Cab Calloway

Since I’ve done the Nicholas Brothers and Busby Berkeley, it’s time for Cab Calloway, another old movie favorite of mine.

I think the first time I ever came across anything related to Calloway was in the late 1960s when I was watching That Girl on TV – Ann’s father (Lew Parker) sang Minnie the Moocher for a talent show.  The song stuck in my head.  I wish I could find a video of that performance.

“Minnie the Moocher” is a jazz song first recorded in 1931 by Cab Calloway and His Orchestra, selling over a million copies. “Minnie the Moocher” is most famous for its nonsensical ad-libbed (“scat”) lyrics (for example, “Hi De Hi De Hi De Hi”).

In performances, Calloway would have the audience participate by repeating each scat phrase in a form of call and response. Eventually, Calloway’s phrases would become so long and complex that the audience would laugh at their own failed attempts to repeat them.

“Minnie the Moocher” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

 

Lots of others have sung this song, as well including Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie in “Jeeves and Wooster”.

 

 

and the Three Mo’ Tenors performed it in 2001

 

 

Calloway appeared in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers and sang a shortened version “Minnie The Moocher” in the film, in the original style of big band.

 

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 big bands from the start of the 1930s through to 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.

An old Paramount short film of Cab Calloway singing many of his hits.

 

 

“The Old Man of The Mountain” is non-stop Cab from beginning to end. He appears first as an owl, singing the title song. The words have been changed for the cartoon, in which the Old Man is a villain. In the original song, the Old Man is a benevolent character. Next we see Cab as the Old Man himself, rotoscoped and singing, “You Gotta Hi-De-Hi,” followed by “The Scat Song.”

The cartoon begins with live footage of Cab and his Orchestra playing around with the tune of Minnie the Moocher while Cab scats mildly and grins at the camera. Whereas Cab may have been caught by surprise when they used live footage of him in the earlier cartoon, “Minnie the Moocher”, this time he is ready. He and his band are in dress white uniforms, Cab’s hair is slicked back, and he pays attention to the camera. (The drummer, Leroy Maxey, is still playing with his drumsticks, though!)

Of the three cartoons starring Cab Calloway, this one has the least interesting and least surreal plot, and the animation is the crudest. Never-the-less, the very early live footage of Cab is a treasure, and this cartoon showcases his music from beginning to end, featuring three of his songs. He does some of his most remarkable ever scat singing in this version of The Scat Song.

In all of the Fleisher cartoons, Cab’s characters are set in caves with menacing and ominous background illustrations: skeletons, skulls, ghosts, leering faces, and gambling, alcohol and drug paraphernalia. People have claimed that the Fleischers were unaware of the drug references in Cab’s songs (for example, “kicking the gong around” meaning “smoking opium”), but the imagery in the animations suggests otherwise.

 

 

Cab’s scat singing, dancing, comedic personality and flashy elegance had made him a star and a million-selling recording artist. He continued to perform right up until his death in 1994 at the age of 88.

Gunther Schuller sums up Calloway’s brilliance as an entertainer: “People still remember Cab Calloway as a dancer and vaudevillian with his wonderful white tuxedos and all of that — and, as a great, great showman.”

 

December 4 ~ This Day in Music History

today

Christmas Music: I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day

• 1660 ~ André Campra, French composer

• 1667 ~ Michel Pignolet De Monteclair, French composer

• 1861 ~ Lillian Russell (Helen Louise Leonard), Singer, actress, burlesque

• 1879 ~ Sir Herbert Hamilton Harty, Irish composer, conductor, pianist and organist

• 1915 ~ Eddie Heywood, Jr., Pianist, composer

• 1927 ~ Duke Ellington’s big band opened the famed Cotton Club in Harlem. It was the first appearance of the Duke’s new and larger group. He played the club until 1932.

For part 2:

• 1934 ~ Ethel Merman recorded I Get a Kick Out of You, from Cole Porter’s musical, Anything Goes. She was backed by the Johnny Green Orchestra. The tune was recorded for Brunswick Records.

• 1934 ~ Wink (Winston Conrad) Martindale, TV host, singer

• 1938 ~ Yvonne Minton, Australian mezzo-soprano

• 1940 ~ John Cale, Bass, keyboard, viola, singer with The Velvet Underground

• 1942 ~ Bob Mosley, Bass with Moby Grape

• 1942 ~ Chris Hillman, Guitar, bass, mandolin with The Byrds

• 1944 ~ Dennis Wilson, American rock-and-roll singer and drummer

• 1948 ~ Southside Johnny (Lyon), Singer with Southside Johnny and The Asbury Dukes

• 1965 ~ Composer, lyricist, and singer, Jacques Brel made his American debut in concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Brel composed Jackie, You’re Not Alone, If You Go Away and more.

• 1972 ~ Billy Paul from Philadelphia received a gold record for his smash hit, Meand Mrs. Jones.

• 1976 ~ Baron (Edward) Benjamin Britten (of Aldeburgh) died in Aldeburgh. He was a British composer, conductor, and pianist.
More information about Britten

• 2002 ~ Emmy-nominated pianist George Gaffney, who accompanied such musicians as Peggy Lee, Engelbert Humperdink and Sarah Vaughan, died. He was 62. Born in New York City, Gaffney began studying the piano at age 10 but switched to the trombone. After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1958 to 1961, Gaffney returned to New York, where he played piano and began arranging and accompanying singers. Gaffney moved to the Chicago area in the mid-1960s and was musical director of the Playboy Club in Lake Geneva, Wis., where he first met Vaughan. Gaffney came to California in the early 1970s and found work as a studio musician and accompanist. He worked on a number of television programs, including the TV series “Moonlighting,” and was nominated for an Emmy. From 1980 to 1990, he was Vaughan’s accompanist and musical director. He moved to Las Vegas in 1994 and worked as Humperdink’s musical director. In recent years, he also orchestrated tunes for Rita Moreno.

• 2002 ~ Mary Hansen, guitarist and vocalist with the ’90s alternative band Stereolab died. She was 36. Hansen, from Maryborough in Queensland, Australia, died in a cycling accident in London, The Independent newspaper reported Friday. Details of the accident were not available. Band spokesman Mick Houghton was quoted by The Independent as saying a truck might have backed into her, “but I really don’t know much more than that.” Hansen joined the band in 1992, two years after it was formed by Tim Gane, formerly of the band McCarthy, and his girlfriend Laetitia Sadier. Among hundreds of messages posted on the band Web site, one from a fan who identified himself as Louis called Hansen “the soul” of the band. Hansen, who played several instruments, first appeared on 1992’s LoFi single and all subsequent releases, including 1994’s Mars Audiac Quintet and 1996’s Emperor Tomato Ketchup. Stereolab had been working on a new album, expected to be released next year.

• 2003 ~ Barry Morell, a tenor who played leading roles at the Metropolitan Opera and internationally for more than two decades, died of esophageal cancer. He was 75. Morell began his career as a baritone, until he sought the guidance of former Metropolitan Opera baritone Giuseppe Danise, who told him he should be a tenor. He was best known for performing the operas of Puccini. He made his debut as Pinkerton in “Madame Butterfly” in 1955 with the New York City Center Opera Company. In 1958, he made his Met debut in the same role. He appeared in Berlin, Barcelona, Vienna and other opera houses in Europe, South America and across the United States. Among his more than 20 roles during 257 performances at the Met were Rodolfo in “La Boheme,” Enzo in “La Gioconda” and the title roles of “Don Carlo”and “Faust”.

December 4, 2016 ~ Today in Music History

today

Christmas Music, Part 4 – I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day

• 1660 ~ André Campra, French composer

• 1667 ~ Michel Pignolet De Monteclair, French composer

• 1861 ~ Lillian Russell (Helen Louise Leonard), Singer, actress, burlesque

• 1879 ~ Sir Herbert Hamilton Harty, Irish composer, conductor, pianist and organist

• 1915 ~ Eddie Heywood, Jr., Pianist, composer

• 1927 ~ Duke Ellington’s big band opened the famed Cotton Club in Harlem. It was the first appearance of the Duke’s new and larger group. He played the club until 1932.

For part 2:

• 1934 ~ Ethel Merman recorded I Get a Kick Out of You, from Cole Porter’s musical, Anything Goes. She was backed by the Johnny Green Orchestra. The tune was recorded for Brunswick Records.

• 1934 ~ Wink (Winston Conrad) Martindale, TV host, singer

• 1938 ~ Yvonne Minton, Australian mezzo-soprano

• 1940 ~ John Cale, Bass, keyboard, viola, singer with The Velvet Underground

• 1942 ~ Bob Mosley, Bass with Moby Grape

• 1942 ~ Chris Hillman, Guitar, bass, mandolin with The Byrds

• 1944 ~ Dennis Wilson, American rock-and-roll singer and drummer

• 1948 ~ Southside Johnny (Lyon), Singer with Southside Johnny and The Asbury Dukes

• 1965 ~ Composer, lyricist, and singer, Jacques Brel made his American debut in concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Brel composed Jackie, You’re Not Alone, If You Go Away and more.

• 1972 ~ Billy Paul from Philadelphia received a gold record for his smash hit, Meand Mrs. Jones.

• 1976 ~ Baron (Edward) Benjamin Britten (of Aldeburgh) died in Aldeburgh. He was a British composer, conductor, and pianist.
More information about Britten

• 2002 ~ Emmy-nominated pianist George Gaffney, who accompanied such musicians as Peggy Lee, Engelbert Humperdink and Sarah Vaughan, died. He was 62. Born in New York City, Gaffney began studying the piano at age 10 but switched to the trombone. After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1958 to 1961, Gaffney returned to New York, where he played piano and began arranging and accompanying singers. Gaffney moved to the Chicago area in the mid-1960s and was musical director of the Playboy Club in Lake Geneva, Wis., where he first met Vaughan. Gaffney came to California in the early 1970s and found work as a studio musician and accompanist. He worked on a number of television programs, including the TV series “Moonlighting,” and was nominated for an Emmy. From 1980 to 1990, he was Vaughan’s accompanist and musical director. He moved to Las Vegas in 1994 and worked as Humperdink’s musical director. In recent years, he also orchestrated tunes for Rita Moreno.

• 2002 ~ Mary Hansen, guitarist and vocalist with the ’90s alternative band Stereolab died. She was 36. Hansen, from Maryborough in Queensland, Australia, died in a cycling accident in London, The Independent newspaper reported Friday. Details of the accident were not available. Band spokesman Mick Houghton was quoted by The Independent as saying a truck might have backed into her, “but I really don’t know much more than that.” Hansen joined the band in 1992, two years after it was formed by Tim Gane, formerly of the band McCarthy, and his girlfriend Laetitia Sadier. Among hundreds of messages posted on the band Web site, one from a fan who identified himself as Louis called Hansen “the soul” of the band. Hansen, who played several instruments, first appeared on 1992’s LoFi single and all subsequent releases, including 1994’s Mars Audiac Quintet and 1996’s Emperor Tomato Ketchup. Stereolab had been working on a new album, expected to be released next year.

• 2003 ~ Barry Morell, a tenor who played leading roles at the Metropolitan Opera and internationally for more than two decades, died of esophageal cancer. He was 75. Morell began his career as a baritone, until he sought the guidance of former Metropolitan Opera baritone Giuseppe Danise, who told him he should be a tenor. He was best known for performing the operas of Puccini. He made his debut as Pinkerton in “Madame Butterfly” in 1955 with the New York City Center Opera Company. In 1958, he made his Met debut in the same role. He appeared in Berlin, Barcelona, Vienna and other opera houses in Europe, South America and across the United States. Among his more than 20 roles during 257 performances at the Met were Rodolfo in “La Boheme,” Enzo in “La Gioconda” and the title roles of “Don Carlo”and “Faust”.

December 4 ~ Today in Music History

today

Christmas Music, Part 4 – I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day

• 1660 ~ André Campra, French composer

• 1667 ~ Michel Pignolet De Monteclair, French composer

• 1861 ~ Lillian Russell (Helen Louise Leonard), Singer, actress, burlesque

• 1879 ~ Sir Herbert Hamilton Harty, Irish composer, conductor, pianist and organist

• 1915 ~ Eddie Heywood, Jr., Pianist, composer

• 1927 ~ Duke Ellington’s big band opened the famed Cotton Club in Harlem. It was the first appearance of the Duke’s new and larger group. He played the club until 1932.

For part 2:

• 1934 ~ Ethel Merman recorded I Get a Kick Out of You, from Cole Porter’s musical, Anything Goes. She was backed by the Johnny Green Orchestra. The tune was recorded for Brunswick Records.

• 1934 ~ Wink (Winston Conrad) Martindale, TV host, singer

• 1938 ~ Yvonne Minton, Australian mezzo-soprano

• 1940 ~ John Cale, Bass, keyboard, viola, singer with The Velvet Underground

• 1942 ~ Bob Mosley, Bass with Moby Grape

• 1942 ~ Chris Hillman, Guitar, bass, mandolin with The Byrds

• 1944 ~ Dennis Wilson, American rock-and-roll singer and drummer

• 1948 ~ Southside Johnny (Lyon), Singer with Southside Johnny and The Asbury Dukes

• 1965 ~ Composer, lyricist, and singer, Jacques Brel made his American debut in concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Brel composed Jackie, You’re Not Alone, If You Go Away and more.

• 1972 ~ Billy Paul from Philadelphia received a gold record for his smash hit, Meand Mrs. Jones.

• 1976 ~ Baron (Edward) Benjamin Britten (of Aldeburgh) died in Aldeburgh. He was a British composer, conductor, and pianist.
More information about Britten

• 2002 ~ Emmy-nominated pianist George Gaffney, who accompanied such musicians as Peggy Lee, Engelbert Humperdink and Sarah Vaughan, died. He was 62. Born in New York City, Gaffney began studying the piano at age 10 but switched to the trombone. After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1958 to 1961, Gaffney returned to New York, where he played piano and began arranging and accompanying singers. Gaffney moved to the Chicago area in the mid-1960s and was musical director of the Playboy Club in Lake Geneva, Wis., where he first met Vaughan. Gaffney came to California in the early 1970s and found work as a studio musician and accompanist. He worked on a number of television programs, including the TV series “Moonlighting,” and was nominated for an Emmy. From 1980 to 1990, he was Vaughan’s accompanist and musical director. He moved to Las Vegas in 1994 and worked as Humperdink’s musical director. In recent years, he also orchestrated tunes for Rita Moreno.

• 2002 ~ Mary Hansen, guitarist and vocalist with the ’90s alternative band Stereolab died. She was 36. Hansen, from Maryborough in Queensland, Australia, died in a cycling accident in London, The Independent newspaper reported Friday. Details of the accident were not available. Band spokesman Mick Houghton was quoted by The Independent as saying a truck might have backed into her, “but I really don’t know much more than that.” Hansen joined the band in 1992, two years after it was formed by Tim Gane, formerly of the band McCarthy, and his girlfriend Laetitia Sadier. Among hundreds of messages posted on the band Web site, one from a fan who identified himself as Louis called Hansen “the soul” of the band. Hansen, who played several instruments, first appeared on 1992’s LoFi single and all subsequent releases, including 1994’s Mars Audiac Quintet and 1996’s Emperor Tomato Ketchup. Stereolab had been working on a new album, expected to be released next year.

• 2003 ~ Barry Morell, a tenor who played leading roles at the Metropolitan Opera and internationally for more than two decades, died of esophageal cancer. He was 75. Morell began his career as a baritone, until he sought the guidance of former Metropolitan Opera baritone Giuseppe Danise, who told him he should be a tenor. He was best known for performing the operas of Puccini. He made his debut as Pinkerton in “Madame Butterfly” in 1955 with the New York City Center Opera Company. In 1958, he made his Met debut in the same role. He appeared in Berlin, Barcelona, Vienna and other opera houses in Europe, South America and across the United States. Among his more than 20 roles during 257 performances at the Met were Rodolfo in “La Boheme,” Enzo in “La Gioconda” and the title roles of “Don Carlo”and “Faust”.