Any day after July 1, 2019, the childhood home of two legendary American Jazz icons, Blanche and Cab Calloway – is slated for demolition. Fans and friends are rallying to save their childhood home, located in the Druid Heights community of West Baltimore, and convert it into a National Historic Landmark. The home is located two blocks from Baltimore’s famed Pennsylvania Ave (“The Ave”) where young Calloway and his sister spent evenings and weekends feeding their passion for jazz. Unfortunately, the Calloway home sits just outside of the official Black Arts and Entertainment District. Music lovers, history buffs and preservationists everywhere are encouraged to help preserve this important landmark by reaching out to city, state and national officials. A rally in front of the 2216 Druid Heights Ave address is scheduled for Friday, June 28, 2019, at 12:00 noon.
“The story of how Blanche and Cab came from humble beginnings on Druid Hill Ave. to both become premiere big band leaders during the 1920’s-1930’s swing era – first Blanche (the first female to lead an all-male big band) and later her younger brother Cab – is truly a dynamic and inspirational story that very few people know about,” states Peter C. Brooks, the grandson of Cab Calloway. “The Calloway home is a natural extension of “The Ave,” as well as the Pennsylvania Avenue Heritage Trail. The restoration of this home would breathe new life into the entire neighborhood, and the city,” says Brooks.
Baltimore Councilman Leon F. Pinkett, III – who co-sponsored the resolution adopted on March 18, 2019, to designate Pennsylvania Avenue as an art and entertainment district – also recognizes the significance of the home. “Cab Calloway and Blanche Calloway represent incredible talent and a unique contribution to American history that is important to preserve. The Calloway home is a part of the larger Pennsylvania Avenue story,” Councilman Pinkett states.
Known as one of the major stops on the Black entertainment “chitterling” circuit from the 1920s-1950’s, the bustling Pennsylvania Avenue district in Baltimore was home to some of the greatest performers in the world – including, Cab Calloway, Eubie Blake, Chick Webb, Billie Holiday, Moms Mabley, and many other Black entertainers.
Saving 2216 Druid Hill Ave
The Calloway Home preservation group seeks to generate public support to stop the demolition, organize a fundraising concert and ultimately purchase the home from the city. The group, which is quickly gaining momentum and support, endeavors to create a “living” museum and help turn Baltimore into a “Nashville” for urban music.
A Legend Worthy of Honoring
Cab Calloway played a leading role in the Black cultural renaissance of the 1920s-30s and is a pioneer in the genres of swing, boogie-woogie, modern blues, and R&B. Even more, Calloway is hailed as the Grandfather of Hip Hop – a trailblazer whose famous scats, jazzy riffs, shiny zoot suits, and high-energy dance moves paved the way for the rap and hip-hop artists of the last three decades. Calloway found a light-hearted way to sing about the conditions of the ghetto in a way that was entertaining and educational at the same time.
“He really opened the door for the world to understand the Black urban experience through words, stories, rhymes and sheer personality, which is exactly what rap and hip-hop artists do today,” Peter C. Brooks states. “While Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong were singing about Mona Lisa and What a Wonderful World, Cab Calloway was singing about life in the hood.”
A true legend, Calloway was the first jazz performer to sell 1 million records, the first African American to write a dictionary, and the first in film and animation to perform “The Buzz” – the gliding backstep believed to be the precursor to Michael Jackson’s “Moonwalk.” In 1976, Calloway published his autobiography entitled Of Minnie the Moocher and Me which included his complete Hepster’s Dictionary as an appendix. In 1994, Calloway was presented with the National Medal of the Arts from President Bill Clinton. In 1999, Calloway’s song, “Minnie the Moocher” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and in 2008, Calloway was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
For more information www.thecallowayhome.org