The Troy Street Observer

Feb 9, 1902: Big-Band Pioneer Blanche Calloway Born

Singer, bandleader, and big-band pioneer Blanche Calloway was born in Rochester, NY. People associate Blanche with Chicago, where she became a star, or Baltimore, where she spent her later years. But she was active in Boston at a formative time, 1937-40. Blanche, the older sister of Mr. Hi-De-Ho, arrived in Boston in 1937 to take over the band at Southland on Warrenton Street, and she worked all over the northeast with the Alabama Aces, the Boston band of Joe Nevils. She wasn’t the best singer but she was a high-spirited and likeable one, and she packed some Chicago razzle-dazzle into her bandleading. She was on the Boston scene more often than not in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and her contributions make her an honorary Bostonian, as far as I’m concerned.


Here she is singing with her Joy Boys in the early thirties:

And here she is on an instrumental number in a later edition of the Joy Boys (with Vic Dickenson on trombone), two years before arriving in Boston.

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