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Call him a blues singer if you prefer, but Ollie Nightingale will likely always be recalled most readily for the emotionally charged Memphis soul he cut from 1968 to 1970 as front man for Ollie & the Nightingales.
Like most great soul singers, Ollie Hoskins came straight out of church musically. He was the lead singer of the Dixie Nightingales, a Memphis spiritual aggregation, by 1958, when they made their vinyl debut on tiny Pepper Records. Influenced by gospel greats Kylo Turner and Ira Tucker, Hoskins hung in with the group as they moved to Nashboro in 1962 before signing with Stax's short-lived Chalice gospel logo.
Stax exec Al Bell convinced the group to go pop in 1968, though that sanctified spirit rings through melismatically on their R&B hits "I Got a Sure Thing," "You're Leaving Me," and "I've Got a Feeling." Hoskins went solo at the turn of the decade, billing himself as Ollie Nightingale and scoring a couple of R&B chart items ("It's a Sad Thing" and "May the Best Man Win") in 1971-72. The Nightingales soldiered on, recruiting singer Tommy Tate to replace him in the studio.
Nightingale remained a popular blues and soul singer around Memphis. In 1993, he had a performing cameo in The Firm, a movie thriller starring Tom Cruise. Not long after, Nightingale began regularly releasing albums on Ecko Records. He made four in all for Ecko. The last, Ollie Style, was released after his death of complications resulting from untreated pneumonia.