HERB JEFFRIES BIOGRAPHY & FILMOGRAPHY:
Herb Jeffries was born, Umberto Alejandro Ballentino on September 24th, 1913 in Detroit, Michigan, USA. He grew up in a mixed neighborhood. As a young man he enjoyed singing and was often found spending time with the Howard Buntz Orchestra. Growing up he noticed that theaters were only showing films featuring white cowboys, and wondered why there were no films featuring black cowboys.
He began his career with a move to Chicago and worked in various clubs performing. At the age of 19, he was signed to a contract with Erskine Tate's orchestra at the Savoy Dance hall in Chicago. Upon working for Tate, Herb was seen by Earl Fatha Hines, and in 1931 Herb was hired to work for him on a number of appearances and recordings.
In 1934, he left to go live in Los Angeles. There he found employment as a vocalist and emcee at the popular Club Alabam. He slowly began to try to pursue an acting career along with his singing career. He began by helping to raise money to make films. It took a year for Jeffries to raise the money to start his film project, but he succeeded. He was cast in a series of Westerns in the late 1930's. He made four films between 1937 and 1939. His first film, "Harlem On the Prairie" (1937), which was considered the first black western followed by, "Two-Gun Man From Harlem" (1938), "The Bronze Buckaroo" (1939) and "Harlem Rides The Range" (1939). When Duke Ellington heard Herb singing at the Apollo Theater he was hired and he stayed with the band until 1943, however, this ended any chances to continue the western series.
Herb served in World War II and then chose to live in France for twelve years and run a night club. He also starred in the film, "Calypso Joe" (1957) and later appeared on episodes of "I Dream of Jeannie", "The Virginian" and "Hawaii Five-O". Herb also directed and produced, "Mundo Depravados" (1967) which starred at the time his wife, Tempest Storm who was actually an exotic dancer. They married in 1959 and divorced not long after their movie was released. He was married 4 times total and produced five children.
Even at the age of 92, Herb Jeffries still leads an active life, making public appearances to support school music programs and raise money for band instruments. He is the sole surviving member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. He currently resides in Palm Springs, CA and was recently honored by President George W. Bush at the special White House celebration honoring black music.
Women’s International Center honored American singing star Herb Jeffries with the LEGEND Award. His voice is as powerful today as was when he when he broke barriers and opened up a world for many singing stars today.
1977 Portrait of a Hitman
1971 Chrome and Hot Leather
1957 Calypso Joe
1939 Harlem Rides the Range
1939 The Bronze Buckaroo
1938 Two-Gun Man from Harlem
1938 Rhythm Rodeo
1937 Harlem on the Prairie