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Hi-De-Ho: The Life of Cab Calloway Hardcover – October 12, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

Review


"Mr. Shipton's excellent book should convince many readers and, I hope, some critics, that it might be time to experience Calloway's recordings and movies again, and try to discover, in part at least, what the hi-de-ho-ing was all about." --William F. Gavin, The Washington Times


"I met Cab Calloway at Eddie Condon's club -- he lit up the room by his presence and I can understand why everyone loved the man. Alyn Shipton captures Cab's spirit in his biography Hi-De-Ho; every page is filled with anecdotes about Cab and his music. Chu Berry, Ben Webster, and other well known musicians spring from the pages. Not only does Shipton bring Cab Calloway to life, he makes the reader understand the era in which he lived. For a short time, we enter his world, and what a world it was." --Marian McPartland OBE, jazz pianist, writer, composer, radio host (Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz)


"If you think Cab Calloway was just a show-off chanting "Hi De Ho" and shaking his hair, think again. Thanks to Alyn Shipton, we now have an entirely new and convincing portrait of the singer/bandleader/actor. Thoroughly researched and engaging, Shipton's book has enlightened us with the complete story of this important artist." --Krin Gabbard, author of Hotter Than That: The Trumpet, Jazz, and American Culture


"Hi-De-Ho delivers! Beautifully written and multifaceted - this revealing biography crystallizes the transformative power of Cab Calloway's groundbreaking genius. In a manner as universal and inspiring as the legend portrayed, Shipton highlights the breadth and impact of my grandfather's continuing legacy." --Christopher Calloway Brooks, Director - The Cab Calloway Orchestra


"Shipton presents in admirable detail Calloway's professional apex as Cotton Club headliner and leader of the foremost big band in the United States and reveals him as a superior artistic tactician. He also offers critical reconsiderations of Calloway's vocal and instrumental recordings, making a strong case for his inclusion as a musical innovator in the class of Louis Armstrong or Duke Ellington. An essential purchase for any jazz or popular music collection." --Library Journal


"Makes a solid case for Calloway as a jazz musician as well as an entertainer, and he certainly makes you want to listen to 'Minnie' and all the others, for the umpteenth time in my case and, it is to be hoped, for the first time in others." --The Washington Post


"Shipton, for his part, is an enthusiastic advocate, not just for Calloway but also for the mostly forgotten instrumentalists who worked in his orchestra over the years. Yet his analysis of the recordings tends to be astute, and is the high point of this book. All celebrity musicians should be blessed with such a sympathetic listener for a biographer." --The Weekly Standard


"Alyn Shipton's is the first full-length book devoted to the man. The British broadcaster has written extensively about figures in the singer's orbit-including trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Doc Cheatham, guitarist Danny Barker, and songwriter Jimmy McHugh-and here deftly brings out the band's inner musical dynamics." --The Wall Street Journal


"Shipton gives [Calloway] his due. Must reading for swing buffs." --Terry Teachout


"This formidable book opens the door for future books on Calloway's enduring influence." -The Week


"Recommended for any music fan, particularly to those of us who had our first glimpse of Calloway in the 'Blues Brothers' movie." --The Herald Sun


"Enlightening. Thorough. This is the first real biography of an important cultural icon...Shipton describes how the Sesame Street producers saw potential in his attire and scatting vocalizations as he did "commercials" for numbers and letters. Cab jumped in enthusiastically. In The Blues Brothers he plays a janitor who, through movie magic, suddenly turns to Hi-De-Ho'ing while the Brothers are evading the police. As Shipton describes these moments, you're there." --JJA News


"Provides a reliable, fully informed account of Calloway's career, one in which the emphasis is placed squarely - and properly - on his musical achievements...I can think of no better way to be brought face to face with the extent of that achievement than to read Hi-De-Ho." --Commentary


"It is the great merit of Mr. Shipton's richly documented, well-written, and musically informed "Hi-De-Ho" that he makes a convincing case for Calloway as an unjustly neglected entertainer...Mr. Shipton's excellent book should convince many readers and, I hope, some critics, that it might be time to experience Calloway's recordings and movies again, and try to discover, in part at least, what the hi-de-ho-ing was all about." --The Washington Times


"Hi-De-Ho dutifully fulfills its role as the sorely needed and long-awaited starting point for Calloway studies, as Shipton opens the door to numerous avenues of future research on the performer." --American Music


About the Author


Alyn Shipton is the author of several award winning books on music including A New History of Jazz and Groovin' High: the Life of Dizzy Gillespie. He is jazz critic for The Times in London and has presented jazz programs on BBC radio since 1989. He is also an accomplished double bassist and has played with many traditional and mainstream jazz bands.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195141539
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195141535
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 0.8 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,128,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alyn Shipton is the author of several award winning books on music including A New History of Jazz, I Feel a Song Coming On (a biography of songwriter Jimmy McHugh) and Groovin' High: the Life of Dizzy Gillespie. His biography of Harry Nilsson won the 2014 ARSC Award for best pop research, and the 2014 Deems Taylor /Virgil Thomson Award from ASCAP for pop biography. He is jazz critic for The Times in London and has presented jazz programs on BBC radio since 1989. In 2010 he was voted Jazz Broadcaster of the Year in the UK Parliamentary Jazz Awards. He is also an accomplished double bassist, having played with many traditional and mainstream jazz bands, and he lectures in jazz history at the Royal Academy of Music, London.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By David Keymer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
At the start of the `30s, bassist Gene Ramey played on a band that competed against singer-dancer-bandleader Cab Calloway's group in a "battle of the bands." At the end of the first set, Ramey was pretty certain the band he played with would win. Then the second set began. Here's Ramey describing Calloway's performance:

When Calloway came on for the second set he made a remarkable entry, leaping over chairs, turning somersaults, and indulging in all manners of non-musical showmanship, all the while singing . . . in his most eccentric manner. This so won over the audience that [Ramey's band] didn't dare go on again.

