Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Happy Hundredth, Herb!

Today---September 24---is the 100th birthday of still-active jazz singer Herb Jeffries (born Jeffrey). Here is part of an interview I conducted with him in 1991:

"On April 29) 1933, the switch was thrown in Chicago opening the two-year World's Fair-like Century of Progress Exhibition whose attractions included, according to one report, 'a partial reconstruction of a walled city in China, a golden-roofed lama from Jehol, a picturesque nunnery of UxMal representing the Zenith of Mayan culture and a teahouse from Japan.' Singer Herb Jeffries remembers:

'I went from Detroit to Chicago to check out the World's Fair there. Back in Detroit I'd been singing in dime-a-dance joints and that was pretty much it for me. Chicago was like the beginning of the world for me. I've been to a few fairs---Seattle, New York---but nothing ever like that. There was a wide outer drive for cars, four and five lanes wide. Everyone was working. It was alive like I've never ever seen a city ... not even Paris, where I lived for ten years, as alive as Chicago during the 1933 World's Fair. Before too long I got a job singing with the Earl Hines band, and I remember the Dillinger slaying on Indiana Avenue in 1934, engineered by the Feds. We all got word of it ten minutes after it happened; it was all over the place --- on the telephones, the radio. We were all living at the nearby Trenier Hotel where a lot of black entertainers stayed, and I jumped on the running board of a car and went around there to where it happened to take a look. The blood was still splattered all over the movie theater, all over the sidewalk because, boy, they just mowed that guy Dillinger down. I can still see in my mind the tear sheets of the picture that was playing there---Manhattan Melodrama--- and the glass over them shot all out. They had obviously planned this whole thing very meticulously because otherwise they would have killed the woman in the box-office. I'll never forget that as long as I live.'"

Bill Reed. Hot from Harlem: Twelve African American Entertainers, 1890-1960. Kindle Edition.

And additional natal felicitations to another fine singer, Rebecca Kilgore!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you Bill for keeping these great artists before our eyes and ears! I'll do my part and broadcast a 2 hour tribute to Herb Jeffries.