Herb Jeffries, Star of Black Cowboy Films, Dies at 100

Herb Jeffries Dead: Star of Black
Frederick M. Brown/Getty

Herb Jeffries, a pioneer in African American-targeted Western movies and jazz singer known as the “Bronze Buckaroo,” has died. He was 100.

Jeffries died of heart failure in West Hills, Calif. on Sunday, according to the L.A. Times. His health had been declining for some time.

The multitalented Jeffries embraced his mixed heritage — he was of Irish, Ethiopian, Sicilian, French, Moorish and Italian descent — and appeared in his first film in 1937. The movie, “Harlem of the Prairie,” was targeted to black audiences, and jump-started the career for the blue-eyed actor.

In 1939, he appeared in “The Bronze Buckaroo,” cementing his reputation as the African American Gene Autry. He would become a go-to singing cowboy in Hollywood, the good guy riding in on a white horse named Stardust. Other credits during the period include Westerns “Harlem Rides the Range” (1939) and “Two-Gun Man From Harlem” (1939), where he sang “I’m a Happy Cowboy.”

Later he starred opposite Angie Dickinson in the musical romance “Calypso Joe” (1957).

He portrayed himself in Western comedy “The Cherokee Kid” in 1996.

The actor also appeared on television from time to time, guesting on series including “The Virginian” and “Hawaii Five-O” and contributing one of the voices to the brief Hanna Barbera cartoon series “Where’s Huddles?” in 1970.

Jeffries also had a successful singing career outside of movies, appearing with the Duke Ellington Orchestra as well as other pop orchestras in the 1940s Swing Era. He became best known for jazz hit “Flamingo,” which he sang with Ellington. The song took advantage of his signature baritone voice and would go on to become a jazz classic, selling millions.

Most recently, he recorded an album of Western songs in 1995 called “The Bronze Buckaroo Rides Again.” The record was well received by critics.

In 2004, the pioneer was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

He was born Umberto Alexander Valentino in 1913 in Detroit. His survivors include his wife Savannah and five children.

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 3

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. handsomerandyolderladbrad1953@gmail.com says:

    Yeah,but I’m TODAY’S Blue Black Cowboy!!!!!!!

  2. carlos ze-dukes says:

    Herb Jefferies a man of many talents…what a great Singer Baritone…and Actor…….Truly a Pioneer in the world of Colored, black, Negro…mixed people….love you and I feel proud to have just discovered you on the Black Vocal Varities..1945…..special man….wow! lived to 100 years! 1913-2014! bless you and your family and the world of fans…C.Ze-dukes

More Film News from Variety