Minnie The Moocher / Reefer Man
Melotone cover.
Single by Cab Calloway and His Orchestra
Released February 1934
Recorded 3 March 1931 (Minnie) and 9 June 1932 (Reefer Man) in New York
Genre Jazz, Swing, Big Band
Length 6:04
Label Banner Records, Melotone
Cab Calloway and His Orchestra single chronology
Minnie The Moocher / Reefer Man
Alternative Cover
Minnie The Moocher is a 78RPM Shellac released in February 1934 with Reefer Man as it's b-side, performed by Cab Calloway and His Orchestra (Sometimes known as Cab Calloway and His Cotton Club Orchestra. This, along with a host of other songs in the 1930s New York Jazz Scene, are among some of the earliest stoner/drug songs with references to weed (Jive, Reefers), stoners (Vipers), cocaine (Cokey, Wacky Dust), methamphetamine (Benzedrine) and opiates (lotus blossom, kicking the gong around).

These two songs have appeared not just on many Calloway compilations years later but also have appeared on 1930s marijuana compilations (Albeit the version of Reefer Man used is by Harlan Lattimore and Don Redman). Minnie The Moocher and Reefer Man had also appeared previously as singles with different b-sides throughout the 1930s.


Minnie The MoocherEdit

Minnie the Moocher is a jazz song first recorded in 1931 by Cab Calloway and His Orchestra, selling over a million copies. "Minnie the Moocher" is most famous for its nonsensical ad libbed ("scat") lyrics (for example, "Hi De Hi De Hi De Hi"). In performances, Calloway would have the audience participate by repeating each scat phrase in a form of call and response. Eventually Calloway's phrases would become so long and complex that the audience would laugh at their own failed attempts to repeat them.

The song is based both musically and lyrically on Frankie "Half-Pint" Jaxon's 1927 "Willie the Weeper".

The lyrics are heavily laden with drug references. The character "Smokey" is described as "cokey", meaning a user of cocaine; the phrase "kicking the gong around" was a slang reference to smoking opium.

The November 22, 1951 issue of Jet magazine gives this account of the "Minnie" on whom the song was based:

Minnie "The Moocher" has died. She was a familiar figure In downtown Indianapolis. A 82-year-old woman whose real name was Minnie Gayton, she acquired the quaint nickname of "The Moocher" by regularly begging food from grocers and carting it off in a baby buggy. She slept in doorways, on porches and in garages. During the record-breaking blizzard, her body was found on a porch, blanketed with snow. She died from exposure.

In 1932, Calloway recorded the song for a Fleischer Studios Talkartoon short cartoon, also called Minnie the Moocher, starring Betty Boop and Bimbo, and released on March 11, 1932. Calloway and his band provide most of the short's score and themselves appear in a live-action introduction, playing "Prohibition Blues". The thirty-second live-action segment is the earliest-known film footage of Calloway. In the cartoon, Betty decides to run away from her parents - who insist that she eat something despite the fact that she doesn't want to eat (to the Harry Von Tilzer tune "They Always Pick on Me"), and Bimbo comes with her.

Calloway performed the song in the 1955 movie Rhythm and Blues Revue, filmed at the Apollo Theater. Much later, in 1980 at age 73, Calloway performed the song in the movie The Blues Brothers. Calloway's character Curtis, a church janitor and the Blues Brothers' mentor, magically transforms the band into a 1930s swing band and sings "Minnie the Moocher" when the crowd becomes impatient at the beginning of the movie's climactic production number. According to director John Landis in the 1998 documentary The Stories Behind the Making of 'The Blues Brothers', Calloway initially wanted to do a disco variation on his signature tune, having done the song in several styles in the past, but Landis insisted that the song be done faithful to the original big band version.

"Minnie the Moocher" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

Reefer ManEdit

Have You Ever Met That Funny Reefer Man, often known simply as Reefer Man, is a 1932 American jazz song composed by J. Russel Robinson, with lyrics by Andy Razaf. It was first recorded by Cab Calloway and his orchestra, with versions by others over the years, including by Harlan Lattimore, Murphy's Law and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

The song as performed by Calloway appears in the 1933 film International House. The performance has also been placed on various drug propaganda videos such as the DVD re-release of the classic b-movie Reefer Madness as a bonus.


  • 1. Minnie The Moocher (The Ho-De-Ho Song) (Irving Mills, Cab Calloway) (3:10)
  • 2. Reefer Man (Andy Razaf, J. Russel Robinson) (2:54)


  • Cab Calloway - Vocals, Bandleader
  • Morris "Fruit" White - Banjo, Guitar
  • Andrew Brown - Bass Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone, Bass Saxophone, Alto Saxophone
  • Walter "Foots" Thomas - Tenor Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Clarinet, Bass
  • Leroy Maxey - Drums
  • De Priest Wheeler - Trombone
  • Lammar Wright - Trumpet
  • Foots Thomas - Arrangement (1)
  • Jimmy Smith - Bass (1)
  • Al Morgan - Bass (2)
  • William-Thornton Blue - Clarinet, Alto Saxophone (1)
  • Earres Prince - Piano (1)
  • Bennie Payne - Piano (2)
  • Harry White - Trombone (2)
  • Roger-Quincey Dickerson - Trumpet (1)
  • Wendell Culley - Trumpet (1)
  • Eddie Barefield - Clarinet, Alto Saxophone (2)
  • Arville Harris - Tenor Saxophone, Clarinet (2)
  • Doc Cheatham - Trumpet (2)
  • Edwin Swayzee - Trumpet (2)

External LinksEdit

Original RecordingsEdit

Film Appearances and Other JiveEdit


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