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Thursday, 24 September 2015

Herb Jeffries born 24 September 1916

Herb Jeffries (born Umberto Alexander Valentino; September 24, 1913 – May 25, 2014) was an American actor of film and television and popular music and jazz singer-songwriter, known of his baritone voice, he was of African descent and was Hollywood's first singing black cowboy.
Born Herbert Jeffrey, he was the son of Umberto Balentino, a pianist of African-American and Sicilan descent and his wife, Mildred, who was of Irish descent. More specifically he was of of Ethiopian-French Canadian and Italian-Irish descent. The family lived in a rented home on 224 Watson Street in Detroit's third ward. 

Jeffries was a singing star with Earl “Fatha” Hines  before he became the “Bronze Buckaroo,” starring in all-black Hollywood westerns as Herbert Jeffrey. He helped raise money to make the films in which he was billed as “The Singing Cowboy.” He also hired Spencer Williams to appear with him. In addition to starring in the film, Jeffries sang and performed his own stunts as the cowboy character, "Bob Blake."

 In a time of American racial segregation these films played mostly in theatres catering to African American audiences. The films can be found on video and are titled "Harlem on the Prairie", "The Bronze Buckaroo", "Harlem Rides the Range" and "Two Gun Man from Harlem". 

Whist making the films between 1937 and 1939, Duke Ellington heard him at the Apollo Theatre and hired him. His rich baritone and huge range made him a popular singer, and he stayed with the band until 1943. “Flamingo” became a nickname for him because of his rendition of that song which sold over 50 million copies. He is also closely associated with “Satin Doll,” and he introduced “Angel Eyes” with the band. In 1941 he appeared in the stage show Jump for Joy. He was replaced by Al Hibbler in 1943.  

After service in WWII, Jeffries was in a plane accident in 1948. Pain from his injuries led him to study with an Indian spiritualist Paramhansa Yogananda who founded the Self-Realization Fellowship and who taught him yoga and healing practices.  

In the 50's, he appeared in a handful of Hollywood films. He then
made a decision to move to France, where he spent a decade running a night club frequented by many a Hollywood personality. He appeared in some 60's TV shows, had a period of limited exposure, and then in 1995, aged 81, Herb recorded a Nashville album of songs on the Warner Western label titled The Bronze Buckaroo (Rides Again).  

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Herb Jeffries has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6672 Hollywood Blvd.  In 2004, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 

In 2007, while assembling materials for the producers of a documentary film about him, "A Coloured Life," Jeffries ran across his birth certificate, which reminded him that he actually had been born in 1913—not 1911—but that he had fibbed about his age after he left home as a youngster looking for a job. So he celebrated turning 95 twice. 
He appeared at jazz festivals and events benefiting autism and other developmental problems and lectured at colleges and universities. He supported music education in schools. In June 2010, aged 96, Jeffries performed to raise funds for the Oceanside (California) Unified School District's music program, accompanied by the Big Band Jazz Hall of Fame Orchestra under the direction of clarinettist Tad Calcara. This benefit concert was his second (the previous concert was in 2001).
In later years, he resided in Wichita, Kansas. He died of heart failure at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center on May 25, 2014, at the age of 100, although he was known to exaggerate his age.
  (Info edited from various sources mainly Wikipedia)

1 comment:

boppinbob said...

For The Very Best Of Herb Jeffries go here:

1 Mona Lisa 3:09
2 Flamingo (Disco version) 5:19
3 Devil Is a Woman 3:17
4 If You Could See Me Now 2:41
5 When Your Lover Has Gone 3:22
6 It`s Easy to Remember 3:03
7 Angel Eyes 2:49
8 Say It Isn`t So 3:37
9 I Only Have Eyes for You 3:19
10 End of a Love Affair 2:39
11 It`s the Talk of the Town 4:04
12 Penthouse Serenade 3:41
13 Glad to Be Unhappy 2:52
14 I Don`t Stand a Ghost of a Chance With You 2:38
15 Dinner for One, Please, James 3:39
16 Nature Boy 3:45

Some of Herb's later recordings from Golden Lane Records P.2011