1897-1943 by John Troesser Photos courtesy The Texas Collection, Baylor
1. Born in Waco,
Texas in 1897, his full name was Julius Lorenzo Cobb Bledsoe.
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
His role as "Joe" in Jerome Kern's Showboat made "Ol' Man River" an American classic.
in the 1930s
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.
Amonasro in Aïda
7. He performed the title role in the opera The Emperor Jones, the role of Amonasro
in Verdi's Aïda and even appeared (in whiteface) as Canio in Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci.
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.
Ultimate Show Boat, 1928 - 1947 (Original, Revival and Studio Cast Anthology)
Various Artists - Soundtracks; Audio CD : For hardcore fans of Jerome
Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, the double-CD The Ultimate Showboat will be a ride
down memory lane you won't soon forget. Musical reissues rarely get a comprehensive
treatment like this collection taken from rare cast recordings, revivals, radio
productions, and pop-vocal records (all dating between 1928 and 1947).