Tuesday, May 27, 2014
R.I.P.: Herb Jefferies
Herb Jeffries, who sang with Duke Ellington and starred in early black westerns as a singing cowboy known as “the Bronze Buckaroo” — a nickname that evoked his malleable racial identity — died on Sunday May 25, 2014. He was believed to be 100.
He was born Umberto Valentino - "My mother was Irish, my father was Sicilian, and one of my great-grandparents was Ethiopian," Jeffries, who took his stepfather's last name, told the Oklahoman in 2004. "So I'm an Italian-looking mongrel with a percentage of Ethiopian blood, which enabled me to get work with black orchestras."
Known for his rich baritone and sensitive phrasing, Jeffries was a member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra in the early 1940s when he scored his biggest hit with "Flamingo," which sold in the millions and became his signature tune.
As the African American answer to Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and other white singing cowboys, Jeffries made a handful of low-budget westerns in the '30s.
They had titles such as "Harlem Rides the Range" and "The Bronze Buckaroo" (excerpt above) and featured the tall, handsome, wavy-haired singer with a Gable-esque mustache as a dashing, white-hatted good guy in a black western outfit and riding a white horse named Stardusk. MORE HERE & HERE
Herb Jefferies : The Bronze Buckaroo Rides Again
Harlem Double Feature: Midnight Show / Bronze Buckaroo