Cabell “Cab” Calloway III (December 25, 1907 – November 18, 1994) was an American jazz singer and bandleader. He was strongly associated with the Cotton Club in Harlem, New York City, where he was a regular performer. 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 band featured performers including 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. Cab Calloway was born in a middle-class family in Rochester, New York, on Christmas Day in 1907. He lived there until moving to Baltimore, Maryland in 1918. His father, Cabell Calloway II, was a lawyer and his mother, Martha Eulalia Reed, was a teacher and church organist. When Cab was young, he enjoyed singing in church. His parents recognized their son’s musical talent and he began private voice lessons in 1922. He continued to study music and voice throughout his formal schooling. Despite his parents’ and vocal teachers’ disapproval of jazz, Calloway began frequenting and eventually performing in many of Baltimore’s jazz clubs, where he was mentored by drummer Chick Webb and pianist Johnny Jones. After graduating from Frederick Douglass High School Calloway joined his older sister, Blanche, in a touring production of the popular black musical revue Plantation Days. Calloway attended Lincoln University (a historically black university) in Pennsylvania, but left in 1930 without graduating. When the tour ended in Chicago in the fall, Calloway decided to remain in Chicago with his sister, who had an established career as a jazz singer in that city. His parents had hopes of their son becoming a lawyer like his father, so Calloway enrolled in Crane College. His main interest, however, was in singing and entertaining, and he spent most of his nights at the Dreamland Ballroom, the Sunset Cafe, and the Club Berlin, performing as a drummer, singer and MC. At the Sunset Cafe he met and performed with Louis Armstrong who taught him to sing in the “scat” style.
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