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Makes you nine feet tall when you're four foot five
November 7, 2009 8:38 AM   Subscribe

Whether working with the Nicholas Brothers (Previously), working with the muppets, working with that funny, funny, funny reefer man, or making out with your wife, Cab Calloway never fails to entertain.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 (29 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Awesome! Like many a youth I got to know about Cab Calloway from his appearance in Blues Brothers. What a great performer! And wrote some great songs, too.
posted by Kattullus at 8:47 AM on November 7, 2009


I was "introduced" to Cab Calloway by Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie singing Minnie the Moocher in Jeeves and Wooster.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 8:55 AM on November 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also worked with Fleischer Studios in Betty Boop's Minnie the Moocher among others. (The studio apparently didn't recognize all the drug references in the Minnie the Moocher song).

Cab Calloway, seeing himself animated as a ghost, supposedly collapsed on the floor he was laughing so hard.
posted by eye of newt at 9:02 AM on November 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Or inspiring an entire Joe Jackson album.
posted by blucevalo at 9:34 AM on November 7, 2009


I like Janet Jacksons tribute to Cab Calloway (and the Nicholas Brothers)
posted by jouke at 9:57 AM on November 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hugh Laurie's other take on the song is pretty cool:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2eDqFqImFU

But no one'll surpass Cab.
posted by shetterly at 10:02 AM on November 7, 2009


In the Previously post the link to the Nicholas Brothers doing "I've got a Gal in Kalamazoo" is broken, so I need to rectify that. The first time I heard of the existence of Youtube the first thing I looked for was dance routines from the Nicholas Brothers because any modern convenience that brings more Nicholas Brothers goodness 24/7 is truly a betterment to all mankind. The same goes for Cab Calloway. The life they portrayed was endlessly happy and stylish.

During segregation Cab Calloway endeared himself to black and white audiences alike singing about reefer and prostitution. That's shear force of personality (and his straight hair and light skin didn't hurt either).

Thanks!
posted by readery at 10:03 AM on November 7, 2009


What sometimes gets overlooked, what with all the jive and drug references, is that Cab Calloway was an amazing jazz singer. One of the best male vocalists of the Swing Era.
posted by tommasz at 10:07 AM on November 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yay! Another excuse to link The Hepseter's Dictionary.
Some six years ago I compiled the first glossary of words, expressions, and the general patois employed by musicians and entertainers in New York’s teeming Harlem. That the general public agreed with me is amply evidenced by the fact that the present issue is the sixth edition since 1938 and is the official jive language reference book of the New York Public Library.

“Jive talk” is now an everyday part of the English language. Its usage is now accepted in the movies, on the stage, and in the song products of Tin Pan Alley. It is reasonable to assume that jive will find new avenues in such hitherto remote places as Australia, the South Pacific, North Africa, China, Italy, France, Sicily, and inevitably Germany and wherever our Armed Forces may serve.

I don’t want to lend the impression here that the many words contained in this edition are the figments of my imagination. They were gathered from every conceivable source. Many first saw the light of printer’s ink in Billy Rowe’s widely read column “The Notebook,” in the Pittsburgh Courier.

To the many persons who have contributed to this and the other editions, this volume is respectfully and gratefully dedicated.

—Cab Calloway
posted by carsonb at 10:11 AM on November 7, 2009 [7 favorites]


The Sesame Street Hi-de-ho short has always been one of my favorites. He was 78 in 1985.
posted by loquacious at 10:24 AM on November 7, 2009


Cab Calloway, seeing himself animated as a ghost, supposedly collapsed on the floor he was laughing so hard.

Wow, that cartoon is awesomely insane. And on top of all his other pioneering, he invented "ROFL"ing!
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:47 AM on November 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Love him. Have loved him since Sesame Street. What a fantastic mix of talent and persona.
posted by Lou Stuells at 11:03 AM on November 7, 2009


When I was a kid back in the 60's I went to see a Harlem Globetrotters show in, of all places, Waco, Texas. The "basketball" was what I expected, very much the same routines I had seen on television. But the halftime was memorable. Cab Calloway, replete in his white tails, was the entertainment. I had never heard of him before but I thought he was great and I've been a fan ever since. Kind of sad, though, that an artist like Calloway was reduced to playing backwater gigs for clueless white boys like me.
posted by jim in austin at 11:10 AM on November 7, 2009


Oh man, that Sesame Street appearance was so bizarre! Thank you.

