Born Cabell Calloway on December 25, 1907, Cab Calloway was a jazz singer and band leader arguably most famous for the song Minnie the Moocher
. Cab was also famous for his style of dress (he wore a zoot suit
) eccentric vocalizations and hip phraseology
. Many of Cab's most popular songs (including Minnie the Moocher) have thinly veiled drug
Cab began his career in Baltimore, where he grew up singing and occasionally drumming. He worked with his sister Blanche Calloway and latter became the frontman for the Alabamians in 1929. Engagements with this band took him to New York where he later joined the Missourians. The Missourians were engaged to play the Savoy Ballroom. Calloway's popularity soon attracted many fans, and in 1931, renamed as Cab Calloway And His Orchestra, they replaced Duke Ellington at the Cotton Club.
Cab's recordings and his regular appearances at New York's Cotton Club soon made him a national figure. Cab was a seminal figure in the big band era, arguably of equal importance with the likes of Duke Ellington and Count Basie. Cab was instrumental in recruiting and later promoting several important jazz musicians via his Orchestra, including Dizzy Gillespie, Jonah Jones and Ben Webster.
Over the course of his career, Cab appeared in several motion pictures including; Stormy Weather (Cab's Geechy Joe is a definite scene-stealer), The Big Broadcast, Sensations of 1945 and The Blues Brothers. Calloway also was given star billing on television's Sesame Street and in the Janet Jackson video "Alright". Calloway also starred in the 1950 production of Porgy and Bess as Sportin' Life, a role George Gershwin was rumored to have based on him.