1907  Cab (Cabell) Calloway III was born on Christmas Day in Rochester, NY to Cabell Calloway II, a lawyer, and Martha Eulalia Reed, a teacher and church organist.

1918   The family moves to Baltimore, Maryland, the original home of Cab Calloway's parents.

1922  Cab Calloway's mother arranges for him to begin vocal lessons with Ruth Macabee, a former concert singer and family friend.  Macabee forbids Calloway to sing jazz.

1924   Cab Calloway enters Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore and studies voice with Llewelyn Wilson where he also excels in sports.  Spends his spare time at local speakeasies and jazz clubs.  His mentors are Chick Webb (drummer) and Johnny Jones (pianist).

1925   CabCalloway's older sister Blanche Calloway became a singing and band-leading star in Chicago.  Louis Armstrong, Vick Dickenson, Cozy Cole, and Ben Webster all record with “Blanche Calloway and Her Joy Boys”.   Cab plays drums in the Chick Webb style and sings with a four piece jazz combo at the clubs Gaiety, Baily’s and Goodlows in a style that includes both Dixieland and straight jazz.  Joins “Johnny Jones and his Arabian Tent Orchestra” at the Arabian Tent Club playing the “Baltimore version” of New Orleans Dixieland jazz.  Performs in revues and vaudeville shows at his high school and at the Regent Theatre.

1926  Cab Calloway plays basketball with the “Baltimore Athenians” a team of the Negro Professional Basketball League in his senior year of high school.

1927   Cab Graduates from Douglas High School in Baltimore.  Joins his sister Blanche in a summer tour of the popular black musical revue “Plantation Days” as tenor in a quartet.  Cab in Chicago with Blanche at the close of the show in the fall.

1928   Calloway's first Chicago nightclub gig is at the “Dreamland Café”, where he plays drums and sings.  Cab lands a steady gig performing with Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines at the “Sunset Café”, the Chicago equivalent of the “Cotton Club” in Harlem and becomes the “house” singer.  Shares the stage there with Louis Armstrong and the Carroll Dickerson band 5 nights week for 6 months. Cab Calloway takes over at  of the “Sunset Café” with club owner Joe Glaser’s encouragement when Louis Armstrong departs for New York. 

1929   Cab Calloway Becomes leader of the 11-piece Chicago band the “Alabamians” when Louis Armstrong and Carroll Dickerson leave the “Sunset Café” for “Connie’s Inn” in Harlem. Calloway quits Crane College to pursue his music career.  Cab signs with MCA and begins a tour ending at Chick Webb’s “Savoy Ballroom” in Harlem.  Calloway is chosen as the favorite bandleader and by the crowd.  Cab accepts an offer by Charles Buchanan, the manager of the “Savoy”, to take over as leader of the house band the “Missourians.”  Calloway the touring B’way show “Connie’s Hot Chocolate’s” at the Hudson Theatre with the help of his old partner Louis Armstrong who stars in the show.  It is here that Cab popularizes Fat’s Waller’s Ain’t Misbehavin”, and Cab first noticed by Irving Mills who is in the audience. 

1930   Cab Calloway and the Missourians open at the “Cotton Club” to replace the “Duke Ellington Orchestra” while it is on tour.  The Calloway debut at the “Cotton Club” is a huge success.  The shows are broadcast twice a week on national radio (NBC) and locally on WMCA.  Cab is featured as a guest artist on Walter Winchell’s “Lucky Strike” radio program and with Bing Crosby on his show at the “Paramount Theatre.”  Cab Calloway breaks the major broadcast network color barrier and becomes a symbol of jazz throughout the country.

1931   Cab Calloway and his band begins its residency at the “Cotton Club”.   The name of the band is changed to “Cab Calloway’s Cotton Club Orchestra”. Saxophonist Eddie Barefield joins the band.  Cab writes his first big hit and theme song “Minnie the Moocher”.  Cab and his band make their first recordings.  Cab Calloway and his Cotton Club Orchestra becomes the first African American Jazz Orchestra to tour the south.

1932   Famed trumpeter Doc Cheatham joins the Cab Calloway Cotton Club Orchestra.  Cab is featured in his first film “The Big Broadcast of 1932” by Paramount Pictures, with Bing Crosby, The Mills Brothers and others.  Cab is featured in Betty Boop animation short “Minnie the Moocher” by Fleischer Studios.  The Orchestra travels and performs throughout the country in ballrooms, theatres, concert halls and clubs as the headlined attraction, breaking box office records nationally.