And bringing up the Betty Boop shorts with him inevitably reminds me of the Squirrel Nut Zippers video I did a few scenes in; the whole thing was a tribute to that era of Fleischer shorts, and the opening scene directly apes the opening of the Fleischer "Minnie the Moocher" short...
posted by egypturnash at 11:14 AM on November 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


not many people are aware that Danny Elfman (along with his brother Richard) got his start doing a Cab Calloway musical revue (among other things) in The Mystic Knights of The Oingo Boingo. They did songs like St. James Infirmary, and Minnie The Moocher in their own inimitable style.
posted by shmegegge at 11:21 AM on November 7, 2009


also, thanks for this fpp. I'm a huge calloway fan, but I hadn't seen many of these videos. great stuff.
posted by shmegegge at 11:27 AM on November 7, 2009


My favorite Cab Calloway/Fleischer collaboration is St. James Infirmary Blues in Snow White. Starts at about 4:15 featuring Koko in the Calloway role.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 11:41 AM on November 7, 2009 [2 favorites]



shmegegge: "The Mystic Knights of The Oingo Boingo. They did songs like St. James Infirmary, and Minnie The Moocher in their own inimitable style."

St. James Infirmary by Fleischer. Possibly my favorite Fleischer cartoon.
posted by boo_radley at 11:42 AM on November 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


jinx!
posted by boo_radley at 11:47 AM on November 7, 2009


One of the best male vocalists of the Swing Era.

I heard him live -- a whole concert of mostly standards and torch songs, and I'll vouch for this. The man had a great, warm voice with an incredible range (I particularly remember his lovely version of Randy Newman's "I Think it's Going to Rain Today"). Like Screamin' Jay Hawkins ("I Put a Spell on You"), however, the full range of his talent was obscured by a novelty song that was all anyone ever wanted to hear. There's no question that "Minnie" was a great song, but Cab had 10,000 great songs right behind it.
posted by Faze at 11:49 AM on November 7, 2009


Wow, that St. James Infirmary cartoon is fantastic! I watched it a second time so I could pay attention to the backgrounds rather than the dancing.
posted by HeroZero at 12:42 PM on November 7, 2009


seriously, is anyone else noticing that the betty boop cartoons are fucking incredible? I mean, everyone knows the character, and has probably seen something of the cartoons at some point, but really sitting down and watching them, they're not just classics. people still don't do the shit they did on a regular basis any more. the last cartoon I saw that approached that level of sheer gleeful twisted lunacy was that scene about the kid with cartoon powers in the twilight zone movie, and that was straight ripped off of these cartoons.
posted by shmegegge at 2:08 PM on November 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


shmegegge -- There was a major appreciation cycle for Betty Boop/Fleischer/Cab Calloway cartoons in the late '60s. I attended a jam-packed showing of Boop toons in a revival theater off Harvard Square around then: hundreds of hippies absolutely going mad for this stuff. (Many who were on drugs may have never recovered.) There were Cab Calloway LPs among the Holy Modal Rounders and Kinks albums of many a hipster. The problem was, there were no VHS or DVDs at that time, and you had to wait until a pic'her show decided to put the Fleischertoons on the program, or you just couldn't see 'em. Many of that generation made straight for Betty Boop the moment VHS became available. Now the next thing you guys have got to discover is Busby Berkeley...
posted by Faze at 2:35 PM on November 7, 2009


Betty Boop is kind of all over the map. She started out as a dog! Then there were the early years of the sexy, flapper Betty. Like all of Hollywood, she was dulled down by the Hayes Code from about 1935 on.

So as not to derail the thread, here's another great Calloway collaboration: The Old Man of the Mountain.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 3:31 PM on November 7, 2009


Thanks for these! I've enjoyed listening to Cab Calloway on records, but recordings don't capture his charisma. He was a good singer, and as Gunther Schuller points out in "Early Jazz", he was one of the few early male African American jazz singers (besides Louis Armstrong) who consciously let himself sound African American. If you listen to the Ellington Band in the Blanton years, the music is great, but you have to cringe through all the awful male vocalists crooning through the lyrics.
posted by acrasis at 5:15 PM on November 7, 2009


Amazing that his voice was still so strong and clear when he did that Sesame Street performance at that age.
posted by dilettante at 5:27 PM on November 7, 2009


Is it just me or does the "making out with your wife" clip have shades of Purple Rain?

Now that I think of it Cab reminds me a little bit of Prince in general.
posted by GameDesignerBen at 6:56 PM on November 7, 2009


Now that I think of it Cab reminds me a little bit of Prince in general.

Huh. He really does have shades of Prince. Maybe Cab Calloway is an immortal, and just keeps changing his identity every few decades?
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 8:43 PM on November 7, 2009


And bringing up the Betty Boop shorts with him inevitably reminds me of the Squirrel Nut Zippers video I did a few scenes in; the whole thing was a tribute to that era of Fleischer shorts, and the opening scene directly apes the opening of the Fleischer "Minnie the Moocher" short...


I loved that video so much when it came out. Catchy tune too.
posted by The Whelk at 8:46 PM on November 7, 2009


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