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Remembering Leon Henry Buck: Songs, Movies, and Awards

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Leon Henry Buck was born on April 15, 1916 in Clarksville, Tennessee to Ulysses Simpson Grant Buck and Janie Buck. He had seven brothers and sisters and attended Clarksville’s racially segregated schools. He received honors in each of his educational experiences.

Buck attended Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee, where he studied music. That year, he met three young men: Lucius Brooks (Dusty), Ira Harding, and Rudolph Hunter, who formed The Four Tones Singing Quartette with Buck. Lane College did not approve of the music they sang at the time, so they dropped out to pursue a musical career.

Buck and the Four Tones moved to Dallas in 1936 and were soon featured in the Hall of Negro Life at the Texas Centennial Exposition in that city. The group then began touring and performing in nightclubs, and by 1939, their name had been changed to Dusty and The Four Tones.

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Buck recorded with Dusty and the Four Tones in Los Angeles, California for the Seclusion, Uptown Rhythm, and Kangaroo Record Companies. They released their first single, “I’ll Follow You,” and later recorded with Checker Recording Co. in Los Angeles, where they released “Genevieve,” before signing with Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, where they released “Heaven or Fire” in 1952.

The songs, “The World Wasn’t Made That Way” and “Chili Dogs” were recorded with Bullet Recording & Transcription Co in Nashville in 1951. In 1950, the Four Tones released “Ol’ Man River” on the Majestic Records label.

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Leon Buck was a pioneering actor in Black cinema as well. He appeared in many Hollywood motion picture productions with Dusty and the Four Tones, but he also starred in Harlem on the Prairie, the first “all colored” western (1937). Other films starring Herbert Jeffrey included Two-Gun Man From Harlem (1938), Rhythm Rodeo (1938), The Bronze Buckaroo (1939), and Harlem Rides the Range (1939). Mantan Messes Up, in which he co-starred with comedian Mantan Moreland, was released in 1946.

Dusty and the Four Tones recorded “My Heart Is Aching for You,” written by Buck, in 1940.

In addition, the group, which was supported by film star Dorothy Dandridge, performed regularly in a number of Hollywood venues.

Buck was drafted into the United States Army in 1942. In 1945, he was honorably discharged from the Army and returned to Los Angeles.

With his musical career over, Leon Buck returned to college in 1956 and earned his bachelor’s degree from California State University, Northridge. He then started teaching at Vaughn Street Elementary School, where he stayed until his retirement in 1975.

Leon Henry Buck died on April 27, 1976, at the age of 63, in Los Angeles. Buck received the Communication and Information Resource Center Administration (CIRCA) Award posthumously in 1979 at the Institute of Arts in Detroit, Michigan.

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