Umberto Balentino, 24 September 1911, Detroit, Michigan, USA, of Ethiopian, French-Canadian, Irish and Italian decent. Early in his career Jeffries sang with the Erskine Tate band, for many years one of the most popular bands residing in Chicago. In 1931 he joined Earl Hines and was then briefly with Blanche Calloway. A tall, striking-looking man, in the late 30s Jeffries appeared in a number of films made by black producer-director Oscar Micheaux. In The Bronze Buckaroo and similar tales, Jeffries appeared as a black equivalent to the then popular white singing cowboys such as Gene Autry. In the early 40s Jeffries sang with Duke Ellington and his recording of Flamingo was hugely successful. In the 50s Jeffries sang in clubs, often on the west coast, recording with artists including Lucky Thompson and Bobby Hackett. A re-recording of Flamingo, this time with Les Brown, was also successful.
In the 70s and 80s Jeffries...