April 17th, 2012
Cab Calloway: Sketches
Watch the Full Documentary

A singer, dancer and bandleader, Cab led one of the most popular African American big bands during the jazz and swing eras of the 1930s-40s, with Harlem’s famous Cotton Club as his home stage. Best known for his “Hi de hi de hi de ho” refrain from signature song “Minnie the Moocher,” portrayal of Sportin’ Life in Porgy and Bess (1952), and role in The Blues Brothers (1980), Cab influenced countless performers, including Michael and Janet Jackson, and many of today’s hip-hop artists.

Watch the full one hour documentary Cab Calloway: Sketches below.

We are pleased to announce that AMERICAN MASTERS Cab Calloway: Sketches is available for viewing on this site again, after a content correction was made

  • David Byrd


    I thought I knew about Mr. Calloway. I didn’t know anything.

    Thank you.

  • kenneth smalls

    thanks for a such a good show keep it coming!!!

  • Shelby Jarczyk

    Well-intentioned, but disappointing to me. A cardinal rule of documentaries about musician/artists should be that their performances are shown uncut and without voiceovers.

  • ken

    Someone, please tell me the name of the incredible song in the documentary that you hear in the background that talks about New York. They scroll the credits so quickly I can’t catch the name despite repeated attempts. What is the name of this fantastic tune????

  • Gerry Sanders


    Which Jazz docs have you published?

  • Dexter Stein

    I agree with the idea that this was a very disappointing presentation. To feature a musician where we never hear a full piece of music, or not be allowed to hear the music because of voiceovers is a shame. It would be akin to having a documentary on an artist such as Jackson Pollock, and showing photographs of others viewing his paintings instead of the paintings themselves.

  • J Dexter Stein

    I found the documentary entertaining, but frustrating. I don’t believe that there was a complete performance of any song or tune from Cab. The voice-overs also stepped on much of the important content. There probably is enough extant footage of Cab Calloway and his bands over the years that could have been used, and would have spoken for themselves about his importance in history.

  • Jon Fox

    This is a very inadequate feature on Cab. All of the black and white video is from short movie subjects which used to be available on VHS but have been neglected since. The one set on the train in the excerpt they show is hilarious. They should also have shown that when rock came along Cab was left behind. There is a Soundie that used to be available with him where he sings,”If rock n roll is what they want me to do then that’s what I’ll do!” No such luck.
    They also neglected to fully bring out how important the band was to Cab. He could of hired just anyone, but his band was the most important well-paid black band of the era and only the best were selected. Listen to the first Cab Calloway Classics CD which include the Missourians pre-Cab- and after.
    When they do this again lose the white artist, the Blues Brothers and let the movie shorts just roll.

  • Diane Fluellen

    I loved watching the documentary I grow up hearing about Mr. Galloway from my mother and aunt, whose used to go to Harlem and see him and his band perform,. Just hearing the way they spoke the shows of so long ago brought joy into my life. I learned more from them , than the documentary, but at least i got to see and hear that his fans still exist.

  • cat

    Well I saw American Masters on TV, fell in love with the show. watched the bio of Harper Lee. Went on line to watch more and it will not work. Does anyone else have this problem.

  • Hameed

    Truly a talented Brother back from the 30′ Cab was a great musician in his times Kudos my Brother RIP. He was top’s.

  • James

    With all this great music Cab Calloway created there was a great deal of fun woven into his sound. I never heard of him before the movies introduced him but love the music.

  • Maureen

    I grew up watcching old movies on late night TV, this is where I became familiar with Cab Calloway. Even as a young kid I was mesmerized by him. His energy, his voice and dance moves were other worldly, and I knew I was watching a unique and incredibly talented man. This doc should have shown more of the man, more of his performances, but beyond that I found it interesting. Another hour would have been fantastic.

  • Danno

    Awesome documentary, deeply flawed. I loved it, but I agree that there was too little uninterrupted music. Maybe what this needs is a companion piece with full length performances, no voice-overs or interruptions.

  • LIsa

    Great subject matter, glad you profiled Cab. However, I did not feel like I learned much about the man, in terms of what drove him, his relationship with family (kids, wife, etc.). Kind of a monolithic brief on his life.

  • Iris M. Gross

    I guess you can’t please everybody. I wish all these armchair documentarians would whip out their Canons and produce their own videos. Maybe they’ll find out how difficult it can be to get the rights to use more than a few seconds worth of music in a film. I’m glad to have this little taste. If this is from a VHS that is no longer available, then thank you American Masters for making some of it available again.

  • Glenn Young

    You can see his brilliance in two notes. In the way that he expresses himself in music, in dance (movement), in expression. He is dead center in his timing. Timing so perfect that he captures his audience–who cannot help but follow–even the most complicated lyrics.


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