Cab Calloway’s engagements at the Apollo Theater in Harlem (part 1)

The Apollo Theater in Harlem is a milestone in the showbusiness’ landscape. Not only for jazz but also for soul, pop, rock, rap, comedy, dance and amateur performances. This venue who has revealed to the world artists like Ella Fitzgerald, THelma Carpenter, Ruth Brown, Sarah Vaughan, Lauryn Hill, etc. thank to its famous Wednesday Amateurs’ Night, has welcomed thousands of performers, vaudeville acts, Black or white.

And among them, Cab Calloway. Thanks to the considerable surviving archives, the many photos, press ads and testimonies (by other performers, reviewers, members of the audience), The Hi De Ho Blog proudly presents the very first history and survey of the 26 week-engagements (plus the many benefits evenings, and other events) when “Hi De Ho” resonated in the 125th Street’s temple of music.


Part 1: The Thirties,
When the Cotton Club star comes to real Harlem

While Cab Calloway was always busy in Harlem at the Cotton Club, he had probably no contractual possibility to have a week-engagement at the Apollo. He could only appear there for a benefit, but nothing more. But other Calloways could appear on the stage of the Apollo:

1934 0707 The_New_York_Age_Apollo AD Jean Calloway.jpg1934 0811 The_New_York_Age_Apollo AD Harriet Calloway.jpg

• JEAN Calloway (spelled “Jane”), with the “Indian Fantasy” revue, Willie Bryant Orchestra, Alma Hubbard, 3 Brown Buddies, 4 Chords, Johnny Lee Long & Pigmeat: the week of July 6, 1934 (coincidentally, Harriett was on the bill of neighbor Lafayette Theatre).

HARRIETT Calloway with “Bits From Hits” revue, Willie Bryant Ork, Dusty Fletcher & John Mason, Jimmy Baskett, the 4 Blazes, Bert & Barbara Sherman: the week of August 10, 1934.

Of course, neither Jean nor Harriet are related to Cab but took profit of the name’s fame. See our article.


1935 0920 Blanche Calloway Apollo Marquee photo (Ghosts of Harlem).jpeg
Big flag and marquee in honor of Blanche Calloway at the Apollo (September 1935).
Source: The Ghosts of Harlem, Hank O’Neal

BLANCHE Calloway, Elizabeth Kelly, 4 Step Brothers, Mae Johnson, Elma Middleton, Eddie Green, Ralph Cooper, Rhythm Willie, Walter Batie & Clarence Foster, the week of June 6, 1935. Check our website for a forthcoming article about Blanche’s 10 performances at the Apollo until July 1941.


As explained by Stephanie Crease in her biography of Chick Webb, Rhythm Man, “starting on opening night, January 26, 1934, the New 125th Street Apollo Theater became the hotspot for Harlem audiences and entertainers.” (…) “The schedule was crazy for performers: shows ran from Friday to Wednesday and played five or six times a day on weekends, including the wildly popular midnight shows.”


May 26, 1934, NAACP Midnite Benefit

Cab’s first appearance at the Harlem Apollo was just a few months after its opening. "Courtesy of Irving Mills", Cab Calloway (without his orchestra) joined the many performed for the mamoth benefit organized by the Pittsburgh Courier for the N.A.A.C.P. In the advertising below, you'll notice the several artists from the Cotton Club and many other famous names. The "Sepia Mae West" is none other than Mae Johnson.

Cab Calloway "will fly in from Philadelphia where he's booked at the Earle Theatre during the week of May 25th." (Pittsburgh Courier, May 19, 1934).

1934 0526 Benefit Apollo AD.png
"Ill be there" announced Cab Calloway with a picture of him in The Pittsburgh Courier dated May 19, 1934.
As many many others stars of the African-American stage.


March 20, 1935, Cab as a guest star during the Amateur night

Along with the NICHOLAS Brothers, Cab Calloway entertained the audience and radio fans as guest star during the amateur night, hosted by bandleader Willie BRYANT, broadcasted on WNEW-ABC.

A year later (!), Cab will head the revue for a week.

April 10-16, 1936: the first steps!

What happened just before:

• Release of the movie The Singing Kid, with Al Jolson [link to HideHoBlog article]

• April, 3-9: Hippodrome, Baltimore, MD

1936 0410 playbill.png
A rare handbill printed in color by the Apollo Theater
for Cab’s first engagement there.



