, aged 92.

Location: Abbey Road Studios, 3 Abbey Rd, St John's Wood,