Male Black Vocalists of the 1930s & 1940s

By Scott McMahon

Black musicians have helped shape the history of American music in all genres, including jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll. The American music scene had not only great black musicians but well known black vocalists, both male and female. Black vocalists suffered racism and segregation through the 30s and 40s yet gave the world some of its finest music, which remains enjoyable today.

Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole remains one of the best known black male vocalists of the 30s and 40s. The voice of Nat King Cole is one of the finest baritones in popular music. Nat King Cole sang in English and Spanish, and many of his songs claimed great fame worldwide. An album reviving the songs of the unforgettable Nat King Cole by his daughter Natalie won the Grammy Awards long after the death of the singer.

Cab Colloway

Cab Colloway, famed for his energetic scat singing, led one of America's best known jazz bands. His well-known songs include "Minnie the Moocher" and "The Old Man of the Mountain." He sang both hot scat style and in a traditional vaudeville style.

Louis Armstrong

Known to use his voice in the same creative way that he used his trumpet, another singer who achieved worldwide fame for his scat style singing and guttural voice was Louis Armstrong. Many of Armstrong's songs, such as "What a Wonderful World," remain popular today.

Slim Gaillard

This African American Jazz vocalist sang in a language that he called "Vout," and he enthralled audiences with songs in eight other languages. He wrote songs in Arabic, and also the song introducing the "Peter Potter" radio show.

Fats Waller

"Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Honeysuckle Rose" are some of the best-known songs of Fats Waller, a jazz pianist and vocalist. The songs of Fats Waller were famous in the US and in the UK.

Billy Eckstine:

Billy Eckstine, singer and bandleader of the age of swing in the 1930s and 1940s, had a clear, melodious voice. He sang ballads written by famous songwriters like Cole Porter.

About the Author

Scott McMahon has been writing professionally for over 10 years. He specializes in technology and has written dozens of technical manuals for end-user software and middle-ware services. He is a regular columnist for the Texas Technology Entrepreneur Association's "Tech Buzz" periodical. McMahon holds a Master of Arts in journalism from Texas A&M University.