The childhood home of Cab Calloway, entertainer and bandleader, considered by many to be the first rapper, and his older sister, Blanche, the first woman to lead an all-male big band called “Her Joy Boys,” has escaped the wrecking ball for now and possibly forever.
Baltimore officials wanted to demolish the boarded up rowhouse at 2216 Druid Hill Avenue and the other row houses on the block to build a park nearby named in the siblings’ honor. That decision sparked a backlash when the word got out, forcing city officials to back off.
Cab and Blanche spent their tween and teen years in the row house before their parents moved to another neighborhood.
Backers want to raise funds to restore the property, which is owned by Baltimore’s Department of Housing. And they want the city’s arts and entertainment district extended to include the house, if not the entire block.
Backers have found support from the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation, and Baltimore City Councilman Leon F. Pickett III, who sponsored a resolution to designate nearby Pennsylvania Avenue as arts and entertainment area.
Tupac lived in East Baltimore beginning at the age of 13. Most neighborhood kids disliked him because of his looks and his clothing. Both his parents were members of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense.
Peter C. Brooks, the Calloway’s grandson, said “The Calloway home is a natural extension of the [Pennsylvania] Avenue as the Pennsylvania Heritage Trail. The restoration would breathe new life into the entire neighborhood and city.”
The Calloway home is located outside boundaries of the arts district and historical district.
While Tupac is considered one of the greatest rappers of all time.
Cab Calloway is considered by many to be the first rapper. He also is credited as being the first person to call New York City “The Big Apple,” a phrase made popular by the Last Poets.
Dressed in shiny zoot suits and shaking his straight hair, Cab Calloway paved the way for hip hop with his high-energy dance moves. Calloway was the first jazz artist to sell 1 million records with the 1931 release of “Minnie the Moocher.”
His dance moves are considered by many to be a precursor to Michael Jackson’s famous “Moon Walk.”
Blanche mentored Cab, supporting his becoming a big star. To learn more about Cab and Blanche Calloway, visit TheCallowayHome.Org.
Cab Calloway died on November 18, 1994. He was 86.