• Cab’s first week-engagement at the Apollo.

• 5 shows daily (plus midnight show on Saturday 11 and Tuesday 14)

• “Cab Calloway’s week at the Apollo broke house records from way back, with the fact that the school kids were on vacation aiding the cause.” (Malcolm B. Fulcher, The Afro American, April 25, 1936)



The Cotton Club Orchestra, probably: Lammar Wright, Shad Collins, Irving Randolph (trumpet), De Priest Wheeler, Keg Johnson, Claude Jones (trombone), Garvin Bushell, Andrew Brown (clarinet, alto saxophone), Ben Webster, Walter Thomas (clarinet, tenor saxophone), Bennie Payne (piano), Morris White (guitar), Milton Hinton (bass), Leroy Maxey (drums).


Other performers and acts:

Lethia Hill, Nicodemus, Ralph Brown, Dynamite Hooker, Alfreda Allman, Gallie De Gaston, Crackshot & Parks, Teddy Allen, Slick Chester, 16 Harperettes


On screen:

The Leavenworth Case


1936 0411 NY Age Apollo ad.jpg
New York Age, April 11, 1936


Songs and tunes performed:

Possible list:

Songs played in The Singing Kid (shot in January 1936, released on April 11):

  • I Love To Sing-A
  • You’re The Cure For What Ails Me
  • Keep That Hi-de-Ho In Your Soul
  • Save Me Sister

Songs in the current repertoire:

  • Some of These Days (as in The Shell Chateau radio broadcast)
  • Cotton (sung by pianist Benny Payne, as in The Shell Chateau radio broadcast)


“Cab Calloway had his magic working over time all during the past week at the Apollo Theatre and it was a source of pleasure to this writer to see him packin ‘em in when some of the wise guys would gave you believe that Sir Calloway has lost his box office appeal. For this reason, I repeat again that Cabell is the most amazing personality in the music world.” (Allan McMillan, The Chicago Defender, April 18, 1936)


1936 0410 ca Apollo with Ben Webster.png
Cab Calloway probably on the stage of the Apollo.
You can spot Ben Webster on tenor sax, bottom right.

What’s happening right after:

• 17 – First Modern Arts Ball (+ “Miss Cela Lee of the Stork Club in New York, will sing during supper, after which there will be one of the first public showings of old-fashioned movies, which will include the first Walt Disney and some of the thrillers of former days with William S. Hart and Theda Bara”), Copley-Plaza, Boston, MA

• 18 – Benefit performance (along with Georgie Price, Ed Sullivan Lillian Roth, Rudy Vallee, Walter O’Keefe, Bob Hope, Phil Baker, Rubinoff, Jimmy Durante, etc., Milton Berle, mc, Vincent Lopez orchestra) staged by the masonic Theatrical Square Club (broadcast over WMCA at 11:15 pm), Hotel Linsmore, New York, NY

• 18 (10 pm-till dawn) – “Hi-de-Ho Spring Hop”, Floorshow for the annual ball of the New Theatre magazine group. Dance contest “New dance – Hi de Ho Hop Truckin’ contest, winner judged by Cab Calloway”), St Nicholas Palace, New York NY


1936 0410 ca Apollo with ork.png
Cab Calloway probably on the stage of the Apollo with a larger angle on the orchestra.
I date those pictures from the fact that Cab wore that outfit for the movie “The Singing Kid”
shot in January and just released that week, on April 11.



1936 0410 handbill.png
Another handbill with a sharp portrait of Cab


August 8-14, 1936: Easy money…

What happened just before:

• 7-13 – Loew’s State Theatre, NEW YORK, NY

• 9 – Dance, 3,000 attendants, Spanish Gardens, Lake Compounce, Bristol, CT


1936 0815 NYAge Apollo Ad.jpg
New York Age, August 15, 1936
(note that the photograph used for Cab was taken in January 1933
by Carl Van Vechten and since used on many promotional materials)



• 5 shows daily (plus midnight show on Saturday 9)

• During the Wednesday Amateur Hour broadcast, the Afro American columnist Malcolm B. Fulcher, who deplores the “silliness” of such radio shows, points Cab Calloway and Willie Bryant as great announcers for the candidates.

