Evelyn Knight (b. December 31, 1917, Reedville, Virginia – d. September 28, 2007, San Jose, California) was a popular American singer of the 1940s and 1950s, best remembered for her 1949 smash "Powder Your Face with Sunshine."
Born as Evelyn Davis, she began her career in high school when she would sing at Washington D.C.'s Station WRC as “Honey Davis” twice a week over NBC for $16 a broadcast. After high school she started singing in such high-end Washington D.C. supper clubs as The Claridge Hotel and was known as the "lass with the delicate air." At the age of 18, she married Andrew B. Knight, a war photographer for the Washington Post, and became professionally known as Evelyn Knight.
After many successful years in Washington she moved to New York City where she began headlining at such Manhattan nightclubs as The Blue Angel and the Plaza Hotel's Persian Room. She launched her recording career in 1945 by signing with Decca records, and moved to Los Angeles in the late 1940s where she headlined frequently at the celebrity-studded Ciro's and Coconut Grove.
Upon signing to Decca in 1945, she scored her first Top Ten hit with her debut single, "Dance with a Dolly (With a Hole in Her Stocking)." Her follow-up, "Chickery Chick," proved another chart blockbuster, but from there Knight's career went into free fall, with singles like "My Fickle Eye" and "Passé" barely registering at radio and retail. In late 1948 Knight entered the studio with backing vocalists the Stardusters to cover Paula Watson's hit "A Little Bird Told Me" -- her rendition spent much of the spring of 1949 atop the pop charts, selling in excess of two million copies.
Watson's label, Supreme Records, nevertheless filed suit with Decca, claiming Knight's arrangement was lifted wholesale from the original -- a judge dismissed the suit, but the singer's follow-up, "Buttons and Bows," was nevertheless a sharp contrast with Dinah Shore's signature version, with an elegance and tranquility absent from Shore's rendition. Knight's biggest hit, "Powder Your Face with Sunshine," was her second number one and spent some five months on the charts -- she closed out 1949 with the two-sided hit "It's Too Late Now"/"You're So Understanding," both of which nearly cracked the Top 20. Knight entered 1950 with a cover of Mindy Carson's "Candy and Cake," teaming with the Ray Charles Singers for the follow-up, "All Dressed Up to Smile." She made her last chart appearance a year later with "My Heart Cries for You," a duet with country star Red Foley.
She was among the pioneers of early television with several appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Colgate Comedy Hour and a 1951 TV appearance with Abbott & Costello.
Evelyn was a staple all over the country on the popular "supper club" circuit of the day. She performed for President Truman at the White House, and played to audiences around the world, but by the mid 50's she gradually receeded from view. Before her 37th birthday, Miss Knight retired and never performed in public again.
In the 1950s, Miss Knight returned to New York and worked in the music publishing business for several years. When she was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1961, she was not told. She worked as an office manager and babysitter, and her only singing came in church choirs. Almost no one she met knew a thing about her glamorous past.
Divorced from Knight she married Johnny Lehmann, a songwriter with top ten hits of his own, in 1951. Her son, Andrew Knight Jr. (b. 1940 - d. 1989) became a well-regarded concert tour lighting technician in the seventies working with The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and The Who, among others. Her second child, Fran (b. 1954) grew up to enjoy a top-rated career on Los Angeles and San Francisco radio from 1970 to 2003. She is also survived by her three grandchildren, Saira McGan (an officer in the United States Air Force), Jesse Knight (real estate entrepreneur), and Jake Knight (musician, blogger/writer, and network engineer).
Evelyn and her family moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 1969 where she lived until 2007 in obscurity, even after her early hits were reissued on compact disc. Following a decline in health in 2007, she moved to San Jose, California to live with her daughter. She died quietly on the morning of September 28, 2007, aged 89, from lung cancer. (Info edited from Wahingtom Post & All Music & Wikipedia)
Monday, 31 December 2012
Sunday, 30 December 2012
One of the best and most original rockers of the early '60s, Del Shannon was also one of the least typical. Although classified at times as a teen idol, he favored brooding themes of abandonment, loss, and rejection. In some respects he looked forward to the British Invasion with his frequent use of minor chords and his ability to write most of his own material. In fact, Shannon was able to keep going strong for a year or two into the British Invasion, and never stopped trying to play original music, though his commercial prospects pretty much died after the mid-'60s.
