Friday, June 02, 2006

Valaida Snow

Jazz trumpeter, singer and dancer Valaida Snow was born on this day in 1905 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

She began performing in New York during her teens, setting the audience on fire in a cabaret show, Holiday in Dixieland, when she stepped out of the chorus line to play the trumpet and do a tap dance. At 21, she traveled to China as a trumpeter with Jack Clark's orchestra, wearing short hair and a tuxedo in order to blend in with the boys -- although the affectations had the opposite effect, making her a star attraction. Shortly thereafter she began a world tour as a headliner in top hotels throughout Europe and Asia, a tour that would last for years, with brief intervals in New York revues.

Noted for her exuberance, charm and vocal versatility onstage, she had many admirers within the male-dominated jazz world. "Boy," commented Louis Armstrong, for one, "I never saw anything that great." In 1941, however, she was captured by the Nazis while performing in Denmark, and sent to a concentration camp, where she was severely beaten. When she finally returned to the U.S., she was in poor health; she died on May 30, 1956 at the age of 50, doing her best to maintain a full touring schedule right up to the end.

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