Even if her little brother Cab gets more attention in history books,
Blanche Calloway was singing and directing bands long before his
first “ho-de-ho.” Blanche Calloway began her musical career touring
with pioneering early jazz figures such as Eubie Blake and Florence
Mills . Ending up in Chicago at the height of the Jazz Age, Calloway
became popular in the jazz epicenter as well as other music capitals
such as New York and Kansas City. She organized her first band in
1931, possibly the first female director of an all-male band.
Calloway struggled with segregation and sexism though she was praised
for her musicianship, stage presence and management throughout a
nearly fifty-year musical career.
Berklee City Music honors this pioneering female artist for Women’s
History Month. Here’s just a sample of Blanche Calloway’s energetic
vocals and spirited direction: