Cab Calloway was born on Christmas day in 1907 in Rochester, New York. It was on the 1930’s stage of New York’s famous Cotton Club that Cab made his reputation. Known most for his “hi-de-ho” scat singing, he also fronted a superb jazz band, which at various times included tenor saxists Ben Webster and Chu Berry, trumpet stars Dizzy Gillespie and Jonah Jones, and drummer Cozy Cole.
Cab grew up in Baltimore, attended law school briefly, and then quit to try to make it as a singer and a dancer. For a time, he headed the Alabamians, but the band was not strong enough to make it in New York. He then joined up with The Missourians and with them found his way to New York City. Calloway worked in the 1929 revue Hot Chocolates, started recording in 1930, and in 1931 hit it big with both "Minnie the Moocher" and his regular engagement at the Cotton Club.
Calloway was soon (along with Bill Robinson, Ethel Waters, Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington) the best-known black entertainer of the era. He appeared in quite a few movies (including 1943's Stormy Weather), and "Minnie the Moocher" was followed by such recordings as "Kicking the Gong Around," "Reefer Man," "Minnie the Moocher's Wedding Day," "You Gotta Hi-De-Ho," "The Hi-De-Ho Miracle Man," and even "Mister Paganini, Swing for Minnie." Among Calloway's sidemen through the years (who received among the highest salaries in the business) were Walter "Foots" Thomas, Bennie Payne, Doc Cheatham, Eddie Barefield, Shad Collins, Cozy Cole, Danny Barker, Milt Hinton, Mario Bauza, Chu Berry, Dizzy Gillespie, Jonah Jones, Tyree Glenn, Panama Francis, and Ike Quebec. During the 1950’s and 60’s, Cab was also featured in productions of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, (Gershwin had originally modeled the character of Sportin’ Life after Calloway) and Jerry Herman’s Hello, Dolly!.
Cab Calloway was responsible for over 40 hit recordings duing 1930 and 1945 including “St. Louis Blues”, “Minnie the Moocher” (#1, 1931), “St. James’ Infirmary” (#3, 1931), “Novobdy’s Sweetheart”, “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”, “Moon Glow” (#7, 1934), “Chinese Rhythm” (#6, 1934), “Angels With Dirty Faces” (#3, 1938), “(Hep-Hep) The Jumpin’ Jive” (#2, 1939), “Blues in the Night” (#8, 1941) and “Let’s Take the Long Way Home.”
Cab Calloway died in Delaware on November 18, 1994.