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African-American cowboy crooner Herb Jeffries dies

LOS ANGELES--Herb Jeffries, the jazz singer and actor who performed with Duke Ellington and was known as the “Bronze Buckaroo” in a series of all-black 1930s Westerns, died of heart failure Sunday morning at a Los Angeles hospital. He was 100.

His death was confirmed by Raymond Strait, who worked with Jeffries on his not-yet-published autobiography titled “Color of Love.”

With a mellow voice and handsome face, Jeffries became familiar to jazz fans, but segregation in the film industry limited his movie career. He scored a big hit with Ellington as the vocalist on “Flamingo,” recorded in 1940 and later covered by a white singer, the popular vocalist Tony Martin.

Among the other songs he did with Ellington were “There Shall Be No Night” and “You, You Darlin.'”

“The camaraderie in his band was like a bunch of guys in college,” Jeffries recalled in the book “Off the Record: An Oral History of Popular Music.” “Ellington had a knack for developing talent and stars. ... He was more like a father to me than a boss.”

Jeffries has been described as the only black singing cowboy star in Hollywood history.

He is survived by his fifth wife, Savannah; three daughters; and two sons.

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In this Friday, Sept. 24, 2004 photo, Herb Jeffries, a singing cowboy hero of the silver screen, right, is congratulated by jazz great Gerald Wilson following dedication ceremonies ...

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