Cab Calloway is a vastly underestimated but towering figure in American music.
Born in 1907 to college educated parents - highly unusual in 1907 - Calloway was a handful for his mom, who sent him to reform school some time after his father passed away.
When he came back from the school, Calloway was old enough to have two major talents: he was very athletic and very musical.
He had an opportunity to play for the Harlem Globetrotters but decided to go with music. Good thing that he did.
Calloway became a sensational band leader who had a massive hit in 1930 with Minnie The Moocher. His career went on for decades; he charted as late at 1978 with a disco version of MInne The Moocher and in 1980 had a star turn in The Blues Brothers movie.
In some ways, his most fun song was Calloway Boogie, which came out in 1948. Music had changed immensely since 1930 but Calloway was still on top of things.
His athleticism translated nicely into his energetic stage persona as well.
Calloway was immensely influential with people like James Brown, Little Richard and Louis Jordan, among others and that influence continues. John Landis, who directed The Blues Brothers, said that “Calloway is hip-hop.”
It’s 92 years since Minnie The Moocher came out and his influence has yet to fade.