1933   Calloway is featured in Betty Boop animation shorts “Snow White” and “The Old Man of the Mountain” by Fleischer Studios.  Featured in film comedy with WC Fields, “International House” by Paramount Pictures. Stars in musical short “Cab Calloway’s Hi-De-Ho” by Paramount Pictures.  Cab names a style of Lindy Hop Dancing "the Jitterbug"

1934   Popularizing the term Jitterbug, Cab stars in musical short “Cab Calloway’s Jitterbug Party” by Paramount Pictures.

1935   Cab Calloway is in film “Great Jazz Bands of the 30’s” by Paramount Pictures.

      Cab Calloway and his Cotton Club Orchestra begins its first tour of Europe.  They perform in London, Manchester, Amsterdam, The Hague, Antwerp, Brussels and Paris.

1936  Cab Calloway is featured in the Hollywood film “The Singing Kid”, with Al Jolson by Warner Brothers. The most recorded bassist in history, Milt Hinton, joins Cab Calloway and his Cotton Club Orchestra.

1937   Award winning tenor sax player Chu Berry joins Cab Calloway and his Cotton Club Orchestra.  Cab stars in musical short “Hi-De-Ho” by the Vitaphone Corp.  Featured in film “Manhattan Merry-Go-Round” by Republic Pictures Corp.

1938  The first edition of “Cab Calloway’s Hepster Dictionary: The Language of Jive” is published.  Hit drummer Cozy Cole joins Cab Calloway and his Cotton Club Orchestra.

1939   Legendary trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, who later goes on to create a whole new form of jazz, joins Cab Calloway and his cotton Club Orchestra.

1940  Cotton Club” closes. Cab takes his  orchestra to the “Club Zanzibar” where they make some of their finest live recordings.

1941  Trumpeter Jonah Jones, saxophonist Hilton Jefferson, and Andy Brown, joins the band. Cab stars on national radio in his own show called “Quizzacale” an African American parody of the Kay Kaiser “College of Musical Knowledge” radio show.  NBC airs it for nearly a year without a sponsor.

1942   Cab Calloway continues national tours to standing room only crowds ending in a two week run at the “Paramount Theatre” in NYC that breaks all attendance records.  Calloway stars in the film “Stormy Weather” with Bill “Mr. Bojangles” Robinson, Lena Horne, Fats Waller, The Nicholas Brothers, Ada Brown and others, by 20th Century Fox. Saxophonist Illinois Jacquet joins the band.

1944  Cab is featured in the musical revue film “Sensation’s of 1945” by United Artists.

       Calloway records numerous “Soundies”, (three minute music films) which are screened on Panorams all over the country.

1946    Historic "Texas Tenor" Ike Quebec joins the band.

1947   Cab stars in film “Hi-De-Ho” by All-American.  Featured in film musical “Ebony Parade” with Count Basie and Dorothy Dandridge by Astor Pictures Corp.

       Calloway records and performs with seven or eight pieces as “Cab Calloway and his Cab Jivers” or “Cab Calloway and his Cabaliers.”  Cab later performs with a trio consisting of Jonah Jones on trumpet, Milt Hinton on bass, and Panama Francis on Drums. Cab Calloway tours Havana, Cuba.

1948   Cab disbands his salaried big band in April, it becomes a “contract” band.

1950   Calloway plays “Sportin’ Life” in a hit revival of the Gershwin Broadway musical “Porgy & Bess”.  The show runs for 3½ years with one year in London and Paris.

1951   Cab Calloway Re-establishes the big band for a tour of South America, appearing in Montevideo, Uruguay during Carnival.

1953   Cab moves to London followed by a short stay in Paris with the “Porgy & Bess” production. 

  1954 Calloway tours South America, Mexico, Cuba, CA and the Caribbean.

1955   Cab tours Britain as a solo artist.  Featured in film musical revue “Rhythm and Blues Review” with Lionel Hampton, Sarah Vaughn, Nat “King” Cole and others for Studio Films, Inc. Cab continues touring nationally and internationally.

1956   Cab is featured in film musical revue “Basin Street review” with Count Basie, Sarah Vaughn, Lionel Hampton, Nat “King” Cole and others for Studio Films, Inc.