• On May 18, Joe Louis knockouts Jack Sharkey, enhancing the mood in Harlem that night: “Cab Calloway howled louder and with more enthusiasm down at the Apollo Theatre where the throngs howled with him.” (Otto McClarrin, Philadelphia Tribune, Aug 20, 1936)

• A new organization of Black performers in vaudeville is founded to act against Shiffman (The New York Amsterdam News, Aug 29, 1936)



The Cotton Club Orchestra, probably: Lammar Wright, Shad Collins, Irving Randolph (trumpet), De Priest Wheeler, Keg Johnson, Claude Jones (trombone), Garvin Bushell, Andrew Brown (clarinet, alto saxophone), Ben Webster, Walter Thomas (clarinet, tenor saxophone), Bennie Payne (piano), Morris White (guitar), Milton Hinton (bass), Leroy Maxey (drums).


Other performers and acts:

Lethia Hill, Red & Curley, Ralph Brown, Lovey Lane, Pigmeat, John Mason, Jimmy Baskett, Vivian Harris

“The exotic creature in the Cab Calloway merry-go-round at the Apollo last week was Love Murphy billed as Lovey Lane, which is her stage name" (Allan McMillan, The Chicago Defender, Aug 22, 1936)


On screen:

Easy Money


Songs and tunes performed:

Possible list:

Songs recently released on discs (recorded on May 21):

  • Love Is The Reason
  • When you’re Smiling
  • Jess’s Natu’lly Lazy (comic duet between Cab and trombonist Claude Jones)
  • Are You In Love With Me Again?



“Cab Calloway Tops Apollo’s Show. Cab bringing unique twists for numbers – Harper revue on Program. Box office records indicate that Calloway is today at the height of his career, and dance halls, armories and theatres where he has appeared during the past few months report ge has set additional records, executed by very few of the greatest on the stage. His repertoire at the Apollo includes some unique arrangements of some of the latest song hits, including those which Calloway used in his recent talking pictures.” (The New York Amsterdam News, Aug 15, 1936)


What’s happening right after:

• August, 21-27 – with Leitha Hill, Nicodemus, Dynamite Hooker, Ralph Brown, Shea’s, Toronto (prob), ONT, CANADA

• September 24: The main event is the opening of the Cotton Club in Manhattan, co-heading with Bill Robinson


December 15, midnight, 1936: a first benefit performance

Stage Jamboree of the Colored Actors’ and Performers’, for the benefit of the Colored Actors’ Welfare Fund

1936 1205 Jamboree at Apollo AD.png

Other performers (confirmed):

Bassa Moona Dancers, Sammie Page, Bill Robinson, Ruth Morrow, Hazey Diaz, Willie Dukes, the Lucky Sisters, Pigmeat, Jimmy Baskett, Hilda Rogers, Blind Steel, Johnson and Dean, Joyner and Williams, the Reeves Sisters, Essie Love Queen, Richard Huey, El Brown, Raymond Kaalund, The Palmer Brothers, Rhythm Brown, the Three Little Sachs, Dick Porter, Willie Bryant, Putney Dandridge, Tom Whaley, Rex Ingram, the Southernaires, W.C. Handy, Leigh Whipper, Doc Strain, Alberta Perkins, Billy Hicks, Jack Carter.

March 26-April 1, 1937: Worthy of praise

What happened just before:

• Closed the Cotton Club Revue on March 16 (ca)

• 16 – Yiddish Revue by Sholom Secunda (along with Dave Rubinoff and Joe Ricardel), Public Theatre, New York, NY

• 17 – Recording session, World Studios, New York, NY

• 18-25 – RKO Theatre, Boston, MA


1937 0327 NYA CAb Calloway at the Apollo with Avis Andrews.jpg
New York Age, March 27, 1937



• 5 shows daily (plus midnight show on Saturday 27)

• Cab succeeds to Count Basie and his Orchestra who had their first one-week engagement at the Apollo. Cab meets Count at the Apollo backstage. He offered to bring whoever he wanted to see him with to the Cotton Club in Manhattan. Bill Basie went there with a couple of friends. Basie recalls it in his autobiography:

Cab “had reserved a choice table for us, and between sets he came over and we chatted. Then when we got ready t leave, I told him how much we enjoyed the show, and he took me aside for a minute. "Look, I wish you all the success in the world, and if at any time you get into any trouble here, let me be the first one you see before you see anyone else."

