Cab Calloway Biography (BBC)
One of the few non-instrumentalists to front a big band during the swing era, Cab Calloway led the most commercially successful African-American orchestra of the 1930s, his earnings exceeding those of Ellington, Basie and Lunceford. He was also the first really influential male jazz singer, and spawned a host of imitators.
He became nationally famous in the USA through his his prolific touring, his recording activity, and nightly broadcasts from New York's Cotton Club. Calloway had amazing stage presence, and as well as a magnificent voice, he had boundless energy, leaping and cavorting around the stage as he sang. After leaving Baltimore where he grew up, he travelled in a variety show to Chicago, and then ended up fronting bands in New York.
In 1930, he took over a group called the Missourians, which became his Cotton Club Orchestra, and he led the band continuously for eighteen years. His soloists included saxophonists Ben Webster and Chu Berry, trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Jonah Jones, drummer Cozy Cole and bassist Milt Hinton. Calloway's biggest hits were a series of songs about the low-life and drug culture of Harlem, featuring the fictional characters Minnie the Moocher and her sidekick Smoky Joe.
But he was also a brilliantly inventive scat singer, and as well as making up nonsense lyrics faster than most people can think, he also talked and sang in his own unique brand of slang, 'hepster's jive' which corralled Harlem street vocabulary into a special language. At the end of the big band era, he became a star of the musical theatre, touring in Porgy and Bess as Sportin' Life (a role Gershwin is said to have modelled on Calloway himself), and also in Hello Dolly!. He occasionally fronted a band again in the 1980s and early 1990s, and made a splendid cameo appearance in the 1980s movie The Blues Brothers.
Cab Calloway Biography (Wikipedia)
Cabell "Cab" Calloway III (December 25, 1907 – November 18, 1994) was an American jazz singer, dancer, and bandleader. He was associated with the Cotton Club in Harlem, New York City, where he was a regular performer.
Calloway was a master of energetic scat singing and led one of the United States' most popular big bands from the start of the 1930s to the late 1940s. Calloway's band included trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Adolphus "Doc" Cheatham, saxophonists Ben Webster and Leon "Chu" Berry, New Orleans guitarist Danny Barker, and bassist Milt Hinton.
Calloway had several hits in the 1930s–1940s, becoming known as the "Hi-de-ho" man of jazz for his most famous song, "Minnie the Moocher", recorded in 1931. He also made several stage, film, and television appearances until his death in 1994 at the age of 86. He influenced later singers such as Michael Jackson and various hip-hop performers. Calloway was the first African American musician to sell a million records from a single song and to have a nationally syndicated radio show. He is in the Grammy Hall of Fame and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Cab Calloway Tracks