About Herbert "Herb" Jeffries (Jeffrey)
Herbert "Herb" Jeffries (born September 24, 1913) is an American jazz and popular singer and actor.
Born in Detroit, Michigan as Herbert Jeffrey, he is the son of Umberto Balentino, a pianist of African-American and Sicilian descent and his wife, Mildred, who was of Irish descent.
A jazz and popular singer, Jeffries is noted for being the first black man to star in an American western. He starred as a singing cowboy in several all-black Western films, in which he sang his own western compositions. Jeffries obtained financing for the first black western film and hired Spencer Williams to appear with him. In addition to starring in the film, he sang and performed his own stunts as the cowboy character Bob Blake.
Jeffries began his career working with Erskine Tate and his Vendome Orchestra when he moved to Chicago from Detroit at the urging of Louis Armstrong. His break came during the 1933 Chicago World's Fair—Century of Progress Exposition singing with the Earl Hines Orchestra on Hines’ national broadcasts live from the Grand Terrace Cafe. His first recordings were with Hines in 1934, including "Just to be in Carolina". As of 2011, Jeffries is the sole surviving member of that Earl Hines orchestra. He then recorded extensively with Duke Ellington from 1940 to 1942. His most famous song, "Flamingo" (recorded in 1940 with Ellington), sold over 50 million copies. He was replaced in the Ellington band by Al Hibbler in 1943.
Playing a singing cowboy in low-budget films, Jeffries became known as the "Bronze Buckaroo" by fans who attended his films. In a time of American racial segregation, these "race movies" played mostly in theaters catering to African American audiences. The films, available on video, include Harlem on the Prairie, The Bronze Buckaroo, Harlem Rides the Range and Two-Gun Man from Harlem. Jeffries went on to make other films, starring with Angie Dickinson in Calypso Joe (1957). He later directed and produced Mundo Depravados, a cult film starring his wife, Tempest Storm.
In 1968, Jeffries appeared in the long-running western TV series The Virginian playing a gunslinger who intimidated the town. At age 81, he recorded a Nashville album of songs on the Warner Western label in 1995 entitled "The Bronze Buckaroo (Rides Again)".