"I’ll never forget that. He was one of the most popular names in show business at that time, and he was still just as much for me as he had been back when I first met him." (...)

"No matter what happens. If you make it or you don’t. Whatever happens, if you need anything, see me first.”



The Cotton Club Orchestra, probably: Lammar Wright, Shad Collins, Irving Randolph (trumpet), De Priest Wheeler, Keg Johnson, Claude Jones (trombone), Garvin Bushell, Andrew Brown (clarinet, alto saxophone), Ben Webster, Walter Thomas (clarinet, tenor saxophone), Bennie Payne (piano), Morris White (guitar), Milton Hinton (bass), Leroy Maxey (drums).


Other performers and acts:

Avis Andrews, the Tramp Band, Evelyn Keyes, Rodney & Gould, Dusty Fletcher, Margaret Simms, 16 Harperettes


On screen:

Secret Valley


Songs and tunes performed:

Possible list:

Songs in the current repertoire from the last Cotton Club Revue:

  • There’s Love in My Heart
  • Copper Colored Gal
  • Frisco Flo
  • The Jungle Jingle
  • I’m at the Mercy of Love
  • Doin’ the Suzie-Q
  • The Weddin’ of Mister and Missus Swing
  • That’s What You Mean to Me
  • Black Magic
  • Hi-De-Ho Miracle Man


Songs recently recorded (on March 17):

  • Wake Up And Live
  • Manhattan Jam



“Sir Calloway’s band is much improved since I heard it last season, being possessed with more unforced rhythm than ever. We used to say that it was all Cab, but now we must consider the men in the ensemble as being worthy of praise. I like the piano work of Benny Payne, especially well, and there is a fine saxophone player by the name of Ben Webster.” (Christine Lloyd, Atlanta Daily, April 5, 1937)


What’s happening right after:

• En route for a 12-week tour (South, East, Midwest, Canada)

• The Apollo chorines will go on strike for overwork and raise of salary in April 1937


July 30-August 7, 1937: A personality without a worthwhile carbon copy

What happened just before:

• July, 5ca: Chu BERRY joins Cab’s band, replacing Ben Webster on sax tenor. For a couple of days, the two musicians play together on the bandstand.

• July 27 – Dreamland Ballroom, Conneaut Lake Park, PA


1937 0731 The_New_York_Age_Apollo AD_.jpg
New York Age, July 31, 1937



• 5 shows daily (plus midnight show on Saturday 31)

• First New York gig for Cab with his new feature musician, Chu Berry.



The Cotton Club Orchestra, probably: Lammar Wright, Shad Collins, Irving Randolph (trumpet), De Priest Wheeler, Keg Johnson, Claude Jones (trombone), Garvin Bushell, Andrew Brown (clarinet, alto saxophone), Chu Berry, Walter Thomas (clarinet, tenor saxophone), Bennie Payne (piano), Morris White (guitar), Milton Hinton (bass), Leroy Maxey (drums).


Other performers and acts:

Ann Lewis, Drusilla Drew, Tootie & Al, Maxie Armstrong, Pigmeat, John Mason, Jimmy Baskett


On screen:

Border Cafe


Songs and tunes performed:

Possible list:

Songs in the current repertoire:

  • Peckin’


Songs recently recorded (on March 17):

  • Wake Up and Live (Cab, voc)
  • Goodnight Baby (Cab, voc)
  • Manhattan Jam


1937 0731 Daily_News_Apollo AD_.jpg
Daily News, July 31, 1937



• “Cab Calloway broke gangs of records in his first couple of days at the Apollo.” (Alfred A. Duckett, New York Age, August 7, 1937)

• “Cab Packs ‘Em in at Apollo – Returning to New York and Harlem after a thirteen weeks tour of the larger theatres of the country, Cab Calloway and His Cotton Club Orchestra are packin’ ‘em in at the Apollo currently. The conceded king of hi de ho, heading a large and effective cast, is presenting for Apollo patrons an entirely new repertoire of popular swing numbers and as a result is going over bigger than ever before.” (Pittsburgh Courier, August 7, 1937)

