Jeffries, Herb [Herbert; Jeffrey, Herbert; Balentino, Umberto; the Bronze Buckaroo]
- E. Ron Horton
[Herbert; Jeffrey, Herbert; Balentino, Umberto; the Bronze Buckaroo]
(b Detroit, MI, Sept 24, 1916). American jazz vocalist and actor. He began his professional singing career at 14 and then worked with such well-known jazz musicians as Erskine Tate, Earl Hines, and Blanche Calloway. In the late 1930s he made five films as America’s first black singing cowboy starting with Harlem on the Prairie (1937). He conceived the idea of making the movie himself in a conscious effort to create a character that could be a model for brown-skinned children. Jeffries, who identified his mother as Irish and his father as mixed-race Sicilian, was almost denied the role because his physical features were considered by some not to be African American enough, although he proudly identified himself as black in both professional and social terms. He successfully fought for the role, which earned him the nickname the Bronze Buckaroo, and his films appealed to a more widespread audience than expected. Jeffries worked with the Duke Ellington Orchestra from ...