Photo credits: Deja Vu Records
Cabell “Cab” Calloway III (pictured) was an American jazz singer, dancer, bandleader, and actor. He was born on December 25, 1907, in Rochester, New York.
Calloway was associated with the Cotton Club in Harlem, New York City, where he was a regular performer and became a popular vocalist of the swing era. His niche of mixing jazz and vaudeville won him acclaim during a career that spanned over 65 years.
His band included trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie, Jonah Jones, and Adolphus “Doc” Cheatham, saxophonists Ben Webster and Leon “Chu” Berry, guitarist Danny Barker, bassist Milt Hinton, and drummer Cozy Cole. Calloway had several hit records in the 1930s and 1940s.
He became known as the “Hi-de-ho” man of jazz for his most famous song called “Minnie the Moocher” This song was originally recorded in 1931. Calloway reached the Billboard charts in five consecutive decades (1930s–1970s). Calloway also made several stage, film, and television appearances until his death in 1994 at the age of 86.
He had roles in Stormy Weather (1943), Porgy and Bess (1953), The Cincinnati Kid (1965), and Hello Dolly! (1967). His career saw a renewed interest in 1980 when he appeared in The Blues Brothers. Calloway was the first African-American musician to sell a million records from a single song.
Calloway was also the first musician in Black America to have a nationally syndicated radio show. The Cab Calloway School of Arts was founded in Willmington, Delaware in 1992. In 1993, Calloway received the National Medal of Arts from the United States Congress.
He posthumously received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. His song “Minnie the Moocher” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and added to the Library of Congress‘ National Recording Registry in 2019. Calloway is also inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame and the International Jazz Hall of Fame.
He died on November 18, 1994, in Hockessin, Delaware.
*BlackThen.com writer and historian Victor Trammell edited and contributed to this report.