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Remembering Calloway, Blake and my brush with Baltimore musical greatness | READER COMMENTARY

The king of ragtime was a Charm City native, born on Forrest Street in 1887. His compositions include such classics as "Love Will Find a Way" and "I'm Just Wild About Harry."
The king of ragtime was a Charm City native, born on Forrest Street in 1887. His compositions include such classics as "Love Will Find a Way" and "I'm Just Wild About Harry." (Baltimore Sun file photo)

After reading Jacques Kelly’s article regarding the importance of saving Cab Calloway’s home, I noted he also mentioned his sister Blanche (“Demolishing Cab Calloway’s home would be a loss for Baltimore,” June 13). This reminded me of a rare occasion afforded me in February of 1977.

I was fortunate to obtain a ticket to hear Eubie Blake perform at The Peabody Institute. It was in honor of his 90th birthday. The ability he possessed was incredible, and each piano solo — including “Charleston Rag,” which he performed and also wrote — was followed by a standing ovation. Following his performance, audience members were told he would sign a few autographs, and he signed my program. As I watched him sign, I noticed he had the longest fingers I had ever seen. I was thrilled to get his signature.

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As I got up to receive his autograph, I commented to an elderly woman seated beside me what a wonderful evening it had been. She and I chatted briefly and I introduced myself to her. She told me her name was Blanche Calloway and her brother was Cab Calloway. I found out she had her own big band before Cab did and was the first black female band leader in the U.S. and was very successful in that endeavor. She died in Baltimore the following year where she had been living.

What an evening for me.

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Patrick Francis, Baltimore

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