Texas baritone makes professional debut in New York
On this day in 1924, Julius Lorenzo Cobb Bledsoe made his professional singing debut at Aeolian Hall in New York City. The African-American baritone was born in Waco in 1897. He attended Central Texas Academy in Waco and Bishop College in Marshall. His best-known achievement was his portrayal of Joe in Florenz Ziegfeld's 1927 production of Jerome Kern's Showboat. His interpretation of "Ol' Man River" made the song an American classic. A highlight of his career was his performance in the title role for the European premiere, in Amsterdam, of Louis Gruenberg's opera The Emperor Jones (1934). Bledsoe also wrote an opera, Bondage (1939), based on Uncle Tom's Cabin. He died in 1943, in Hollywood, of a cerebral hemorrhage.