• “We’ve enjoyed this week at the Apollo theatre, in fact, we always enjoy a week on the home stomping grounds in Harlem.” (Cab Calloway, writing as a guest columnist for Billy Rowe’s “Harlem Note Book”, Pittsburgh Courier, August 14, 1937)

• “Cab Calloway, King of Hi-De-Ho, convinced New York (and a great deal of it) last week that he still deserve to reign on his throne. The skeet-scat man still remains a personality without a worthwhile carbon copy.” (Alfred A. Duckett, Afro American, Aug 21, 1937)


What’s happening during the week:

• 3 (9 pm) – Guest with the Charioteers and Conrad Thibault, on Ben Bernie’s American Can radio program, American Can Company, at 9 p.m., EST., over KLO and NBC-Red

• 7 (8 pm) – Guest (“with a small swing combination” “a small aggregation of his picked men”: Doc Cheatham, Chu Berry, Chauncey Haughton, Bennie Payne) on “Saturday Night Swing Club” radio show. Cab sings: On The Sunny Side of The Street, Oh Lady Be Good, CBS Studio N°1, 485 Madison Avenue, New York, NY


What’s happening right after:

• Filming of Manhattan Merry-Go-Round at Brooklyn Studios (read our article)

• Blanche Calloway will play the Apollo on August 27 for a week.

• Rehearsing for the new revue at Manhattan’s Cotton Club which opens on September 24, 1937.

December 17, midnight, 1937: Monster benefit

Midnight Show to fill the Christmas baskets, sponsored by The Negro Actors Guild, Inc. and the New York Amsterdam News


1937 1218 NYAN Benefit Xmas show at Apollo.jpg
New York Amsterdam News, December 18, 1937


Other Performers (announced):

Bojangles Robinson, Fredi Washington, Avis Andrews, Tramp Band, Three Chocolateers, Mitzie Green, Nicholas Brothers, Willie Bryant and band, Dave Vine, Three Peppers, Joe Marsala’s band, Chick Webb and band, Ella Fitzgerald, Vernon Andrades’s band, Helen Humes, Barrington Guy, Henri Wessels, Plantation Girls, Allen Carrelea, Rudy Valle, Ed Wynn, Eddie Garr, Geo M. Cohan, Louis Prima (spelled: Lewis Premo), Jim Barton, Noble Sissle, Charioteers, Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson, Alex Lovejoy, Maurice Rocco and Dottie Saulters, Timmie and Freddie…


Other performers (confirmed):

• Cab Calloway, along with Don Kerr, Jay C. Flippen, Bill Robinson, Fredi Washington and Ala Corelli served as masters of ceremonies.

• Noble Sissle and band, Edith Wilson, Billy Bands, Frohzen Stewart, George Dewey Washington, Peg Leg Bates, Maxine Sullivan, Joe Marsala, Benny Payne, Tramp Band, Dave Vines, Ernie Mack, Benny Goodman Quartet, Chick Webb and Band, Ella Fitzgerald, Midge Williams, Nicholas Brothers, Harris & Howell, Jigsaw Jackson, Eubie Blake and Band, Babe Matthews, Smiles and Smiles, Mickey (the hors with the human brain), “Little Ethel Waters” and Janice Dillard.



• Cab Calloway is one of the Chairman of the Executive Board of the newly created Negro Actors Guild.

• This is the first public action by the Negro Actors Guild.

• $2,000 were raised for the poor of Harlem.

April 1-7, 1938: Cab in ultra mild fashion

What happened just before:

• March 9: The movie “The Big Broadcast of 1938” where Cab appears is released in New York

• March 23: Recording session, World Studios, New York, NY

• March 27-30: Palace, Cleveland, OH


1938 0402 NYAN - Apollo AD.png
New York Age, April 2, 1938



• 5 shows daily (plus midnight show on Saturday 2)

• For that week engagement, singer Avis Andrews was much publicized with interviews and photos.



The Cotton Club Orchestra: Shad Collins, Irving Randolph, Lammar Wright (trumpet), Claude Jones, Keg Johnson, De Priest Wheeler (trombone), Chauncey Haughton, Andrew Brown (clarinet, alto saxophone), Chu Berry, Walter Thomas (tenor saxophone), Bennie Payne (piano), Danny Barker (guitar), Milton Hinton (bass), Leroy Maxey (drums).


Other performers and acts:

Avis Andrews, Stump & Stumpy, Cotton Club Boys, John Mason, John La Rue, Johnny Vigal, The Harperettes


1938 0402 Daily_News_Sat__Apr_2__1938_.jpg
Daily News, April 2, 1938


On screen:

Under Suspicion


Songs and tunes performed:

Possible list:

Songs in the current repertoire (last Cotton Club Revue, closed on March 8):

  • Go South Young Man,
  • She’s Tall, She’s Tan, She’s Terrific,
  • Hi-De-Ho Romeo,
  • Harlem Bolero
  • I’m Always in the Mood for You
  • Savage Rhythm


Songs recently recorded (on March 23, 1938):

  • Azure
  • Skrontch
  • We’re Breakin’ Up A Lovely Affair
  • Peck-A-Doodle-Do
  • At The Clambake Carnival
  • Hoy-Hoy


1938 0401 Cab at Apollo Flyer Ro with Avis Andrews.jpeg
Apollo handbill featuring Avis Andrews



• “Cab Calloway broke records box offices as we predicted he would. (…) Apollo theatre fans call Cab back to do a number over not less than three times at every performance… and to say that the creator of ‘Minnie The Moocher’ likes this sort of thing is stating it in ultra mild fashion.” (Al Moses, Atlanta Daily World, April 18, 1941)


What’s happening during that week:

“In Cab Calloway’s autobiography, Benny Payne, his piano player, reminisced about the way the doubling routine worked for the Calloway band when they played the Apollo and the Paramount simultaneously: ““We were already playing five shows a day at the Apollo.... For four days we played eight shows a day. I never will forget that. We played two shows at the Apollo, got taxicabs downtown to the Paramount, ran back uptown just in time for the next show at the Apollo, jumped in cabs again to get downtown for the second Paramount show, came back uptown, then downtown again, then back uptown for the midnight show at the Apollo.” (quoted in Showtime at the Apollo)

But the anecdote is too good to be authentic. This indeed could have happened during that Apollo engagement, but their Paramount engagement occurred a couple of weeks earlier and ended on March 22…


What’s happening right after:

• April 8-14 – Week engagement “That Calloway infection is rife at the Earle this week and should be epidemic throughout the town this week. Because Cab is plumb busting, not only with zaz-u-zaz ana hi-de-ho germs, but has a new microbe, the "Whoo-op-boo-om!"” (in Washington Post, Apr 9, 1938), Earle Theatre, Washington, DC


December 16, 1938: Benefit for the Xmas Fund


1938 1217 Stars Who Will Appear On Midnight Benefit Show Friday.jpg
Artie Shaw, Buck, Bojangles, Helen Morgan, Maceo Thomas, Carol Chilton, June Richmond and Cab...
New York Amsterdam News, Dec 17, 1938

Along with Teddy Wilson, Lionel Hampton, Fats Waller, Jimmy Lunceford, WC Handy, Tiny Bradshaw… Cab appeared at the Midnight show Benefit “Xmas Fund” sponsored by the New Yor Amsterdam News. The whole night was broadcasted on WMCA.


March 10-17, 1939: June in March

What happened just before:

• February 20: Recording session, World Studios, New York, NY

• March 8: Closing of the Cotton Club Revue


1939 0311 NY Age Apollo Ad with Berry Bros and June Richmond.jpg
New York Amsterdam News, March 11, 1939



• 5 shows daily (plus midnight show on Saturday 11)

• First and only appearance of the band singer June Richmond with Cab at the Apollo (she already played there many times, starting in 1934 and lastly as an added attraction with Andy Kirk in September 1938). She will leave the band for Andy Kirk soon after that engagement.


1939 0311 New York NY Age June Richmond.png
June Richmond, the new singer in Cab's orchestra



(15) Shad Collins, Irving Randolph, Lammar Wright, Doc Cheatham (trumpet), Claude Jones, Keg Johnson, De Priest Wheeler (trombone), Chauncey Haughton, Andrew Brown (clarinet, alto saxophone), Chu Berry, Walter Thomas (tenor saxophone), Bennie Payne (piano), Danny Barker (guitar), Milton Hinton (bass), Cozy Cole (drums), with June Richmond, band vocalist.


