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Harlan Lattimore (November 25, 1908- July,1980), was a popular African-American singer with several jazz orchestras of the 1930s, most notably Don Redman's. He was known as "The Colored Bing Crosby" (sic).
Lattimore was born in 1908 in Cincinnati, where he built his reputation as a singer on that city's WLW radio station. By March 1932, he had arrived on the New York music scene, and began his recording career with Fletcher Henderson's band. Not long afterwards, Lattimore was signed by Don Redman as his vocalist. This association lasted throughout the 1930s.
His style of singing, as well as the timber of his beautiful voice, closely resembling that of Bing Crosby, earned him recording dates with some of the top studio and dance bands of the era, most notably those of Victor Young, Abe Lyman and Isham Jones, as well a number of dates as vocalist for a number of generic dance records for ARC (on Melotone, Banner, Oriole, Romeo, and Perfect).
With the exposure of Lattimore to the public through radio broadcasts (with Don Redman), recordings and an appearance in a Vitaphone short subject film (with Redman), it seemed a foregone conclusion that he was headed for stardom. This was not to be.
Lattimore's behavior became unreliable and erratic in the mid 30's, and he made his last recordings with Redman in 1936. After service in WWII, he dropped out of the music scene. Except for an attempt at a comeback, in the late 40's, Harlan Lattimore slid further and further into musical obscurity until his death in 1980.
Although the name Harlan Lattimore is now looked upon as a mere footnote in American popular music, there can be no denying his role as a pioneering African-American singer who established a style and role later filled by such musical luminaries as Billy Eckstine and Nat King Cole.
The 1933 Vitaphone short, Don Redman and his Orchestra is included on the Warner Brothers DVD of Dames, where he sings a beautiful rendition of Harold Arlen's "Ill Wind", which the Redman band never recorded.
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