News / Arts & Entertainment

Singer/Actor Herb Jeffries Celebrates 100th Birthday

Actor Herb Jeffries, who appeared as a singing cowboy in films, arrives at the opening night gala of the 2011 TCM Classic Film Festival featuring a screening of a restoration of 'An American In Paris' in Hollywood, California, April 28, 2011.
Actor Herb Jeffries, who appeared as a singing cowboy in films, arrives at the opening night gala of the 2011 TCM Classic Film Festival featuring a screening of a restoration of 'An American In Paris' in Hollywood, California, April 28, 2011.
Richard Paul
Herb Jeffries earned fame as a singer with Duke Ellington, and as an actor in Hollywood westerns of the 1930s. He turned 100 on September 24.

Herb Jeffries Celebrates 100th Birthday
Herb Jeffries Celebrates 100th Birthdayi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

One night in 1933, Jeffries was singing in a little nightclub in Detroit, Michigan when jazz icon Louis Armstrong walked through the door.  In an interview by amateur jazz historian Tad Calcara, Jeffries says Armstrong heard him sing, pulled him aside, and changed his life.

“He said, ‘Well there's a band in Chicago - that's where you should be now.  And he said 'I'm gonna write you a letter,’” Jeffries said.

Then Armstrong pulled a cocktail napkin off the table.

“He just wrote down on there, said, 'You want to hear this guy's voice.  You'll love him.  I do.’ And he put down ‘Pops,’” Jeffries said.

Armed with only this special “calling card,” Jeffries took the great man’s advice and headed for Chicago where he joined the band led by Erskine Tate.

Soon he was heard and hired by legendary band leader Earl “Fatha” Hines. Singing with Earl Hines, Jeffries traveled to California, where he would land a role and also sing the opening song in the Hollywood western, “Two Gunmen from Harlem.”

With his long frame, rakish mustache and exotic good looks, Jeffries capitalized on two unique styles of film that Hollywood was cranking out at that time: “Race Films” - movies by and for African-Americans - and “singing cowboy” pictures.

On a promotional tour for a film called “The Bronze Buckaroo,” Jeffries found himself in the same theater as Duke Ellington.  He was planning to head back to Hollywood that night, but The Duke had other ideas.  

For the next two years, Jeffries was lead singer in the Ellington band.  He toured the world and starred in “Jump for Joy,” the musical Ellington wrote and staged in Los Angeles.

“Jump For Joy” never made it to Broadway, as Ellington had hoped, but it helped cement Herb Jeffries as a bona fide star.  And 72 years later, Jeffries can still belt out that title song with as much verve as ever.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”