Cab Calloway


Cab Calloway (1907-1994)
Vocalist, bandleader




The Kennedy Center
Marco Polo
This resource was created in March 2003 by ARTSEDGE. All rights reserved.
ARTSEDGE is a project of the Education Department of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts,
and is a member of the MarcoPolo Partnership
Watch Calloway perform "Dawn Time" from the movie Hi-De-Ho.

A premier black entertainer of the Harlem Renaissance, Cabell ("Cab") Calloway's impressive singing ability and showmanship won him steady gigs at the famous Cotton Club.

Calloway's lasting influence on popular music stems from his minting and mastery of scat-jive vocals. His signature style was to improvise nonsense (but incredibly inventive) lyrics on the spot, often incorporating snippets of Harlem street slang in his monologues and songs.

Some of Calloway's most popular songs referenced the nitty-gritty of Harlem nightlife and its more fervent practitioners, such as his 1931 smash hit, "Minnie the Moocher." In this innovative song, Calloway used call-and-response technique to bat the phrase "Hi-de-ho" back and forth between stage and audience.

Calloway didn't find acclaim in nightclubs alone. His talent also sparkled in theaters and on the silver screen. In 1929, when Calloway landed a role in Connie's Hot Chocolates—a musical revue created by the team of Fats Waller and Andy Razaf—he found himself sharing the stage with a young trumpeter named Louis Armstrong. In 1937, he appeared in the revue Manhattan Merry-Go Round with the beloved dance group Whitey's Lindy Hoppers.

Audiences nationwide would soon witness Calloway's talents when he toured in George Gershwin's acclaimed musical Porgy and Bess, playing a fictional character named "Sportin' Life," who is thought to have been based on Cab Calloway himself.


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He played at Savoy Ballroom's Battle of the Bands.
Calloway and the Missourians played at the Cotton Club for 10 years.
He worked in the musical Hot Chocolates at Connie's Inn.
Calloway often played with Bill Robinson.
He sang music by Fats Waller in Hot Chocolates.
Herbert White's Lindy Hoppers appeared in Manhattan Merry Go-Round with Calloway.
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