February 28, 2018- Today's Harlem Topic: Cab Calloway
More on Cab Calloway...
Cab Calloway was raised in Baltimore Maryland and dreamed of being an entertainer. His family had different ideas and wanted him to be a lawyer like his father.
His older sister Blanche was already a professional singer and helped Cab break into the business in 1925. With her help he was able to land a role in a traveling review called 'Plantation Days.'
He did end up going to law school in Chicago but spent most of his nights hanging around the Dreamland Ballroom and the Grand Terrace Ballroom where he worked as an understudy to Adelaide Hall.
He also crossed paths with Louis Armstrong in Chicago who taught him to scat sing.
Cab left law school and got a job singing with a territory band called the Alabamians. Not long after that he took over leadership of The Missourians who had recently defeated the Alabamians in a Battle of the Bands. Irving Mills became the band’s manager and in 1930 placed the band at the Cotton Club as a replacement for Duke Ellington who was out on tour. The band was an immediate success at the Cotton Club and gained a tremendous amount of exposure through the NBC radio broadcasts. They were such a hit that they remained at the Cotton Club for several years, even after Ellington returned.
Cab and Irving Mills created the classic song "Minnie the Moocher" which debuted at the Cotton Club in 1931. It became Cab Calloway’s signature tune for the rest of his life and gave him the nickname “The Hi De Ho Man.”
Cab was one of the great entertainers who excelled at singing and dancing and was one of the world’s greatest showmen. He was also a fashion plate that established several styles of clothing, most notably the zoot suit.
Cab always had an outstanding band with great soloists and he was a very effective leader. His big band continued on through the swing era and was a major draw.
In addition to leading his own band he branched out into acting both on the Broadway stage and in motion pictures. He had important roles in many productions including Porgy and Bess, Stormy Weather and The Blues Brothers.
He was a larger than life personality that’s name is forever connected to the great figures of the Harlem Renaissance.