Born Charles Westover, Shannon happened upon a gripping series of minor chords while playing with his band in Battle Creek, MI. The chords would form the basis for his 1961 debut single, "Runaway," one of the greatest hits of the early '60s, with its unforgettable riffs, Shannon's amazing vocal range (which often glided off into a powerful falsetto), and the creepy, futuristic organ solo in the middle. It made number one, and the similar follow-up, "Hats Off to Larry," also made the Top Ten.
Shannon had intermittent minor hits over the next couple of years ("Little Town Flirt" was the biggest), but was even more successful in England, where he was huge. On one of his European tours in 1963, he played some shows with the Beatles, who had just scored their first big British hits. Shannon, impressed by what he heard, would become the first American artist to cover a Beatles song when he recorded "From Me to You" for a 1963 single (although it would give him only a very small hit). Shannon's melodic style had some similarities with the burgeoning pop/rock wing of the British Invasion, and in 1965, Peter & Gordon would cover a Shannon composition, "I Go to Pieces," for a Top Ten hit.
Del got into the Top Ten with a late-1964 single, "Keep Searchin'," that was one of his best and hardest-rocking outings. But after the similar "Stranger in Town" (number 30, 1965), he wouldn't enter the Top 40 again for nearly a couple of decades. A switch to a bigger label (Liberty) didn't bring the expected commercial results, although he was continuing to release quality singles. Part of the problem was that some of these were a bit too eager to recycle some of his stock minor-keyed riffs, as good as his prototype was.
A brief association with producer Andrew Loog Oldham (also manager/producer of the Rolling Stones) found him continuing to evolve, developing a more Baroque, orchestrated pop/rock sound, and employing British session musicians such as Nicky Hopkins. Much to Shannon's frustration, Liberty decided not to release the album that resulted from the collaboration (some of the material appeared on singles, and much of the rest of the sessions would eventually be issued for the collector market).
By the late '60s, Shannon was devoting much of his energy to producing other artists, most notably Smith and Brian Hyland. Shannon was a perennially popular artist on the oldies circuit (particularly in Europe, where he had an especially devoted audience), and was always up for a comeback attempt on record. Sessions with Jeff Lynne and Dave Edmunds in the '70s didn't amount to much, but an early-'80s album produced by Tom Petty (and featuring members of the Heartbreakers as backing musicians) got him into the Top 40 again with a cover of "Sea of Love." He was working on another comeback album with Jeff Lynne, and sometimes rumored as a replacement for Roy Orbison in the Traveling Wilburys, when he unexpectedly killed himself on February 8, 1990 with a .22-caliber rifle at his home in Santa Clarita, California, while on a prescription dose of the anti-depressant drug Prozac. Following his death, The Traveling Wilburys honored him by recording a version of "Runaway". Lynne also co-produced Shannon's posthumous album, Rock On, released on Silvertone in 1991.
Shannon was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. “Runaway” remains a recognizable song over a half century after its release. Rolling Stone named it as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. (Edited from Wikipedia & mainly All Music)
Del Shannon performing the Los bravos hit "Black Is Black" on his final tour of Australia in 1989. This is footage is also the last professionally filmed concert before his death on February 8, 1990.
Saturday, 29 December 2012
Colin Flooks (29 December 1947 – 5 April 1998), better known as Cozy Powell, was an English rock drummer who made his name with many major rock bands. Considered to be one of England's best drummers, and very much in demand for rock and pop records, Cozy Powell was almost legendary for a heavy-hitting style that could be made to work with many kinds of rock music, whether for the thundering pop productions helmed by Mickie Most, Black Sabbath, Emerson, Lake & Powell, or even his own solo work (notably "Dance with the Devil," which was a major English hit in 1973.)
