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Cab Calloway

Cab Calloway, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1933
Background information
Birth name Cabell Calloway III
Born December 25, 1907(1907-12-25)
Rochester, New York, U.S.
Died November 18, 1994 (aged 86)
Hockessin, Delaware, U.S.
Genres Jazz, blues
Occupations Bandleader, singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocals
Website http://www.cabcallowayllc.com

Cabell "Cab" Calloway III (December 25, 1907 – November 18, 1994) was an American jazz singer and bandleader.

Calloway was a master of energetic scat singing and led one of the United States' most popular African American big bands from the start of the 1930s through the late 1940s. Calloway's band featured performers including trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Adolphus "Doc" Cheatham, saxophonists Ben Webster and Leon "Chu" Berry, New Orleans guitar ace Danny Barker, and bassist Milt Hinton. Calloway continued to perform until his death in 1994 at the age of 86.

Contents

Biography

Early years

Cab Calloway was born in a middle-class family in Rochester, New York, on Christmas Day in 1907 and lived there until 1918, on Sycamore Street. He was later raised in Baltimore, Maryland. His father, Cabell Calloway II, was a lawyer and his mother, Martha Eulalia Reed, was a teacher and church organist. When Cab was young, he would enjoy singing in church.[1] His parents recognized their son's musical talent and he began private voice lessons in 1922. He continued to study music and voice throughout his formal schooling. Despite his parents' and vocal teachers' disapproval of jazz, Calloway began frequenting and eventually performing in many of Baltimore's jazz clubs, where he was mentored by drummer Chick Webb and pianist Johnny Jones.

After graduating from Frederick Douglass High School Calloway joined his older sister, Blanche, in a touring production of the popular black musical revue Plantation Days. (Blanche Calloway herself would become an accomplished bandleader before her brother did, and he would often credit his inspiration to enter show business to her.) Calloway attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, but left in 1930 without graduating.

When the tour ended in Chicago in the fall, Calloway decided to remain in Chicago with his sister, who had an established career as a jazz singer in that city. His parents had hopes of their son becoming a lawyer like his father, so Calloway enrolled in Crane College. His main interest, however, was in singing and entertaining, and he spent most of his nights at the Dreamland Ballroom, the Sunset Cafe, and the Club Berlin, performing as a drummer, singer and emcee.

At the Sunset Cafe he met and performed with Louis Armstrong who taught him to sing in the "scat" style.

Success

Cab Calloway, Radio Pictorial, 1934 cover of the English radio fan and listings magazine
Cab Calloway and The Cotton Club Orchestra, 1934 photo of His High-de-Highness of Ho-de-Ho and the band

The Cotton Club was the premier jazz venue in the country, and Calloway and his orchestra (he had taken over a brilliant but failing band called "The Missourians" in 1930) were hired as a replacement for the Duke Ellington Orchestra while they were touring. Calloway quickly proved so popular that his band became the "co-house" band with Ellington's, and his group began touring nationwide when not playing the Cotton Club. Their popularity was greatly enhanced by the twice-weekly live national radio broadcasts on NBC at the Cotton Club. Calloway also appeared on Walter Winchell's radio program and with Bing Crosby in his show at New York's Paramount Theatre. As a result of these appearances, Calloway, together with Ellington, broke the major broadcast network color barrier.

Unlike many other bands of comparable commercial success, Calloway's gave ample soloist space to its lead members and, through the varied arrangements of Walter 'Foots' Thomas, provided much more in the way of musical interest. He was becoming a musical genius.

In 1931 he recorded his most famous song, "Minnie the Moocher". That song, along with "St. James Infirmary Blues" and "The Old Man Of The Mountain," were performed for the Betty Boop animated shorts Minnie the Moocher, Snow White and The Old Man of the Mountain, respectively. Through rotoscoping, Calloway not only gave his voice to these cartoons, but his dance steps as well. He took advantage of this and timed his concerts in some communities with the release of the films in order to make the most of the attention. As a result of the success of "Minnie the Moocher," he became identified with its chorus, gaining the nickname "The Hi De Ho Man". He also performed in a series of short films for Paramount in the 1930s. (Calloway and Ellington were featured on film more than any other jazz orchestras of the era.) In these films, one can see him "moonwalking" fifty years before Michael Jackson. The 1933 film, International House featured Calloway performing his classic song, "Reefer Man," a tune about a man who favors marijuana cigarettes.[2]

Calloway's was one of the most popular American jazz bands of the 1930s, recording prolifically for Brunswick and the ARC dime store labels (Banner, Cameo, Conqueror, Perfect, Melotone, Banner, Oriole, etc.) from 1930-1932, when he signed with Victor for a year. He was back on Brunswick in late 1934 through 1936, when he signed with manager Irving Mills's short-lived Variety in 1937, and stayed with Mills when the label collapsed and the sessions were continued on Vocalion through 1939, and then OKeh through 1942. After the recording ban due to the 1942-44 musicians' strike ended, he continued to record prolifically.

In 1941 Calloway fired Dizzy Gillespie from his orchestra after an onstage fracas erupted when Calloway was hit with spitballs. He wrongly accused Gillespie, who stabbed Calloway in the leg with a small knife. [3]

In 1943 Calloway appeared in the high-profile 20th Century Fox musical film, Stormy Weather.