The great bop trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, who played in Cab's orchestras until Cab fired him for one too man shenanigans, declared that "Cab was no musician." And when Calloway recruited Chu Berry to play tenor for him, Berry famously agreed on the condition that Calloway would promise never to play alto sax on stage again while Chu was in the band.

I've been a jazz enthusiast since I was thirteen, sixty-one years ago. Cab Calloway has always figured in my imagination as a hack --maybe a good popular entertainer but certainly not a figure to take seriously in jazz. I admired the way he looked -always impeccably dressed, whether in the zoot suits he helped popularize or his classy all--white tuxedo, with over-long tails and white bowtie, shoes and socks. Though I didn't take it seriously (apparently neither did he all the time), I loved his `jive' talk. (In 1944, his lexicon of hipsterese, The New Cab Calloway's Hepster's Dictionary, appeared, but it was more of a publicity stunt than anything serious.)

On the evidence of this well researched and well written biography, though, Calloway deserves much more credit than I've given him.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Danno VINE VOICE on September 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Cab Calloway was (among other things) a powerful singer, an unforgettable frontman, a celebrated bandleader, a magnetic stage performer, and a pure delight in his various film appearances. In sum, he is someone who should be remembered. And yet, despite his importance as a jazz-era bandleader and his leading role at both the Savoy and the Cotton Club, he barely gets a mention in Ken Burns' "Jazz" and is rarely treated respectfully by music and cultural critics who have written jazz histories. Perhaps this is due to his overwhelming urge to entertain his audiences, or perhaps this is due to his lack of outstanding proficiency as an instrumentalist. Alyn Shipton's book does a great job not only of placing Cab Calloway within context, but also reminding us of why we should care about him.

The first couple of chapters of "Hi-De-Ho" are slow-moving and vague, partly due to the lack of concrete details about much of Calloway's childhood. Once we get into Calloway's early adulthood, the book truly takes off. Calloway's drive to succeed is phenomenal, and oftentimes includes the difficulty of replacing certain bandmembers due to changing venues or musical styles. Calloway comes across as a very complex man far removed from the exhuberant stage persona he developed. While the book by no means attempts to present him as a man haunted by demons, it does detail his relationship and family difficulties, drinking, gambling, and Calloway's infamous sparring with Dizzy Gillespie. Calloway seems to have spent most of his bandleader years replacing bandmembers with more proficient musicians and then having to cope with said musicians finding his pop orientation restricting to their improvisatory natures.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By NyiNya TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Painstakingly researched and deliciously detailed, Alyn Shipton's biography of Cab Calloway gives us an insiders look into the heyday of Hi-De-Ho, the Jazz Era, when Harlem was The Place for hot music. We go backstage at the Cotton Club, meet villians and mobsters, hep cats, and the greatest music makers of the era.

The book starts out slow, because Shipton is nothing if not thorough. We learn of Calloway's early years, about his family, and his constant struggle for recognition not merely as a novelty, but as a jazz great. His family history has many interesting tidbits. For instance, Callaway's sister became a cosmetics tycoon with skin preparations designed for women of color. She was a talented musician herself and walked away from her skin care empire to start her own career as a bandleader.

The man who gave us "Minnie the Moocher" is an icon, and his story lives up to the image. If you love jazz and the Jazz Age, you'll get lost in this book. And if you're down on your luck and can't afford to buy it, go make eyes at the King of Sweden. Maybe he'll send you some things you've been needin' -- including "Hi-De-Ho: The Life of Cab Calloway."
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Marty Gillis TOP 500 REVIEWER on December 21, 2010
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Cabell 'Cab' Calloway the Third lived to the ripe old age of 86 and man oh man what a life he had!

Like many Americans of a certain age, my first introduction to Cab Calloway was through his appearance in The Blues Brothers as 'Curtis' the janitor who lived in the basement of the Catholic Orphanage and taught Jake and Elwood all about the blues. When this book 'Hi-De-Ho' by Alyn Shipton became available to me, I jumped on the opportunity to learn about Cab and ended up being highly entertained along the way. (Something Mr, Calloway excelled at doing himself)

I am not wanting to give away all the details of Cab's life in the form of spoilers so instead I will focus on the way the book is written and how much I enjoyed it. One story in particular about Dizzy Gillespie , some spitballs, a bad mood, an accusation , and a knife come to mind, but you can read the book to find out what I am talking about ok?

This book was written by a musician and I can sure tell, being a retired nightclub musician myself. As musical biographies go, ' Hi-De-Ho' rates way up there among the finest I have read. It has a nice breezy style that moves right along, never getting dull and always causing me to turn the page in anticipation of what is going to happen next. Truly, this life story has it all. The proverbial thrills, chills and spills in amongst hobnobbing and working with just about ALL of the great legends of jazz back in the golden days of Jazz and Big Band.

As I said earlier, I really didn't know much about Cab Calloway before reading 'Hi-De-Ho' but now whenever I see one of his shorts on TCM or view The Blues Brothers I will have a much deeper appreciation of the man's history and his very large contribution to our collective American musical heritage.
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