Other performers and acts:

3 Berry Brothers, June Richmond, Derby Wilson, Dusty Fletcher, Maxie Armstrong, Johnny LaRue, Sandy Burns, George Wiltshire, 16 “Lovely dancers”


On screen:

Harlem Rides the Range


Songs and tunes performed:

  • Sylvia (pianist Benny Payne, voc)
  • My Heart Belongs to Daddy (Cab, voc)
  • Ratamacue (featuring drummer Cozy Cole)
  • One Alone (June Richmond, voc)
  • Where Has My Little Dog Gone? (June Richmond, voc)
  • Hold Tight (Cab and June Richmond, voc, with pianist Benny Payne)


Songs recently recorded (on February 20):

  • Long, Long Ago
  • Afraid Of Love
  • Ratamacue (confirmed above)
  • Ad-De-Dey



• “Calloway is in home port this week. Brakes are off, and the net result ranks among the best Apollo has offered. Not from the angle of performers, but from performances. Act is essentially the same as on Calloway’s other recent theatre dates, but here it lets go and uncoils into an informal and enthusiastically received 65 minutes. House production wisely keeps the line and comedians under semi-wraps, handing almost the entire running-time to Calloway. Band is onstage behind a drop for a line try which opens. (…) Calloway gets a kingly intro from the line when he blossoms to a full stage. He’s heralded by trumpeting pages, with the line supplementing that with vocal superlatives, Calloway’s outfit, which has been together for a number of years and includes several outstanding men, is a solid aggregation, its output based on excellent arrangements. In contrast to the leader’s style of exiting to another vocal world, and his showmanly gyrations while conducting, the crew stays on solid ground as a rue where melody is concerned.

Several salient setups of pop tunes used here rate a nod. One is the oldie, ‘Sylvia,’ vocals of which are handled in okay style by Benny Payne, pianist. Second draws an unusual response from the audience, due more to Calloway’s vocal interpolation, but nevertheless is a great job in itself. Tune is the current ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy,’ done for the first half under wraps in symph style, breaking into a swingy version for Calloway’s pipe bit. Customers held up the show for an encore from the leader and got it.

Crew bounces back at ‘em with an inspiring writing of ‘Ratamacue, spotlightin Cozy Coles (sic: Cole) on the drums, also good for an encore, and on top of that come June Richmond. Band’s hefty vocalist is a show stopper by herself. She adheres closely to tunes she’s been doing elsewhere, but as mentioned before, the Apollo is home, and both she and Calloway let their down for informal comedy, terps, etc. that go far toward making the bit socko. Sarts seriously on ‘One Alone,’ a tipoff that it’ll wind up hot and it does. Next is ‘Where Has My Little Dog Gone?’ Best, though, is her combining with Calloway and pianist, Payne for a try at ‘Hold Tight.’” (Variety, March 15, 199)

• “Hi De Hi De Ho King Remains The Toast of Harlem – Cab Calloway, Prince of Hi-De-Ho, and his Cotton Club Orchestra, headed a sparkling revue at the Apollo theatre this week. Playing to capacity crowds at each performance, the stars presented many novelty acts in hot swing anf sophisticated rhythms. The band, boasting such nationally known musicians as Choo Berry, top-ranking saxophonist, and Cozy Coles, ace of drummers, carved a niche for itself in swing history. Maestro Cab was exceptionally entertaining in his rendition of songs that have made him a favorite of the airlanes and moviegoers the country-over. June Richmond, personable vocalist with te Calloway aggregation, stops the show with her swing-singing and occasional dance steps.” (The Chicago Defender, March 18, 1939)


What’s happening during the week:

• “A nationwide drive against smut in the theatre is being organized in New York. Dewey (Pigmeat) Markham and Jackie Mabley are among those against whom the drive is aimed.” (Louis Lautier, Afro-American, March 18, 1939)

• 10 – Gala Opening at the State Palace (on the site of the Manhattan Cotton Club) (along with Ray Block, Jimmy Durante, Ben Bernie, Duke Ellington, Nicholas Brothers, Bill Robinson…), State Palace, New York, NY


1939 Cozy COLE and friends outside the Apollo.jpeg
Drummer Cozy COLE and friends, outside the Apollo (1939)


What’s happening right after:

• March 21ca after: Tower Theatre, Lowell, Massachusetts

• March 24: Opening of the World’s Fair edition of the Cotton Club Revue with Bill Robinson, Sister Tharpe, Cotton Club, New York, NY


June 6, 1939: benefit for the children

Between 1 am and 5:45 am, an incredible range of stars (with their orchestras) appeared like Cab Calloway on the stage of the Apollo for the 8th annual benefit show of the Boy’s Advisory Committee of the Harlem Children’s Aid Society: Chick Webb (one of his last live performances), Jimmy Lunceford, Mercer Ellington, John Kirby, Noble Sissle, Eubie Blake, Duke Ellington, Rudy Vallee, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Nicodemus, Bill Robinson, the Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, Orson Welles, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Pete Johnson, Cab's pianist Benny Payne, etc.


