He shared a residency at the Cotton Club in Harlem with Duke Ellington. In the early 1930s he led one of the most popular Big Bands in the USA. He was noted for an imaginative and flamboyant interpretation of the scat singing made famous by Louis Armstrong.
In 1931, Calloway and Irwin Mill developed the song Minnie the Moocher, which was to become his signature song, featuring its notable call-and-response refrain with such lyrics as "Hi-dee-hi", "Ho-dee-ho", and some ad-libbed and totally nonsensical ones.
His late 30s band included the young Dizzy Gillespie - although Calloway was bemused by Gillespie's soloing style, referring to his incipient Bebop as 'Chinese music' (whilst fully recognising his ability), Dizzy's eventual departure had more to do with his stabbing Calloway's bandleader.
His career extended well beyond the Swing era - in the mid 1940s he published the New Cab Calloway's Hepsters Dictionary: Language of Jive, which documented the slang terms which had permeated his songs for the benefit of interested squares.
He was successful in musical theatre throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1980 he appeared in the Blues Brothers movie singing Minnie The Moocher.
Regarded with great affection as a kind and generous man by anyone who worked with him, he died in 1994.