Monday, May 26, 2014


Here's a portion of an interview that I conducted with Herb a decade or two ago for my book Hot from Harlem.
"I went to 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, was 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."

There I was sitting across from someone who had witnessed the immediate aftermath of the Dillinger shooting!
The first Hi-Lo's recordings were with Herb, and he was married to Tempsest Storm and made the cover of Confidential for that, and I think he holds the, um, RECORD for cutting recordings longer than anyone else in human history and. . . ..I could go on and on.
Started making sides in 1934 and kept right on doing it almost right up to the present day. One of my favorites is The Bronze Buckaroo (Rides Again) that singer Johnny Holiday produced for him in '95. Herb: Wonderful singer, a sweetheart and a---more-or-less---historic figure.

Herb on the set of Harlem Rides the Range (1939)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I did a 2 hour radio special on Herb for his last birthday. He deserves to have all of his recordings reissued.

Thanks for the post Bill