Cabell "Cab" Calloway III: Biography
Known as the legendary "Hi De Ho" man, Cab Calloway was an energetic showman, gifted singer, talented actor, and fashion trendsetter. A larger-than-life figure of his day who was immortalized in the media, Calloway led one of the greatest bands of the Swing Era.
Born in Rochester, New York, on Christmas Day, 1907, and raised in Baltimore, Calloway attended law school in Chicago but found himself increasingly drawn to music, performing during evening hours in local nightclubs. In one club, he met trumpeter Louis Armstrong, who taught him to sing in the scat style. He worked with his sister Blanche, a professional singer, in clubs, becoming front man for the Alabamians, then the Missourians.
Calloway's flamboyant leadership of the Missourians in New York's Savoy Ballroom -- in eye-catching zoot suits -- attracted much attention, as did his catchy phraseology, including the refrain "Hi-De-Ho" which became a fixed part of the language of the day. The band renamed itself as Cab Calloway and His Orchestra replacing Duke Ellington at the Cotton Club in 1931.
His popular hits, which included "Minnie the Moocher," were matched by both the quality of the musicians he hired and his extraordinary showmanship. In the late 1930s, Calloway's band was one of the top-grossing acts in jazz and had become a proving ground for rising talent such as Dizzy Gillespie, Ben Webster, Cozy Cole, and Doc Cheatham.
In later years, Calloway went back to playing in small clubs and landed the part of Sportin' Life in George Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess. He also worked in Hello Dolly! and in a variety of films in the '50s and '60s. His movie career, which spanned four decades, included Stormy Weather, The Cincinnati Kid and The Blues Brothers. In 1993 he celebrated his honorary doctorate in fine arts at the University of Rochester by leading 9,000 graduates and guests in a sing-along to "Minnie the Moocher." Cab Calloway continued to perform until his death in 1994 at age 88.
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