Birth name: Cabell Calloway III
Born: December 25, 1907
Rochester, New York, U.S.
Died: November 18, 1994 (aged 86)
Hockessin, Delaware, U.S.
Genres: Jazz, blues, swing
Occupation(s): Bandleader, Singer-Songwriter
Years active: 1930–94
Associated acts: The Cab Calloway Orchestra
Cabell "Cab" Calloway III (December 25, 1907 – November 18, 1994) was an American jazz singer and bandleader. He was strongly 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 featured performers including trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Adolphus "Doc" Cheatham, saxophonists Ben Webster and Leon "Chu" Berry, New Orleans guitar ace Danny Barker, and bassist Milt Hinton. Calloway continued to perform until his death in 1994 at the age of 86.
The Cotton Club was the premier jazz venue in the country, and in 1931 Calloway and his orchestra (he had taken over a brilliant, but failing band called "The Missourians" in 1930; later on, the band changed its name to 'Cab Calloway and His Orchestra') were hired as a replacement for the Duke Ellington Orchestra while they were touring (he joined Duke Ellington and Mills Blue Rhythm Band as another of the jazz groups handled by Irving Mills). Calloway quickly proved so popular that his band became the "co-house" band with Ellington's, and his group began touring nationwide when not playing the Cotton Club. Their popularity was greatly enhanced by the twice-weekly live national radio broadcasts on NBC at the Cotton Club. Calloway also appeared on Walter Winchell's radio program and with Bing Crosby in his show at New York's Paramount Theatre. As a result of these appearances, Calloway, together with Ellington, broke the major broadcast network color barrier.
Like other bands fronted by a singing bandleader, Calloway initially gave ample soloist space to its lead members and, through the varied arrangements of Walter "Foots" Thomas, provided much more in the way of musical interest. Many of his records were "vocal specialties" with Calloway's vocal taking up the majority of the record.
In 1931 he recorded his most famous song, "Minnie the Moocher". That song, along with "St. James Infirmary Blues" and "The Old Man of the Mountain", were performed for the Betty Boop animated shorts Minnie the Moocher (1932), Snow White (1933), and The Old Man of the Mountain (1933), respectively. Through rotoscoping, Calloway not only gave his voice to these cartoons, but his dance steps as well. He took advantage of this and timed his concerts in some communities with the release of the films in order to make the most of the attention.
As a result of the success of "Minnie the Moocher," he became identified with its chorus, gaining the nickname "The Hi De Ho Man". He also performed in a series of short films for Paramount in the 1930s.