Cozy Powell was born in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, England, and started playing drums at age 12 in the school orchestra, thereafter playing along in his spare time to popular singles of the day. The first band he was in, called the Corals, played each week at the Youth Club in Cirencester. At age 15 he had already worked out an impressive drum solo. The nickname 'Cozy' was borrowed from the jazz drummer Cozy Cole.
The semi-professional circuit was next, with semi-pro outfit The Sorcerers, a vocal harmony pop band. The late nights and usual on-the-road exploits began to affect his education, and Powell left to take an office job in order to finance the purchase of his first set of Premier drums. The Sorcerers performed in the German club scene of the 1960s. By 1968 the band had returned to England, basing themselves around Birmingham. Powell struck up friendships with fellow musicians like Robert Plant and John Bonham (both at the time unknowns in Listen), future Slade vocalist Noddy Holder, bassist Dave Pegg and a young guitarist called Tony Iommi. The Sorcerers now became Youngblood, and a series of singles were released in late 1968–69. The group then linked up with the Move bassist/singer Ace Kefford to form The Ace Kefford Stand. Powell also began session work. Powell with fellow Sorcerers Dave and Dennis Ball formed Big Bertha.
Powell also played with swamp rocker Tony Joe White at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970. During this time the two became good friends, with White being best man at Powell's wedding. Powell then landed the then highly prestigious drumming job with Jeff Beck's group in April 1970. Their first project was to record an album of Motown covers in the USA. This was never finished and remains unreleased. After the recording of two albums, Rough and Ready (October 1971) and Jeff Beck Group (July 1972), the band fell apart.
In 1971, Powell formed Bedlam, but eventually abandoned this project to produce singles such as "Dance with the Devil." He later formed Cozy Powell's Hammer, which broke up in 1975. After a brief sabbatical, he joined Rainbow, helping to give the band a thundering rhythm section before quitting after four years and four albums in 1980. Always in demand for the drum seat, he alternated between session work and working in a variety of bands, including the Michael Schenker Group, Graham Bonnet, Whitesnake and Black Sabbath, Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, Gary Moore, never staying in any one band for very long.
In 1996, he worked with former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Peter Green on his long-awaited comeback tour. At the time of his death on April 5, 1998, he was recuperating from a foot injury that had sidelined him from touring work with guitarist Yngvie Malmsteen. He was driving on the M4 Motorway towards Bristol when he apparently lost control of his car (due to bad weather), slamming into the center divider of the motorway. He died a few hours later in the hospital. According to the BBC report, at the time of the crash, Powell's blood-alcohol reading was over the legal limit, he was not wearing a seatbelt, and he was talking to his girlfriend on his mobile phone.
He was living at Lambourn in Berkshire at the time and had returned to the studio shortly before his death to record with Fleetwood Mac co-founder Peter Green. By that time, he had been the drummer on at least 66 albums with minor contributions on many other recordings. Many rock drummers have cited him as a major influence.
(Info AMG & mainly Wikipedia)
Friday, 28 December 2012
Dorsey Burnette (December 28, 1932 - August 19, 1979) was an early Rockabilly singer from Memphis, Tennessee and with his younger brother Johnny Burnette and a friend named Paul Burlison was one of the founder members of The Rock and Roll Trio.
Dorsey Burnette was born on December 28, 1932, in Memphis, the older of two sons of Dorsey Sr. and Willy May Burnette. He got his first guitar, a Gene Autry model, from his father at age six, at the same time that his father gave four-year-old Johnny a similar instrument -- the two immediately smashed them. Dorsey was a tough kid with a violent temper and not a lot of smarts holding it in check, and he was constantly in trouble in school and spending time with the wrong crowd. By the time he was a young teenager, Dorsey was hanging out at the Poplar Street Mission with future recording artist Lee Denson, when he wasn't getting arrested for truancy or fighting. He competed in the Golden Gloves as an aspiring boxer, and it was at the 1949 championship that he met Paul Burlison, another aspiring fighter. They made note of their shared interest in music, but Burlison's induction into the Army in 1951 prevented him from hooking up just then with Dorsey and Johnny, who had begun playing together in the late '40s.
