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Texas | Features | People

Ten Thing you should know about
Jules Bledsoe

1897-1943

by John Troesser
Photos courtesy The Texas Collection,
Baylor University
Jules Bledsoe
Jules Bledsoe
1. Born in Waco, Texas in 1897, his full name was Julius Lorenzo Cobb Bledsoe.

2. He was the Central Texas Academy's valedictorian in 1914, and studied medicine at Columbia University in New York City in the early 1920s.

3. While at Columbia, he studied voice and his singing debut was April 20, 1924.

4. During a short career lasting less than twenty years, Bledsoe was praised for his ability to sing in several languages and for his vocal control. His career ranged from vaudeville to radio and motion pictures.
5. His role as "Joe" in Jerome Kern's Showboat made "Ol' Man River" an American classic.
Jules Bledsoe in 1930s
Jules Bledsoe
in the 1930s
6. Bledsoe performed with the Boston Symphony, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, The Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, the Cleveland Stadium Opera, the Chicago Opera Company and the NYC Cosmopolitan Opera Company.
Jules Bledsoe as Amonasro in Aida
Bledsoe as
Amonasro in Ada
7. He performed the title role in the opera The Emperor Jones, the role of Amonasro in Verdi's Ada and even appeared (in whiteface) as Canio in Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci.
Bledsoe in I Pagliacci
Bledsoe as Canio in Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci

8. In the early 1940s he worked in Hollywood playing in roles beneath his abilities. He played the part of Kalu in Drums of the Congo, and made other (mostly forgettable) films.

9. He wrote an opera, Bondage, based on Uncle Tom's Cabin and a set of four songs for voice and orchestra called African Suite.

10. Bledsoe died on July 14, 1943, in Hollywood, after performing during a war bond drive. He is buried in Waco's Greenwood Cemetery where his tombstone is inscribed with music and lyrics from Ol' Man River.

Jules Bledsoe and his dog
Jules Bledsoe with his dog
John Troesser
February 12, 2004 column

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