Blanche Calloway, bandleader and much more

Blanche Calloway
Sun, 1902-02-09

*Blanche Calloway was born on this date in 1902. She was an African American singer and bandleader.

From Baltimore, MD, in 1921, Blanche Calloway (Cab Calloway’s older sister) made her professional debut in the Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle musical Shuffle Along. Later, she sang with her brother’s band for a number of years before forming her own group. After years of slight success, she fronted the Andy Kirk band for a short period, which gave her the momentum to form her most famous orchestra, known as Blanche Calloway and Her Joy Boys (an all male band.)

The group appeared all over New York including the Lafayette Theatre, the Harlem Opera House, and the Apollo Theatre. They also made several popular recordings. Calloway later gained fame when she led her group in a five-band tour with Bennie Moten, Andy Kirk, Chick Webb and Zack Whythe. Among the jazz sideman who appeared with Calloway were Cozy Cole, Ben Webster and Vic Dickenson. During these years her bands often performed songs she wrote. As a composer, she penned Growling Dan, I Need Love, and Rhythm of the River.

In the 1950s she moved to Florida and became a DJ for WMBM. The same station hired her as the Program Director, a position she held for 20 years before moving back to Baltimore where she spent the last years of her life. Blanche Calloway had a strong and influential career as a jazz singer and composer. She died on Dec 16, 1978 at the age of 76 years.

Black Women in America An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York
ISBN 0-926019-61-9

To Become a Musician or Singer

Person / name: 

Calloway, Blanche