Dorsey, Johnny, and Burlison finally hooked up in mid-1952, working as a trio and within other, larger groups. They cut their first record, "Go Mule Go"/"You're Undecided," for the tiny Von label in 1954, their lineup augmented by a fourth member, fiddler Tommy Seeley In 1956, they were off to New York. They decided to try out for Ted Mack's Amateur Hour, which was one of the top new talent showcases in the country, just at the time when Elvis Presley -- now signed to RCA Victor -- was burning up the airwaves with "Heartbreak Hotel," and were picked to play on the program. The group, known as the Rock 'n Roll Trio, won three successive shows broadcast over the ABC network; by the time of the third they had professional management, and soon after that they were signed to the Coral label, part of the Decca Records (now MCA) family of labels. The group only lasted for about a year.
It was Burnette's brashness in walking up to the home of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson -- famous from television and radio as entertainers, and the parents of Ricky and David Nelson -- and asking to speak to Ricky that got him his break as a songwriter. Ricky Nelson literally pulled up on his motorcycle, accepted Dorsey's introduction, and had him and Johnny audition right there. He ended up recording a dozen of their songs, most of them written by Dorsey Burnette, and his success with "Waitin' in School" got the Burnettes a new contract with Imperial Records and Dorsey a hookup with Imperial's publishing division, Commodore Music.
Roy Brown later covered Dorsey and Johnny's "Hip Shakin' Baby," and Dorsey managed to get a solo hit in 1959 on the Era label with "Tall Oak Tree," a song that Rick Nelson had rejected. Ironically, given Johnny Burnette's prominence, Dorsey's first hit came five months before his brother finally reached the charts with "Dreamin'." The two successes led Coral Records to dig into their vaults and release a 1957-vintage single of "Blues Stay Away from Me."
The Burnettes never had another hit, although Dorsey kept writing and recording long after "Tall Oak Tree." His contract was sold to the Dot label (now owned by MCA), and he cut three singles and an album during the six months he was there.
Dorsey Burnette's family life took a tragic turn from which he never fully recovered in 1964, when Johnny Burnette died in a drowning accident. The surviving brother, driven by guilt or depression and his self-destructive nature, became a chronic alcoholic and drug abuser, his musical abilities and reliability suffering in the process as he staggered from failure to failure across a dozen labels over the next 15 years. Dorsey found some belated comfort in Christianity, becoming "born again" in the 1970s and returning to where he started, in country music. His country recordings for Capitol Records got him pegged as "most promising newcomer" by one music organization that never recognized his earlier activity in rock & roll, and revitalized his career. By then, Burnette was appearing in small venues and playing to anyone who would pay him, getting into fights occasionally, and taking too many drinks and too many pills. In his shows, he would do his newer songs and a few of the old rockabilly numbers like "Tear It Up," which he counted as country music.
(photo above: Dorsey & Alberta Burnette)
Somehow, he never found the right label once the Capitol contract was over. In 1979, however, he signed a contract with Elektra Records and began recording with fellow former rockabilly star Jimmy Bowen.
Things looked promising, and Burnette, whose fame in England had never subsided (American rockabilly stars being treated like Olympian demigods anywhere but America), even supposedly did a recording session with Led Zeppelin (according to rumor). The first single by Burnette and Bowen had just been released when Burnette died of a heart attack on August 19, 1979. (info edited from Wikipedia & AMG)
Well the only video I can find of Dorsey is this very short clip when he accepts the Academy of Country Music Award for Most Promising Male Vocalist in 1973.
Thursday, 27 December 2012
Marlene Dietrich (December 27, 1901 – May 6, 1992) was a German-born American actress, singer and entertainer. She is regarded as being the first German actress to become successful in Hollywood.