In 1944 The New Cab Calloway's Hepsters Dictionary: Language of Jive was published, an update of an earlier book in which Calloway set about translating jive for fans who might not know, for example, that "kicking the gong around" was a reference to smoking opium.

Later years

In the 1950s Calloway moved his family from Long Island, New York to Greenburgh, New York, to raise the three youngest of his five daughters.

In his later career Calloway became a popular personality, appearing in a number of films and stage productions that utilized both his acting and singing talents. In 1952 he played the prominent role of "Sportin' Life" in a production of the Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess with William Warfield and Leontyne Price as the title characters. Another notable role was "Yeller" in The Cincinnati Kid (1965), with Steve McQueen, Ann-Margret and Edward G. Robinson.

One of Cab Calloway's zoot suits on display in Baltimore's City Hall, October 2007

In 1967 Calloway co-starred opposite Pearl Bailey as Horace Vandergelder in an all-black cast change of Hello, Dolly! on Broadway during its original run. It revived flagging business for the show[4] and RCA released a new cast recording, rare for the time. In 1973–1974 Calloway was featured in an unsuccessful Broadway revival of The Pajama Game alongside Hal Linden and Barbara McNair.

1976 saw the release of his autobiography, Of Minnie The Moocher And Me (Crowell). It included his complete Hepsters Dictionary as an appendix.

Calloway attracted renewed interest in 1980 when he appeared as a supporting character in the film The Blues Brothers, performing "Minnie the Moocher", and again when he sang "The Jumpin' Jive" with the Two-Headed Monster on "Sesame Street".[5] This was also the year the cult movie Forbidden Zone was released, which included rearrangements of, and homages to, Calloway songs written by Danny Elfman, a Calloway fan.

Calloway helped establish the Cab Calloway Museum at Coppin State College (Baltimore, Maryland) in the 1980s, and Bill Cosby helped establish a scholarship in Calloway's name at the New School of Social Research New York City. In 1994, a creative and performing arts school, the Cab Calloway School of the Arts, was dedicated in his name in Wilmington, Delaware.

In 1986 Calloway appeared at World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)'s WrestleMania 2 as a guest judge for a boxing match between Rowdy Roddy Piper and Mr. T that took place at the Nassau Coliseum. Also in 1986 he headlined to great success a gala ball for 4,000 celebrating the grand opening of one of the top hotels in the US at the time, the Dallas-based Rosewood Hotel Co.'s Hotel Crescent Court in Dallas, Texas. In 1990 he made a cameo in Janet Jackson's video for "Alright". In the United Kingdom he also appeared in several commercials for the Hula Hoops snack, both as himself and as a voice for a cartoon (in one of these commercials he sang his hit "Minnie The Moocher"). He also made an appearance at the Apollo Theatre.

In May 1994, Calloway suffered a stroke. He died six months later on November 18, 1994. His body was cremated and his ashes were given to his family.

Honor

In 1998, The Cab Calloway Orchestra (directed by Calloway's grandson C. "CB" Calloway Brooks) [6] was formed to honor his legacy on the national and international levels.

Selected awards and recognitions

Grammy history

Year Category Title Label Result Notes
2008 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Honoree
1999 Grammy Hall of Fame Award Minnie the Moocher Brunswick (1931) Inducted Jazz (Single)

Other honors

Year Category Title Result Notes
1987 Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame Inducted
1967 Best Performances Outer Critics Circle Awards Winner Hello, Dolly Musical

Stage appearances

Filmography

Features
Short Subjects

References

  1. ^ www.notablebiographies.com
  2. ^ Works of Cab Calloway, Jazz Artist.
  3. ^ Shipton, Alyn. Groovin' High: The Life of Dizzy Gillespie p.74
  4. ^ Diller, Phyllis; Buskin, Richard (2005). Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse: My Life in Comedy. New York: Penguin Group. pp. 210-11. ISBN 1-58542-396-3.   Diller was later cast in the lead of Hello, Dolly! and in her memoir, commented on other cast changes by David Merrick to revive business for the show,
  5. ^ http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Two-Headed_Monster
  6. ^ Calloway Orchestra

External links


Simple English

Cab Calloway
Birth name Cabell Calloway III
Born December 25, 1907(1907-12-25)
Rochester, New York, U.S.
Died November 18, 1994 (aged 86)
Hockessin, Delaware, U.S.
Genres Jazz
Occupations Musician, songwriter, actor
Instruments Voice
Website http://www.cabcallowayllc.com

Cabell "Cab" Calloway III (December 25, 1907 – November 18, 1994) was an American jazz musician and actor. He was famous for his "scat" style singing. He was the leader of one of the most famous big bands in the 1930s and 1940s. Calloway's band featured many famous musicians including Dizzy Gillespie.

In 1931 he recorded his most famous song, '"Minnie the Moocher."'

In his later career Calloway became a popular actor in films and stage shows. In 1980 he acted and sang in the movie "The Blues Brothers." In the movie he sang "Minnie the Moocher." He sang the song "The Jumpin' Jive" on the famous childrens TV show Sesame Street.

In May 1994, Calloway suffered a stroke. He died six months later on November 18, 1994.

Other websites

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