Valaida Snow

If it weren’t for fate, Valaida snow might have been considered one of the most influential entertainers of the 20th century. Instead, she is little-known outside of a loyal following. A gifted blues vocalist and multi-instrumentalist also noted for her skills as an arranger, Snow was born on June 2, 1903, in Chattanooga, TN (although other sources have stated otherwise). Her mother was a musician and taught her and her sisters, Lavaida, and Alvaida, how to play many instruments including cello, bass and mandolin as well as clarinet and clarinet. The girls sang and danced. However, Valaida became a professional singer and trumpeter at 15 years old. By 1924, she was already performing in In Bamville, the Noble Sissle/Eubie Blake musical (aka The Chocolate Dandies). Snow, at 22 years old, was performing as the headlining act in Barron Wilkins Harlem’s cabaret show. She continued touring relentlessly throughout the 1920s, appearing in concert with the Will Mastin Trio, as well as in London and Paris with the musical Blackbirds. She toured the Far East in 1926 and headlined Chicago’s Sunset Cafe in 1928. Her energetic performances soon won her the admiration of Earl Hines as well as Louis Armstrong, who became her lover. In the early 1930s, Snow was the star of the Sissle/Blake revue Rhapsody in Black. Her success brought her to Hollywood where she appeared in many films with her husband Ananais Berry. Snow was a star by all standards, but she was not a black performer. She was also subject to significant racism. Worse, she was a woman who was considered an outsider in the jazz community. Her perfect pitch, arranging skills, and brilliant trumpeting didn’t help her cause but made her more curious. After her Apollo Theater appearance, Snow returned to Europe in the late ’30s for film work and live dates. However, in 1941, while in Nazi-occupied Copenhagen she was captured and imprisoned in Wester-Faengle by German forces. 18 months later, she was released as an exchange prisoner and was allowed to return home to New York. Tragically, Snow never fully recovered. She tried to return to performing but her spark was gone so much that Hines, who saw her live in 1943, didn’t recognize her. She married Earle Edwards and continued her work despite her personal pain. However, after she had played the Palace Theater in New York on May 30, 1956 she succumbed to a massive cerebral hemorhage. Valaida Snow was 52. Allmusic

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