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This date marks the birth of “Cab" Calloway, who was born on Christmas day in 1907. He was a Black vocalist and band leader.
Born in Rochester, New York, “Cab” Calloway started as a singer in Baltimore. In 1927, he joined the revue "Plantation Days" and relocated to Chicago. Two years later, he became the leader of the Alabamians. By 1930, Calloway became a star in New York at the famed Savoy Ballroom and at the Cotton Club.
At this time, Calloway's jive talking, hipster act, was supported by top-flight musicians, trumpeter Doc Cheatham, bassist Milt Hinton, and saxophonist Chu Berry. Dizzy Gillespie was in Calloway's trumpet section, but left after a celebrated "spitball incident" in 1941 (in which the two got into a fight in Hartford, Connecticut, after Calloway accused a young Gillespie of throwing spitballs at him. Gillespie stabbed Calloway in the brawl). Afro-Cuban trumpeter Mario Bauza was also a member of that trumpet section.
Calloway's other important recordings included "Pickin' the Cabbage" and "Sunday in Savannah," which he sang in the 1943 motion picture "Stormy Weather." He also appeared in the films "St. Louis Blues" and "A Man Called Adam." In the 1990s, Calloway's timeless appeal got him a cameo in a Janet Jackson video that introduced a new generation to his crowd-pleasing genius.
Although the world knew him as "The Hi-De-Ho Man" from his hit "Minnie The Moocher," Cab" Calloway was a jazz talent and a timeless example of the swing era's appeal. Cab Calloway died on November 18, 1994, in Cokebury Village, Delaware.
The Encyclopedia of African American Heritage
by Susan Altman
Copyright 1997, Facts on File, Inc. New York