Cab Calloway and the Nicholas Brothers
Six degrees of Cab Calloway and The Nicholas Brothers.
Well, sort of…
It’s funny how we come to find the things that we love by being curious. It’s something we have in spades as a kid but sometimes lose as we get older.
I was eleven years old when I heard Joe Jackson sing Jumpin’ Jive on the radio. It was 1981 and this song seemed gloriously infectious and stylish to me. I’d be singing it all day long thinking that this was something really fresh and exciting. Well, for me it was — as I’m sure it was for many people down the years. The song Jumpin’ Jive was originally recorded by Cab Calloway on 17 July 1939 and sold over a million copies at the time. It was co-written by Calloway too.
I then found out more about Cab Calloway at the library and bought a cassette tape of his greatest hits collection. I was blown away by this man. I was pleased to find out that he was alive and well and still making appearances here and there. Most people knew him as a scatman (scoobily-doo), bandleader and the singer of Minnie the Moocher.
A few years later I became obsessed with the Francis Ford Coppola film The Cotton Club (1984) which featured Larry Marshall performing as Cab Calloway. I got the soundtrack and played it to death. Gregory Hines and his brother Maurice also starred in The Cotton Club film as a performing tap duo, not unlike the Nicholas Brothers.
Calloway regularly played as a bandleader at The Cotton Club in Harlem as did the Nicholas Brothers in the early 1930s. They were a tap dancing duo who performed a very acrobatic style of tap called ‘flashdancing’.
This led me to seek out even more songs from Cab Calloway. I also found out more about the history of the real Cotton Club and the real Nicholas Brothers.
This also led me to the film Stormy Weather (1943) which was the first all-black musical motion picture — featuring Bill Bojangles Robinson, Lena Horne, Cab Calloway and the wondrous, wonderful Nicholas Brothers. And here is the clip I want to show you. This clip never gets tired. Be amazed.
Unfortunately Cab Calloway died in 1994. But he made it to the grand old age of 86. The Nicholas Brothers also lived to see the 21st Century and well into their vintage years. Thank you, Cab, the Nicholas Brothers, the library, Francis Ford Coppola and Joe Jackson.
If you like this kind of swing but it’s new to you, find out more. Follow your curiosity. How else will you find out how you dig your jive? I dig my jive on the mellow side, hep, hep.
Another fantastic dancer from this era was Frankie Manning. Here’s another great dance routine from Frankie.