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Fri, 06.02.1905

Valaida Snow, Entertainer born

Valaida Snow

Valaida Snow was born on this date in 1905. She was a Black musician and entertainer.

Born in Cleveland City, TN, she was raised in an intensely musical family. Her mother, Etta Washington Snow, taught Valaida to play the cello, bass, violin, banjo, mandolin, harp, accordion, clarinet, saxophone, and trumpet. She also sang and danced.  By the time she was 15 years old, she was entertaining professionally and had decided to concentrate on trumpet and vocals. She had two sisters and three brothers. Her sisters Lavaida, Hattie and brother Aviator were also professional singers.

Snow had a third brother, Sylvester, and a half-brother Joseph Artnemus Bush. Joseph never sang professionally or played an instrument of any kind. In 1924, Snow attracted attention in the Sissle and Blake show, In Banville (The Chocolate Dandies). Then she was in London with the Blackbirds, recording with Johnny Claes, Derek Neville, Freddy Gardner, and others.  She also worked in China, and after her return to the U.S., she headlined in Chicago and Los Angeles, then rejoined the Blackbirds in Paris. Snow also played in Liza across Europe and Russia.

In the early 30s, she performed in the Ethel Waters show, Rhapsody In Black, in New York. In the mid-30s, she returned to London and then to Hollywood, where she made films with her husband, Ananias Berry, of the Berry Brothers dancing troupe. After playing at New York's Apollo Theatre, she revisited Europe and the Far East for more shows and films.  In 1939 while in Scandinavia, Snow was arrested by the invading Germans and interned in a concentration camp at Wester-Faengle. After 18 months, she was released as an exchange prisoner and returned to New York. After her return from prison, Snow married Earle Edwards. Damaged both physically and psychologically, she still began performing again.

Sadly, the spark and vitality that had made her one of the outstanding American entertainers of the 30s had begun to dim. In her prime, Snow had perfect pitch and was also a skilled transcriber and arranger. Snow played and sang the blues with deep feeling and could more than hold her own on up-tempo swingers. As a phenomenal musician, because she was a woman in the jazz world of the 30s and 40s, she was regarded as something of a curiosity. Valaida Snow died on May 30, 1956, in New York City.  She was buried three days later, on her birthday, June 2.

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