Maria Magdalene Dietrich was born on the 27th of December 1901 and was the second daughter of parents Louie Erich Otto Dietrich and Wilhelmina Elisabeth Josephine Felsing. Marlene initially trained as a violinist and turned to acting after a hand injury prevented her from furthering a career in music. In 1920 she began a career as an actress and by 1921 was attending the Max Reinhardt drama school and landed some small roles in the theatres in Berlin and parts in some silent films, but was relatively unknown at this point.
In May 1923, Marlene met (and later married) Rudolph Sieber, a German casting director, they had a daughter Maria Elisabeth. In 1929 while appearing in cabaret in Berlin she was spotted by director Josef Von Sternberg and he screen tested her for the role in The Blue Angel (Der Blaue Engel), with Emil Jannings in the lead role.
Following the success of The Blue Angel there followed an amazing collaboration between Dietrich and Von Sternberg and they made a further six memorable films together for Paramount in Hollywood; ‘Morocco’, ‘Dishonoured’, ‘Blonde Venus’, ‘Shanghai Express’, ‘The Scarlet Empress’ and ‘The Devil is a Woman’. A combination of Dietrich’s screen presence, Von Sternberg’s photography and supreme lighting
and fine costumes by Travis Banton, all became a recipe to create films that have never been equalled and have stood the test of time.
‘Morocco’ was a particularly notable film as this was Marlene’s first appearance wearing a suit/trousers which would become her trademark and the woman to woman kiss that appeared in the film also caused a stir at the time. For other directors she appeared in ‘The Song of Songs', 'Desire', ‘Knight without Armour', 'Destry Rides Again' etc.
By 1937 the pressure for Marlene to return to Germany was increasing, the Third Reich was running newspaper reports telling her to return to Germany and stop allowing herself to be the tool of Hollywood's Jews. Marlene made the decision to become an American citizen and cut all ties with Germany, thus allowing her to continue her career. She was reportedly offered money to return to her homeland of Germany but refused saying she would return only when one of her Jewish friends could accompany her.
During World War II Marlene joined the Allied forces and performed in hundreds of shows overseas in North Africa and Europe, entertaining Allied troops at the front. During these shows Marlene sang the favourites, ‘Lili Marleen’, ‘Boys in the Backroom’, and ‘Falling in Love Again’ and also played the musical saw.
Marlene was crucial to the troops’ morale and kept them entertained during these difficult times. Her contribution to the war effort cannot be underestimated; she also worked with the Red Cross. Dietrich was awarded the 'Medal of Freedom' by the US Government for her work during the war and the French Government awarded her 'Knight of the Legion of Honour' and 'Officer of the Legion of Honour'. In 1943 when her daughter Maria gave birth to her first son, Marlene was dubbed ''the world's most glamorous grandmother’’.
In December 1953 Dietrich then swung her career around and took her ‘one woman show’ out on the road and toured for over twenty years, starting at the Congo Room in the Sahara Hotel, Las Vegas and then taking her show around the world. The tours included countries such as England, France, Germany, Poland, Russia, America and Denmark. These shows were a huge success. Some of her shows were made into recordings and her albums are still being re-issued and re-released today.
Her last performance came in 1975 in Australia where she had an accident on the stage and this spelt the end of her shows and public appearances for a few years. She was coaxed out of 'retirement' in 1978 to appear in a cameo role in a film called ‘Just a Gigolo’.
In 1984 she agreed to be part of an audio-documentary made by Maximillian Schell called 'Marlene', but refused to be filmed. A very convincing mock-up of her Paris apartment was used in the film and made the viewer believe that Marlene was really there. The rest of her life was spent in her Paris apartment, sometimes travelling in disguise and only keeping in touch with friends and colleagues by telephone while all the time answering letters and requests for autographs. Marlene’s ‘reclusive’ life-style in her last years in Paris was deliberate, as she had simply had enough of being Marlene Dietrich.
Marlene died in Paris on 6th May 1992 and was buried in Berlin next to her mother.
(edited from www.marlenedietrich.org.uk)
Marlene Dietrich sings "Illusions" - from Billy Wilder's "Foreign Affair" movie from 1948.
