Cab Calloway Biography
Last updated: 05/16/2012 12:00:00 PM
Born Dec. 25, 1907- Rochester, New York
Died Oct. 18, 1994-Hockessin, Delaware
One of the premier entertainers in Jazz is Cab Calloway. Cab was raised in Baltimore, he moved with his family to Chicago while in his teens and studied at Crane College. His first stage appearance was in the Plantation Days show at the Loop Theatre. During the early '20s he worked briefly with his sister, Blanche Calloway.
Cab first worked with The Missourians in New York, in 1928. In spring of 1929, he returned to Chicago and acted as the master of ceremonies and vocalist with The Alabamians. Later that year, he returned to New York and appeared on stage with the Hot Chocolate Revue before rejoining The Alabamians for an appearance at the Savoy. In 1930, he took over The Missourians, eventually changing the name to Cab Calloway and His Orchestra.
In 1931, Cab recorded Minnie the Moocher, a trademark song that would remain his theme for his entire life. He soon after emerged as the irrepressible leader of a band that succeeded Duke Ellington at the Cotton Club. He became known as "The man in the zoot suit with the reet pleats," who brought a whole new slang vocabulary to the nation along with his own brand of music via early radio broadcasts and extensive touring in the 1930s and 40s.
Cab's career did not stop with singing. He was on Broadway and the London stage with Porgy and Bess doing the character of "Sportin' Life" which he says was based on him. He also had a starring role with Pearl Bailey in all-black Broadway revival of Hello Dolly. His movie career spanned four decades including Stormy Weather, The Cincinatti Kid and The Blues Brothers, which introduced him to a whole new audience.