Cab Calloway

Cabell Calloway III

Cab Calloway


Cabell Calloway III



 (Cab Calloway and Betty Boop's replacement The Hula Cutie.)

Cab Calloway was a master of energetic scat singing and led one of the United States' most popular African-American big bands from the start of the 1930s through the late 1940s. In 1931, he recorded his most famous song, "Minnie the Moocher". That song, along with "St. James Infirmary Blues" and "The Old Man Of The Mountain," was also recorded for the Betty Boop animated shorts Minnie the Moocher, Snow White and The Old Man of the Mountain, respectively.

Through rotoscoping, Calloway not only gave his voice to these cartoons, but his dance steps as well. Cab also makes an appearance in the 1990 comic strip Betty Boop's Big Break. Calloway was taught how to scat sing and how to interpolate "scat singing" into his songs by Louis Armstrong the Boop-Boop-a-Doop Man.

According to Cab, his sister Blanche had used one of his most famous "scat" trill before him. His sister appeared in the musical Shuffle Along. According to his sister, Florence Mills and Gertrude Saunders were the inspiration for Blanche to go into show business.[1]

Blanche returned to Baltimore in 1927 after Shuffle Along, Cab begged her to get him an audition with the Theater Owners' Booking Association, she did and he was triumphant.

Later in life, Cab Calloway made numerous appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. On the 1956 show, Cab and his daughter Layla Calloway appeared together, on that same episode Helen Kane made an appearance and gave tribute to the "American Society of Composers" by singing "I Wanna Be Loved By You".

From 1987 to 1991, Calloway appeared in several Hula Hoops KP commercials. KP decided not to license Betty Boop. Instead a parody of Boop, the Hula Cutie took her place. Around this time, Calloway made an appearance in cartoon form in the 1990 comic book Betty Boop's Big Break.

A cartoon caricature of Cab Calloway was going to appear in The Betty Boop Movie set for a 1994 release by The Zanuck Company and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, however the film was scrapped due to studio head changes and licensing rights disagreements with Fleischer representatives.

A parody of Calloway appears in the 1994 film Radioland Murders.

Calloway is referenced in the song "Where I Wanna Be" in Boop! the Betty Boop Musical.


  • Cab Calloway: "I forgot a lyric, and put in the 'Hi-De-Ho' phrase to cover it. I put it in out of nowhere. That 'Hi-De-Ho' just came out of the clouds, and it was something that hit."
  • Cab Calloway: "My scat refrains were the product of a faulty memory, I can't recall the words." (1985)
  • Cab Calloway: "I love being called a living legend. Sure I love that." (1985)
  • Cab Calloway: "Well, I don't know. I guess (producer) Max Fleischer wanted me in it and so we did "St. James Infirmary Blues" (for Betty Boop's 'Snow White') and they drew characters around my singing. Then I did 'Minnie the Moocher.' My band and I appeared in the lead-in for that cartoon." (The Indianapolis News, 1988)

Character Role(s)

Characters voiced by Cab Calloway

Cab Calloway the Hi-De-Ho Man


Cab Calloway "The Scat Song"

Cab is often referenced to as the male counterpart to Betty and her "Boop-Oop-a-Doop". Calloway was often referred to as The Hi-De-Ho Man. Calloway had originated his scat singing style in Harlem and scat sung frequently at the Cotton Club in Harlem. 

Scat Sounds Originated by Calloway

  • Hi-Di-Ho
  • Hi-De-Hi
  • Hi-De-Ho
  • Ho-De-Ho
  • He-De-He-De-He
  • Zah-Zu-Zaz
  • He-De-He
  • Ree-Bop
  • Skeep-Beep-De-Bop-Bop-Beep-Bop-Bo-Dope
  • Skeetle-At-De-Op-De-Day


Cab Calloway and Baby Esther (1934)

Cab Calloway and Baby Esther 1934

A 1934 article from April states that Baby Esther Jones aka Little Esther was the peer of all colored singers and dancers, and that she was formerly with Cab Calloway. 


  • On June 12, 1994, Calloway suffered a severe stroke. He died six months later on November 18, 1994, at age 86. His body was cremated and his ashes were given to his family. Upon the death of his wife Zulme "Nuffie" Calloway on October 13, 2008, his ashes were interred next to her in the Rosewood mausoleum at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. 



  • When Cab Calloway saw his first cartoon with Betty Boop, he fell off his chair with laughter and delight. 
  • Poodles a Betty Boop rip-off character sings Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher's Wedding Day" on stage.
  • Sometimes his "Za-Zu-Zaz" is spelled as "Zah-Zuh-Zaz", "Za-Suh-Zaz", or "Zaz-Zuh-Zaz".
  • The Colorful Three reference Calloway by singing his "Hi-De-Ho" scat-singing song in Making Stars.
  • Cab was a scat singer and his scat singing goes way back to 1925 where he would appear at The Cotton Club in Harlem, his scat sounds were similar to the "Boop-Boop-a-Doop Girl" craze of the 20s only his gimmick was "Hi-De-Ho-Hi-De-Hi" and he was dubbed "The Hi-De-Ho Man".
  • Cab was also known as "The King of Hi-De-Ho" and "Mister Hi-De-Ho", including "His Hi-De Highness of Ho-De-Ho".
  • A profile of Calloway, Cab Calloway: Sketches, aired on the PBS program American Masters in February 2012.
  • King Dice who appears in Cuphead is heavily based on Cab Calloway. As an added reference, if the player is defeated by King Dice in his boss battle, he says "Hi-De-Ho", a phrase commonly associated with Cab Calloway.
  • A 1933 "Afro-American" article stated that Cab's sister Blanche was "out beat" by him, and that she had her own style of "scat" singing. [2]
  • In Tim Burton's 2005 film The Corpse Bride, Mr. Bonejangles and his skeleton band were in part inspired by Cab Calloway and his band, Ray Charles, and Bill "Robinson" Bojanges.