Hi-de-ho: The Life of Cab Calloway

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Overview

Clad in white tie and tails, dancing and scatting his way through the "Hi-de-ho" chorus of "Minnie the Moocher," Cab Calloway exuded a sly charm and sophistication that endeared him to legions of fans.
In Hi-de-ho, author Alyn Shipton offers the first full-length biography of Cab Calloway, whose vocal theatrics and flamboyant stage presence made him one of the highest-earning African American bandleaders. Shipton sheds new light on Calloway's life and career, explaining how he ...

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Hi-de-ho: The Life of Cab Calloway

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Overview

Clad in white tie and tails, dancing and scatting his way through the "Hi-de-ho" chorus of "Minnie the Moocher," Cab Calloway exuded a sly charm and sophistication that endeared him to legions of fans.
In Hi-de-ho, author Alyn Shipton offers the first full-length biography of Cab Calloway, whose vocal theatrics and flamboyant stage presence made him one of the highest-earning African American bandleaders. Shipton sheds new light on Calloway's life and career, explaining how he traversed racial and social boundaries to become one of the country's most beloved entertainers. Drawing on first-hand accounts from Calloway's family, friends, and fellow musicians, the book traces the roots of this music icon, from his childhood in Rochester, New York, to his life of hustling on the streets of Baltimore. Shipton highlights how Calloway's desire to earn money to support his infant daughter prompted his first break into show business, when he joined his sister Blanche in a traveling revue. Beginning in obscure Baltimore nightclubs and culminating in his replacement of Duke Ellington at New York's famed Cotton Club, Calloway honed his gifts of scat singing and call-and-response routines. His career as a bandleader was matched by his genius as a talent-spotter, evidenced by his hiring of such jazz luminaries as Ben Webster, Dizzy Gillespie, and Jonah Jones. As the swing era waned, Calloway reinvented himself as a musical theatre star, appearing as Sportin' Life in "Porgy and Bess" in the early 1950s; in later years, Calloway cemented his status as a living legend through cameos on "Sesame Street" and his show-stopping appearance in the wildly popular "The Blues Brothers" movie, bringing his trademark "hi-de-ho" refrain to a new generation of audiences.
More than any other source, Hi-de-ho stands as an entertaining, not-to-be-missed portrait of Cab Calloway—one that expertly frames his enduring significance as a pioneering artist and entertainer.

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Editorial Reviews

Jonathan Yardley
[Shipton] makes a solid case for Calloway as a jazz musician as well as an entertainer, and he certainly makes you want to listen to "Minnie" and all the others, for the umpteenth time in my case and, it is to be hoped, for the first time in others'.
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher
"Mr. Shipton's excellent book should convince many readers and, I hope, some critics, that it might be time to experience Calloway's recordings and movies again, and try to discover, in part at least, what the hi-de-ho-ing was all about." —William F. Gavin, The Washington Times

"I met Cab Calloway at Eddie Condon's club — he lit up the room by his presence and I can understand why everyone loved the man. Alyn Shipton captures Cab's spirit in his biography Hi-De-Ho; every page is filled with anecdotes about Cab and his music. Chu Berry, Ben Webster, and other well known musicians spring from the pages. Not only does Shipton bring Cab Calloway to life, he makes the reader understand the era in which he lived. For a short time, we enter his world, and what a world it was." —Marian McPartland OBE, jazz pianist, writer, composer, radio host (Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz)

"If you think Cab Calloway was just a show-off chanting "Hi De Ho" and shaking his hair, think again. Thanks to Alyn Shipton, we now have an entirely new and convincing portrait of the singer/bandleader/actor. Thoroughly researched and engaging, Shipton's book has enlightened us with the complete story of this important artist." —Krin Gabbard, author of Hotter Than That: The Trumpet, Jazz, and American Culture

"Hi-De-Ho delivers! Beautifully written and multifaceted - this revealing biography crystallizes the transformative power of Cab Calloway's groundbreaking genius. In a manner as universal and inspiring as the legend portrayed, Shipton highlights the breadth and impact of my grandfather's continuing legacy." —Christopher Calloway Brooks, Director - The Cab Calloway Orchestra

"Shipton presents in admirable detail Calloway's professional apex as Cotton Club headliner and leader of the foremost big band in the United States and reveals him as a superior artistic tactician. He also offers critical reconsiderations of Calloway's vocal and instrumental recordings, making a strong case for his inclusion as a musical innovator in the class of Louis Armstrong or Duke Ellington. An essential purchase for any jazz or popular music collection." —Library Journal

"Makes a solid case for Calloway as a jazz musician as well as an entertainer, and he certainly makes you want to listen to 'Minnie' and all the others, for the umpteenth time in my case and, it is to be hoped, for the first time in others." —The Washington Post

"Shipton, for his part, is an enthusiastic advocate, not just for Calloway but also for the mostly forgotten instrumentalists who worked in his orchestra over the years. Yet his analysis of the recordings tends to be astute, and is the high point of this book. All celebrity musicians should be blessed with such a sympathetic listener for a biographer." —The Weekly Standard

"Alyn Shipton's is the first full-length book devoted to the man. The British broadcaster has written extensively about figures in the singer's orbit-including trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Doc Cheatham, guitarist Danny Barker, and songwriter Jimmy McHugh-and here deftly brings out the band's inner musical dynamics." —The Wall Street Journal

"Shipton gives [Calloway] his due. Must reading for swing buffs." —Terry Teachout

"This formidable book opens the door for future books on Calloway's enduring influence." -The Week

"Recommended for any music fan, particularly to those of us who had our first glimpse of Calloway in the 'Blues Brothers' movie." —The Herald Sun

"Enlightening. Thorough. This is the first real biography of an important cultural icon...Shipton describes how the Sesame Street producers saw potential in his attire and scatting vocalizations as he did "commercials" for numbers and letters. Cab jumped in enthusiastically. In The Blues Brothers he plays a janitor who, through movie magic, suddenly turns to Hi-De-Ho'ing while the Brothers are evading the police. As Shipton describes these moments, you're there." —JJA News

"Provides a reliable, fully informed account of Calloway's career, one in which the emphasis is placed squarely - and properly - on his musical achievements...I can think of no better way to be brought face to face with the extent of that achievement than to read Hi-De-Ho." —Commentary

"It is the great merit of Mr. Shipton's richly documented, well-written, and musically informed "Hi-De-Ho" that he makes a convincing case for Calloway as an unjustly neglected entertainer...Mr. Shipton's excellent book should convince many readers and, I hope, some critics, that it might be time to experience Calloway's recordings and movies again, and try to discover, in part at least, what the hi-de-ho-ing was all about." —The Washington Times

"Hi-De-Ho dutifully fulfills its role as the sorely needed and long-awaited starting point for Calloway studies, as Shipton opens the door to numerous avenues of future research on the performer." —American Music

Library Journal
Jazz critic Shipton follows his biography of Dizzy Gillespie (Groovin' High) and his extensive A New History of Jazz with the first full-length biography of the iconic originator of "Minnie the Moocher." At the height of his popularity in the Thirties, vocalist-bandleader Cab Calloway was the most popular and most highly compensated African American entertainer in the country. His scat vocals influenced American music from Louis Jordan to Tupac Shakur, and his stage costumes defined fashion for a generation of hipsters around the world. Shipton presents in admirable detail Calloway's professional apex as Cotton Club headliner and leader of the foremost big band in the United States and reveals him as a superior artistic tactician. He also offers critical reconsiderations of Calloway's vocal and instrumental recordings, making a strong case for his inclusion as a musical innovator in the class of Louis Armstrong or Duke Ellington. VERDICT With Calloway's private life as a secondary focus, this will be more compelling for fans of jazz and vintage popular music than for average readers. An essential purchase for any jazz or popular music collection.—John Frank, Los Angeles P.L.
Kirkus Reviews

Jive-spouting bandleader gets a long-overdue first full-length biography.

The Times (London) jazz critic Shipton (I Feel a Song Coming On: The Life of Jimmy McHugh, 2009, etc.) takes a sometimes overly detailed and not always revealing look at the antic "Hi-De-Ho" man Cab Calloway (1907–1994), who burst onto the national scene in the early '30s with his vocal hit "Minnie the Moocher." Raised in Baltimore, Calloway followed in the musical footsteps of his sister Blanche, who became a revue star at Chicago's Sunset Café, where Louis Armstrong also made his mark. Calloway quickly eclipsed his sibling with his extroverted singing and dancing—his players claimed that his bandleading relied more on miming than on musicianship—and he became a reigning hep cat in the early '30s at New York's Cotton Club. Within a few years, his band rivaled Duke Ellington's orchestra in popularity, and he achieved crossover fame through film appearances (and some vocal shots in Max Fleischer's Betty Boop cartoons). Calloway recorded prolifically through the late '40s, when changes in musical fashion forced him to lead a small combo. He installed himself as a cultural institution in the '50s and '60s with appearances on stage in Porgy and Bess and Hello, Dolly! and on film in The Blues Brothers. Shipton labors mightily to make a case for Calloway's abilities as a jazz leader whose groups included such great talents as Ben Webster, Milt Hinton and Gillespie (who was expelled after he cut his boss with a knife). However, it was Calloway's novelty vocals that made him famous, and the author's technical readings of recordings don't offer convincing evidence to the contrary. Too often the book sags under the weight of gig details and band itineraries, and Shipton ultimately fails to supply any sense of his subject's inner workings. Details of Calloway's personal and family life usually take a back seat to the progress of his musical career.

Readers get the scat but not the whole cat.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199931743
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 2/12/2013
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 811,640
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Alyn Shipton is the author of several award winning books on music including A New History of Jazz and Groovin' High: the Life of Dizzy Gillespie. He is jazz critic for The Times in London and has presented jazz programs on BBC radio since 1989. He is also an accomplished double bassist and has played with many traditional and mainstream jazz bands.

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Table of Contents

Introduction and acknowledgements
List of Illustrations
Chapter 1: 1907-1927
Chapter 2: 1927-1930
Chapter 3: 1930-1931
Chapter 4: 1931-1933
Chapter 5: 1933-1934
Chapter 6: 1934-1937
Chapter 7: 1937-1939
Chapter 8: 1939-1941
Chapter 9: 1941-1948
Chapter 10: 1949-1970
Chapter 11: 1971-1994
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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Customer Reviews

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