swing out sista: valadia snow {aka “little louis”}

Valadia Snow was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Raised on the road in a show-business family, she learned to play cello, bass, banjo, violin, mandolin, harp, accordion, clarinet, trumpet, and saxophone at professional levels by the time she was 15. She also sang and danced.

After focusing on the trumpet, she quickly became so famous at the instrument that she was named “Little Louis” after Louis Armstrong, who used to call her the world’s second best jazz trumpet player besides himself.  She played concerts throughout the USA, Europe and China.  From 1926 to 1929 she toured with Jack Carter’s Serenaders in Shanghai, Singapore, Calcutta and Jakarta.

Her most successful period was in the 1930s when she became the toast of London and Paris. Around this time she recorded her hit song “High Hat, Trumpet, and Rhythm.”  She performed in the Ethel Waters show Rhapsody In Black, in New York. In the mid-1930s she made films with her husband, Ananias Berry, of the Berry Brothers dancing troupe. After playing New York’s Apollo Theater, she revisited Europe and the Far East for more shows and films.

Snow became addicted to morphine later in her career. While touring through Denmark in 1941, she was arrested by the Nazis and probably kept at Vestre Fængsel, a Danish prison in Copenhagen that was run by the Nazis, before being released on a prisoner exchange in May 1942. According to jazz historian Scott Yanow, “she never emotionally recovered from the experience.”  She later married Earl Edwards. In the 1950s, she was unable to regain her former success.

Valaida Snow died of a brain hemorrhage on May 30, 1956, in New York City, backstage during a performance at the Palace Theater.

 

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