December 15, 1939: another monster benefit show

The 3rd Annual New York Amsterdam News Benefit Show, "bigger and better than ever" offers to Harlemese audience the joy to see many stars of stage, radio and screen: Cab Calloway, of course, many artists of the Cotton Club show, Jimmy Mundy, Leo Watson, Hazell Scott, Andy Kirk, the Ink Spots, THelma Carpener, Louis Prima, Teddy Wilson, Ben Bernie, W.C Handy, Noble Sissle, etc.


1939 1216 NYA Monster Benefit Christmas Apollo.jpg
New York Amsterdam News, Dec 16, 1939


December 22-28, 1939: Jumpin’ with Tarzan in Harlem

What happened just before:

• December 16 (Midnight): Annual Toy Fund Revue, Shea’s Great Lakes, Buffalo, NY

• December 21 (9:30 pm- 2am): Dance, Blossom Heath, OK


1939 1223 NNY Age Apollo Ad.jpg
New York Age, December 23, 1939



• 5 shows daily (plus midnight show on Saturday 23)Death Of A Champion

• “Jumpin’ Jive” is “the only disc by a colored artist to be included in general popular best selling records for 1939

• Chappie Willett is the current arranger at this time


1939 1200 Apollo Orchestra singing standing (Claude Jones archives) (1).png
An exceptional snapshot of the orchestra taken from the audience at the Apollo, during its December 1939 engagement.
Back row: Milt Hinton, Dizzy Gillespie, Claude Jones, Lammar Wright (seated), Keg Johnson, DePriest Wheeler (cut)
Front row: Danny Barker, Walter Foots Thomas, Andrew J. Brown, Hilton Jefferson, Jerry Blake 
(Claude Jones Archives, Schomburg Center)


Mario Bauza, Dizzy Gillespie, Lammar Wright (tp); Claude Jones, Keg Johnson, DePriest Wheeler (tb); Chauncey Haughton, Andrew Brown, Chu Berry, Walter Foots Thomas (reeds); Benny Payne (p); Danny Barker (g); Milt Hinton (bass); Cozy Cole (d)


1939 1223 The_New_York_Age_THARPE Photo.jpg
Sister Rosette Tharpe, the sensation of the week
(New York Age, December 23, 1939)


Other performers and acts:

“and own revue”: Sister Rosetta Tharpe, 3 Chocolateers, Apus & Estelle [Estrellita], Helena Smith (“dancing soubrette”), Calloway’s Dancing Boys & Girls


On screen:

Death Of A Champion 


Songs and tunes performed:

Possible list:

Song in the current repertoire:

  • Jumpin’ Jive (Cab, voc)


Songs recently recorded (on October 17):

  • Chili Con Conga (Cab, voc)
  • Tarzan of Harlem (Cab, voc)
  • Jive Formation, Please (Cab, voc)
  • Vuelva


Songs recently recorded (on November 20):

  • A Bee Gezindt (Cab, voc)
  • Give, Baby Give (Cab, voc)
  • Sincere Love (Cab, voc)
  • Do It Again (Cab, voc)



• No review found so far.


What’s happening during the week:

• 23 (daytime) – Benefit distribution of 3,000 baskets to the poor, with Abe Bressler, to the poor of Bayonne, organized by heavyweight champion James J. Braddock, Christmas, Bayonne, NJ

• 24 or 25 – Second Annual Ball of Negro Actors Guild (along with Erskine Hawkins, Al Cooper), Savoy Ballroom, New York, NY

• Cab Calloway’s 32nd birthday.


What’s happening right after:

• 29-January 4 – Adams Theatre, Newark, NJ



Read Part 2: The Forties, from stardom to decline

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