1957   Calloway is featured in film musical revue “Jazz Ball” with Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, The Mills Brothers, Gene Krupa, Artie Shaw and others.  Cab featured in stage production “Cotton Club Revue of 1957” in NYC.  

1958   Cab Calloway is featured in film “St. Louis Blues” with Nat “King” Cole, Pearl Baily, Eartha Kitt, Ruby Dee, Ella Fitzgerald and others for Paramount Pictures.  Cab records two songs as vocalist on “Porgy & Bess” Columbia LP with orchestra conducted by Andre Previn.  Cab tapes “Person to Person” CBS-TV show with Edward R. Murrow as host, at his home.

1965   Cab is featured in film “The Cincinnati Kid” with Steve McQueen and Edward G Robinson for MGM. Cab travels with the Harlem Globe Trotters and performs at half-time intermissions to audiences of 15,000 to 20,000 people.

1967  Cab Calloway stars in a hit revival of the Broadway musical “Hello Dolly” as “Horace Vendergelder” in an all black cast including Pearl Baily.  Cab tours with the production for over 3 yrs. Ending in Milwaukee.

1973   Cab stars in Broadway production “The Pajama Game” with Barbara McNair.

1975   Cab leads the Woody Herman Orchestra on tour.

1976  Cab Calloway publishes his autobiography (with Bryant Rollins) “Of Minnie the Moocher and Me” with the Thomas Y. Crowell Company, NYC.  C. Calloway Brooks is accepted by, and enters, New England Conservatory of Music.

1977   Cab’s first public performance with his    grandson C. Calloway Brooks.

1978   C. Calloway Brooks is featured in the first-ever Jazz Concert at Italy’s Rome Opera House.  Cab is featured in three episodes of “Sesame Street.”  Cab stars in the national touring company “Bubbling Brown Sugar.”  C. Calloway Brooks releases his first L.P. “Ikenne Rainbow”.

1980   Cab featured in film “The Blues Brothers” starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd with James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles for Universal Pictures.  Cab tours with the national company of “Eubie.”  C. Calloway Brooks graduates New England Conservatory of music on the Dean’s List.  National Radio and Records reports that Brooks’ “Ikenne Rainbow” tops jazz charts in the northeast for 3 months.

1982   Cab in documentary film “The Cotton Club” which includes interviews, vintage film clips and an impromptu performance.

1983   Cab Calloway and his grandson C. Calloway Brooks appear together in concert at the Kennedy Center on behalf of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education.

1984  Cab Calloway leads the Count Basie Orchestra, finishing it’s contractual obligations after Count Basie dies.  Cab appears with his grandson C. Calloway Brooks in Brooks’ concert at New England Conservatory of Music’s Jordan Hall in Boston.

1987   Cab is featured in documentary film “Minnie the Moocher and Many, Many, More”, a nostalgic tour of the Harlem clubs of the 30’s and 40’s.  He shares footage of Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Bill Robinson and himself as leader of the Cotton Club Orchestra.

1989   Cab is featured in Janet Jackson’s music video “Alright.”

1992   C. Calloway Brooks last appearance in concert with his grandfather Cab Calloway, in Baltimore MD, at a benefit for the Associated Black Charities.

1993   The 1993 “National Medal of Arts” is awarded to Cab Calloway by President Clinton at a White House ceremony.

1994   Cab Calloway dies on November 18th in Hockessin, Delaware as a result of a stroke in June of that year.  C. Calloway Brooks appears with other Orchestra alumni at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

1995   Cab is posthumously inducted into the “International Jazz Hall of Fame.”  C. Calloway Brooks appears along with Wynton Marsalis at first “Remembering Cab” concert.


1996   Cab’s grandson, C. Calloway Brooks begins pre-launch preparations for the Cab Calloway Orchestra.

1998-Present Cab Calloway Orchestra directed by C. Calloway Brooks is launched, performs for 2 months at Birdland, releases CD and Video, begins touring nationally to great acclaim.  C. Calloway Brooks begins work on his biography of Cab Calloway.  


The Calloway Family Legacy Marches On!


Have you got a fact to add to our timeline?  Here's your chance!

Timeline submission/comment Form

Select the items that apply, enter your message, and then let us know how to contact you.

I have new information to add
I have a correction to make
I have a comment

Please enter your message here