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Wed, 09.24.1913

Herb Jefferies, Singer, and Actor born

Herb Jefferies

*Herb Jeffries was born on this date in 1913. He was a Black singer and actor.

From Detroit, MI., his white Irish mother ran a rooming house, and his father, whom he never knew, was of Sicilian, Ethiopian, French, Italian, and Moorish ancestry. Jefferies grew up in a mixed neighborhood. He showed definitive interest in singing during his formative teenage years and often hung out with the Howard Buntz Orchestra at various Detroit ballrooms. He began singing in a combo with a neighborhood piano prodigy, performing locally and on the radio. When Jeffries moved to Chicago, he was discovered by Earl "Fatha" Hines, who invited him to sing at his local shows there. Hines was so pleased that he asked Jeffries to go on the road with his band for a tour of the South.

Jeffries was a mellow baritone; he sang with Cab Calloway. One of his five wives was the stripper Tempest Storm. On-screen, as Herbert Jeffrey, he became the smoothest cowboy west of Sugar Hill in four movie-sing-a-longs made in the late 30s at a Black-owned California ranch. After a few years on the road, he became determined to produce a black cowboy picture. He encountered a major lack of interest in funding the project, but persistence paid off when he arrived in Hollywood, and the rest is history. Starring, casting, writing the music score, and performing his stunts kept Jeffries busy for two years and five movies. In 1939, Jefferies joined the Duke Ellington Orchestra as their first male vocalist and became a major singing star.

His rendition of "Flamingo" sold over 14 million copies, and many other hits soon followed. "Jump for Joy," "Basin Street Blues," and more.  After ten years in Paris with his jazz club, The Flamingo, Jefferies returned to the U.S. and opened another Flamingo Club in Los Angeles. Since then, he's appeared in many movies and television series and in concert, plus producing, recording, and releasing albums on various labels. In 2003 he was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame and was invited to sing for President Bush at the White House. Jeffries lived in the Palm Springs area with his significant other (and later his fifth wife), Savannah Shippen. Herb Jeffries lived in Toluca Lake with his wife Regina and died on May 25, 2014.

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