Cabell Calloway III (December 25, 1907 – November 18, 1994) was an American jazz singer, dancer, and bandleader.
He was strongly associated with the Cotton Club in Harlem, New York City, where he was a regular performer. Calloway's band featured performers including trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Adolphus "Doc" Cheatham, saxophonists Ben Webster and Leon "Chu" Berry, New Orleans guitarist Danny Barker, and bassist Milt Hinton. Calloway continued to perform until his death in 1994 at the age of 86.
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.
In 1930 Calloway took over a band called "The Missourians"; later on, they renamed it "Cab Calloway and His Orchestra". The Cotton Club in New York's Harlem was the premier jazz venue in the country. In 1931 Calloway and his orchestra were hired as a replacement for the Duke Ellington Orchestra while it was touring. (Calloway's group had joined Duke Ellington and Mills Blue Rhythm Band as another of the jazz groups handled by Irving Mills.)
McKay with Grigory Zinoviev and Nikolai Bukharin in 1923.
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 from 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 vocals taking up the majority of the record.
In 1931 Calloway 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 performed voiceover for these cartoons, but his dance steps were the basis of the characters' movements. He took advantage of this, timing concerts in some communities to coincide with the release of the films in order to make the most of the publicity.
As a result of the success of "Minnie the Moocher", Calloway became identified with its chorus, gaining the nickname "The Hi De Ho Man". He also performed in the 1930s in a series of short films for Paramount. (Calloway's and Ellington's groups were featured on film more than any other jazz orchestras of the era.) In these films, Calloway can be seen performing a gliding backstep dance move, which some observers have described as the precursor to Michael Jackson's "moonwalk".Calloway said 50 years later, "it was called The Buzz back then." The 1933 film International House featured Calloway performing his classic song, "Reefer Man", a tune about a man who favors marijuana cigarettes.
Calloway made his "first proper Hollywood movie appearance" opposite Al Jolson in The Singing Kid in 1936. He sang a number of duets with Jolson, and the film included Calloway's band and cast of 22 Cotton Club dancers from New York. According to music historian Arthur Knight, the film aimed in part "to both erase and celebrate boundaries and differences, including most emphatically the color line." He also notes that...