Blanche Calloway

Picture of Blanche Calloway

Blanche Calloway was the older sister of Cab Calloway and was a successful singer before her brother.  She was the first woman to lead an all-male orchestra and had a music career that spanned over fifty years.  Blanche had a brilliant stage presence and her style was known to be very flamboyant and a major influence on her brother's performance style and music.  Take a listen to "Just a Crazy Song" by Blanche to hear how much she influenced her little brother.  Keep in mind this song was recorded and released prior to Cab's famous song "Minnie the Moocher".

Listen to "Just a Crazy Song" by Blanche Calloway.

Blanche had become a successful entertainer in Chicago by the mid- 1920's.  At that point in time Chicago, was considered the  jazz capital of the world. She made her first recordings in 1925, hiring a young, up and coming musician named Louis Armstrong as a sideman.

In the early 1930's, Blanche joined Andy Kirk's Clouds of Joy as their featured vocalist. Her stay with Kirk's band was brief because she was fired when Andy found out that Blanche had plans to take over the orchestra. Shortly afterward, Blanche put together her own orchestra, first named Blanche Calloway and Her Joy Boys, later changing the name to Blanche Calloway and Her Orchestra.

After having a successful run throughout the mid-1930's and releasing some great sides including: "I Need Lovin", "Make Me Know It" and "You Ain't Livin' Right",  Blanche decided to disbanded her orchestra in 1938. She formed an all-women band in the early 1940s, but that band was short-lived and never came close to achieving the success of her earlier band.

You can hear many of Blanche Calloway's songs right here on Swing City Radio.

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