Wednesday, 26 December 2012
A talent discovery of the great Fats Waller, Una Mae Carlisle achieved much success as both a performer and songwriter. She developed a long-term relationship with publisher, producer, and frequent record-label manager Joe Davis, who sold upwards of 20,000 copies of some of her releases. Carlisle's original songs, such as "I See a Million People" and "Walkin' by the River," were smashes, covered by many popular artists such as Cab Calloway and Peggy Lee. By the late '40s she had both her own radio and television shows, but an unfortunate illness cut her career short, forcing her to retire in 1954. This was about 22 years after Waller first heard her entertaining in Cincinnati, where she was established as a live radio performer.
She was already playing in a piano style modeled after his, and displayed a real flair for the range of material he did, including boogie-woogie and comedy. He took her under his wing (and there was plenty of room there, since they didn't call him Fats Waller for nothing). By 1937 she was off as a solo act, touring Europe and hanging around for long residencies in countries such as France. In England she performed and recorded with a combo once again styled after Waller. At home she continued her collaborations with the master himself, providing the vocal on the 1939 Waller recording of "I Can't Give You Anything but Love."
As early as 1938 Una Mae began suffering with mastoid trouble and in 1941 she was hospitalized for several weeks to treat this condition. She became highly successful in England, Germany and France, where she worked at the Boeuf sur le Toit ("The Ox on the Roof"), a cabaret in the Rue du Colisée in Paris. While in Paris in 1939, she was one of two pianists in a combo headed by clarinetist Danny Polo (Danny Polo And His Swing Stars) which recorded four sides for Decca.
She then returned to New York where she undertook several successful engagements and record dates, the first of which was a session with Fats Waller in November 1939 for Bluebird in which she and Fats combined to sing "I Can't Give You Anything But Love." She began recording on her own for Bluebird in the summer of 1940. She soon had several hits, including "Walkin' By The River" with Benny Carter; "Blitzkrieg Baby" with Lester Young; and "I See a Million People" with Charlie Shavers and John Kirby.
She also began working as a solo act in clubs such as New York City's Village Vanguard. Her relationship with Davis, another early associate of Waller's, began after her Bluebird contract lapsed. Davis took a similar approach to recording her, making use of her talents as a prolific songwriter and surrounding her once again with excellent players, including the Duke Ellington star Ray Nance, who doubled on trumpet and violin; Budd Johnson on tenor saxophone; and drummer Shadow Wilson. The tunes included "Tain't Yours," written by Carlisle and her manager, Barney Young, a title that certainly didn't apply to record buyers who snapped up this release in a manner that must have put a grin on Davis' face.
Davis put her tunes into play at many sessions he produced by other artists, and he also issued sheet music of her compositions, including a charming photograph of Carlisle wearing a truly weird hat. Some of the later recording collaborations between Carlisle and Davis didn't go off as well, including an unfortunate session at which one tune was tried some 16 times without ever being played properly.
Her last studio session was for Columbia in New York on May 8, 1950. Later in 1950 she recorded a few "special product" 78's on RCA Victor, which she is believed to have distributed to disc jockeys to keep her name before the public. Una Mae kept on working successfully on radio, tv and nightclubs but her illness became too much to bare to continue so she retired in 1954. She called it quits hoping to return again in the future but that was one wish Una or fans didn't get. She died in New York on November7, 1956.
Her discography languished between her death and the mid-'80s, when the first Carlisle reissue came out on the Harlequin label. Subsequently there have been reissues by RCA, which owns the Bluebird catalog, and the French Melodie Jazz label. She can be seen onscreen in the 1948 Boarding House Blues, an all-black production directed by Josh Binney which is made up mostly of performances by various jazz and vaudeville acts. (Info mainly All Music)
It Ain't Like That - Una Mae Carlisle
Tuesday, 25 December 2012
Cabell "Cab" Calloway III (December 25, 1907 – November 18, 1994) was a famous American jazz singer and bandleader.
Calloway was a master of energetic scat singing and led one of the United States' most popular African American big bands from the start of the 1930s through the late 1940s. Calloway's Orchestra featured performers that included trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Adolphus "Doc" Cheatham, saxophonists Ben Webster and Leon "Chu" Berry, New Orleans guitar ace Danny Barker, and bassist Milt Hinton. Calloway continued to perform until his death in 1994 at the age of 86.
Bandleader and vocalist Cab Calloway will always be remembered for his outrageous stage antics and wild lyrics. Consistently ranked among the top bands of the 1930s and 1940s, Calloway's orchestra entertained millions during its heyday, and the bandleader himself continued thrilling audiences up until the time of his death. His older sister, Blanche, was also a popular vocalist and bandleader in her own right.
Born in Rochester, New York, Cab grew up in Baltimore. He studied music and voice as a youth, singing at local speakeasies when he could. Cab also excelled in sports. During his senior year in high school, he played for the Baltimore Athenians of the Negro Professional Basketball League. Torn between sports and music, he finally chose the latter. His mother, however, wanted him to follow his father's footsteps and become a lawyer. With that goal, Cab moved to Chicago to attend Crane College.
Blanche was already in Chicago, singing and dancing professionally. She helped Cab get a job with her in the musical review Plantation Days. When the show closed in 1927 Cab found a job singing at the Dreamland Cafe. In 1928 he went to work as the emcee of the Sunset Cafe, which also featured a house band called Marion Hardy's Alabamians. One day, during rehearsal, he decided to do a number with the band. They liked him so much they made him their leader. Cab dropped out of college to pursue a career as a entertainer.
MCA signed the Alabamians in 1929 and sent them on a tour, which ended up in Harlem. The group flopped in New York, being perceived as ''unhip.'' The band decided to return to Chicago, but Cab remained in New York, where he took over as leader of a group called the Missourians. He left after only a brief time to return to Chicago, where he once again led the Alabamians. He soon returned to New York, where Louis Armstrong helped him get a spot in the Hot Chocolates review.
The Alabamians made a return engagement to New York late in the year, appearing at the Savoy Hotel, with Cab as leader. When the group returned to Chicago, Cab again remained behind and took over the Missourians. This time, he renamed the group as Cab Calloway and His Orchestra. They were booked into the Cotton Club in early 1931. Always appearing in a white silk suit, with top hat and tails, Cab took the public by storm with such songs as ''Minnie the Moocher'' and ''Kickin' the Gong Around'' (the latter a reference to smoking opium). He gained national attention when Bing Crosby featured him on the Lucky Strike radio show. He was the first black entertainer to perform on a ''white'' program. One night, while performing ''Minnie the Moocher'' on the radio, he forgot the lyrics and started to scat. His famous trademark, ''Hi-De-Ho,'' was born.
In 1932 he made his first of many films, which include such classics as the Big Broadcast and Stormy Weather. The orchestra was also featured on its own radio program, Cab Calloway's Quizzicale during 1941 and 1942. The show was aired on both Mutual and NBC Blue as a sustainer, since no sponsor could be found for a program which featured African-American entertainers.
Cab's orchestra remained on top throughout the 1930s and into the war years, touring extensively in the United States and Canada. They also toured Europe in 1934. Many critics felt that Cab's outfit of the early 1940s, which featured Dizzy Gillespie, Ben Webster, Cozy Cole and Chu Berry, was his best line-up. The end of the swing era, however, took its toll, and in 1948 Cab was forced to disband. He then organized and toured with a sextet, occasionally reforming a big band for special engagements. He continued to perform, touring the world for more than forty years, both with small outfits and solo, until his death.
In the early 1950s Calloway toured the United States and Europe in the stage production of Porgy and Bess. In the late 1960s and during the 1970s he worked on Broadway, starring is such shows as Hello, Dolly!, with Pearl Bailey, and The Pajama Game. In 1978 he appeared in three episodes of Sesame Street. In 1989 he appeared in a Janet Jackson video. Cab Calloway died in 1994 after suffering a stroke. His daughter, Chris, is a vocalist. (info mainly www.parabrisas.com)
Here's Cab Calloway & His Orchestra with Zaz Zuh Zaz from 1933.