Herb Jeffries, 100, Hollywood’s First Black Singing Cowboy

“With a towering physique and a square jaw,” not to mention musical chops honed with Duke Ellington’s band, “Mr. Jeffries was perfectly suited to capitalize on the singing-cowboy movie craze that Gene Autry and Roy Rogers popularized in the 1930s. Black performers … had appeared in silent westerns, but the Stetson-sporting, six-gun-toting Mr. Jeffries inaugurated the concept of a black singer riding in the saddle as the hero.”

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