Jazz


Although she was hardly the model for the song character of Minnie the Moocher, Blanche Calloway was the sister of both famous jive bandleader Cab Calloway and the lesser-known performer Elmer Calloway. Her first high-profile gigs were at the lively Ciro Club in New York City in the mid-'20s, leading to widespread touring with various revues and territorial bands. Some of these groups would establish residencies at Chicago clubs, giving the singer something of a foothold in the Windy City jazz scene. Of even more importance was a long stint at the Pearl Theatre in Philadelphia in 1931, where she was the front-line singer for the Andy Kirk band.

The next challenge was leading a group on her own, a process which continued through the fall of

1938. Although there were periods of success, the final chapter in her story as a bandleader would have to be numbered 11, literally. Official records from the year indicate that she filed for bankruptcy under her married name of Blanche Calloway Pinder, a move that made the dismantling of her musical group a necessity. In the '40s and '50s she continued working as a solo artist, and in the '60s she became the programming director of a radio station in Florida. She returned to her native Baltimore and retired the following decade. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi