Umberto Alesandro Valentino (stage name Herb Jeffries) (Detroit24 september 1913 - Woodland Hills (Los Angeles)25 may 2014) is an American jazzsinger, lead singer of popular songs and film actor. He sang in the Duke EllingtonOrchestra, where his rendition of "Flamingo" was a big hit. Jeffries was the first African Americanwho in a western played a black singing cowboy.


[hide]*1 early years

Early Years[Edit]Edit

Jeffries has a colorful background: his father, a pianist, was a Sicilian, his mother was Irish. His great-grandmother came from Ethiopia. Early on he wanted to be and that is why Jeffries singer in 1932 to Chicago.He sang in a nightclub, where Louis Armstrong saw him play. On recommendation of Armstrong he could sing at Erskine Tate , where he soon was despoiled by band leader and pianist Earl Hines. At this Orchestra would lay the foundations for his fame and popularity Jeffries, thanks in part to the radio broadcasts from Grand Terrace Cafe during Chicago world's Fair. In 1934 he also as a singer with Earl Hines made two recordings for Brunswick: "Just to be in Carolina" (Because of You) and "Blue".


In 1937 wanted Jeffries (which itself Herb Jeffreys called it) make a movie with a ' black ' in the hero's role, where the African American audience could identify with it at last. He arranged the financing and the result was the western-musical "Harlem on the Prairie", in which Jeffries played the hero Bob Blake. Jeffries sang in the movie songs he had composed himself. The film was a huge success among the black audience and was even screened in theatres where only whites came. After this success, there were more movies in this genre, such as "The Bronze Buckaroo" (1939).

Duke Ellington[Edit]Edit

In 1939 he was hired by bandleader Duke Ellington. He toured with the Orchestra and also made various recordings: "You, You Darlin '", "Jump For Joy" and what would be the biggest success at Ellington, "Flamingo". The song was recorded on 28 december 1940, but only released in June 1941. It became a big hit and made him popular with both the ' black ' as the ' white ' audience. Of his versions of this song over the years Fourteen million records sold.


When "Flamingo" became a hit, the band had already left Jeffries to serve during the war years. After the war had Jeffries several hits such as "Angel Eyes", "When I Write My Song" and "My Heart at Thy Sweet Voice". After Nat King Cole and Billy Eckstine in the early 1950s, he was the highest earning African-American entertainer. Jeffries lived a decade in France, where he had a jazz supper club . In 1957 he played withAngie Dickinson in the film "Calypso Joe," and in 1968 he played a gunfighter in the television series The Virginian. Into old age has Jeffries occurred and recorded. His last album, he sang at the age of 86.

Herb Jeffries has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2004, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma CityOklahoma.

Discography (selection)[Edit]Edit

  • Say It Isn't So, Bethlehem, 1957
  • Jamaica (soundtrack "Calypso Joe"), RKO, 1957
  • I've Got the World on a String, Discovery, 1989
  • The Bronze Buckaroo (Rides Again), Warner Bros., 1995
  • The Duke and I, Flaming O, 1999

Filmography (selection)[Edit]Edit

  • Harlem on the Prairie, 1937
  • Two-Gun Man from Harlem, 1938
  • Harlem Rides the Range, 1939
  • The Bronze Buckaroo, 1939
  • Portrait of a Hitman, 1977

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