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Cab Calloway 1907-1994
 


Country : Rochester, New York
Profession : Jazz Musician, Actor
Date of birth : 1907-12-25
Date of death : 1994-11-18
Cause of Death : Stroke

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Calloway_Cab_1987

Cabell "Cab" Calloway III (25 December 190718 November 1994) was a famous 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.

Biography

Early years

Calloway was born in a middle-class family in Rochester, New York, on Christmas Day 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. 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

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 the 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.

In 1931 he recorded his most famous song, "Minnie the Moocher". That song and "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). One of the films (in 1933) had his classic song, "Reefer Man," which was about marijuana.

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

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.

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.

In 1967 Calloway co-starred as Horace Vandergelder in an all-black revival of Hello, Dolly! (even though the original production was still running) starring Pearl Bailey. This was a major success and led to a cast recording released by RCA. In 1973–1974 he 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. This was also the year the cult movie Forbidden Zone was released, which included rearrangements and parodies of 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 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.

Death

In May 1994, Calloway suffered a stroke then 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) 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

  • Porgy and Bess (1953)
  • Hello, Dolly! (replacement in 1967)
  • The Pajama Game (1973)
  • Bubbling Brown Sugar (1976)
  • Uptown...It's Hot! (1986)

Filmography

Features:

  • The Big Broadcast (1932)
  • International House (1933)
  • The Singing Kid (1936)
  • Manhattan Merry-Go-Round (1937)
  • Stormy Weather (1943)
  • Sensations of 1945 (1944)
  • Ebony Parade (1947)
  • Hi De Ho (1947)
  • Rhythm and Blues Revue (1955)
  • St. Louis Blues (1958)
  • Schlager-Raketen (1960)
  • The Cincinnati Kid (1965)
  • The Blues Brothers (1980)

Short Subjects:

  • Minnie the Moocher (1932)
  • Snow-White (1933) (voice)
  • The Old Man of the Mountain (1933)
  • Betty Boop's Rise to Fame (1934) (voice)
  • Cab Calloway's Hi-De-Ho (1934)
  • Cab Calloway's Jitterbug Party (1935)
  • Hi De Ho (1937)
  • Meet the Maestros (1938)
  • Caldonia (1945)
  • Basin Street Revue (1956)

 

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