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Valaida Snow - Jazz's Lady Louis

Updated on March 2, 2017
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Suzanne believes women throughout history have made a difference. Her goal is to discover and celebrate women's contributions to history.


Valaida Snow was one of the most energetic and hard- working women in the show business world. Often referred to as "The Female Louis Armstrong", she proved herself to be a multi-talented entertainer. Her mother taught her to play several musical instruments including violin, banjo, cello, bass, mandolin, accordion, trumpet, saxophone, clarinet and harp. Valaida Snow was admired not only for her beauty but for her powerhouse performances, sweet singing voice and her ability to please the audience. As a lady of jazz, she was far ahead of her time.

Background -

Valaida Snow was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee on June 2, 1905. She was raised with three sisters and one brother in a musical family. Her father was a performer and her mother had studied music at Howard University. Valaida was a natural entertainer. At a young age she could sing, dance, compose and play music like a pro. All three of her sisters and her brother became professional singers as well. By the time Valaida was fifteen, she was performing professionally in short tours around the United States. It was at this point that she decided to concentrate her talents on the trumpet and singing.


Career -

Valaida Snow's career took off without a hitch. In 1924, she landed the role of Manda in a Sissle and Blake production called In Bamville. It was renamed The Chocolate Dandies when it opened in New York in September of that year. From there she began an international career that continued most of her life. She was off to London to record with the Blackbirds and continued on to China where she was very popular. Finally returning to the United States, she headlined in Los Angeles and Chicago but soon rejoined the Blackbirds in Paris. Valaida also played in Liza all across Europe and in Russia. By the early 1930s, she was performing in New York in the Ethel Waters Show, Rhapsody in Black. Not one to stay put very long, Valaida travelled back and forth between Europe and the United States with her husband Ananais Berry of the Berry Brothers dancing troupe. She also did more shows and films in the Far East.


Personal Life -

Valaida Snow's personal life was a colorful as her career. She led the dramatic life of a star. Her marriage to Ananais Berry was challenged by his parents who did everything they could to discredit Snow. Their objection was rooted in their age difference - Valaida was in her 30's and Ananais was under the age of 20. The parents finally managed to find fodder for publicly shaming Valaida when they discovered she had been married two times before. They filed bigamy charges against her. She suffered through alcoholism, drug abuse and attempted suicides. She received much attention from the press. Still, she seemed to enjoy the attention and she was as flamboyant in her personal life as she was on stage. She was known and admired for her extravagant lifestyle. She wore bright orchid colored clothes, drove expensive cars and made sure both her pet monkeys and driver wore the same matching orchid outfits. Valaida Snow was a brave woman. She broke into a male dominated world of trumpet playing and excelled at it despite resentment.


Arrest -

While she was touring with an all female band in Denmark in 1941, Valaida was arrested by the Nazis. She was likely sent to Vestre Faengsel, a prison in Copenhagen run by the Nazis. There is much speculation as to the reason or reasons for her arrest. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time, allegedly was in the possession of drugs and she was African-American. Some believe that Valaida's close friendship with German female musicians gave the Nazis the ill-conceived idea that she was a lesbian. Nazis disdained the thought because they believed that a woman's job was to bear Aryan children and further their cause. No matter what the reason, Valaida remained in prison for almost two years. She was finally released in May, 1942 in a prisoner exchange deal. She returned to the United States weighing a mere sixty-eight pounds. After some rehabilitation she remarried and began to perform again. But Valaida was never the same. She died backstage in New York on May 30, 1956.


TRIVIA -

Louis Armstrong greatly admired Valaida Snow. He once said that Valaida Snow was the second best trumpet player in the world (after himself).

She could speak seven languages.

Valaida had the unusual ability to write down music as she was listening to it. She was an astute composer.

She was friends with Josephine Baker. She never acquired the fame of Ms. Baker possibly because she spent so much time overseas.

Several books have been written about Valaida Snow. They include -

Valaida by John Edgar Wideman (1989)- She appears as a fictional character.

Valaida by Candace Allen (2004) -Based on Valaida Snow's life story.

High Hat, Trumpet and Rhythm: The Life and Music of Valaida Snow (2007) - biography


Please check out my other Hubs on other interesting women here - http://hubpages.com/_36otspfnata5l/hub/Hetty-Green-The-Witch-of-Wall-Street

And here - http://hubpages.com/_36otspfnata5l/hub/Cassie-Chadwick-Con-Artist




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    • profile image

      Thomas Andrews 5 years ago

      You are very correct! Your observations are very astute, she is indeed an amazing and very creative woman. I was always a follower of Ella Fitzgerald, but Valaida Snow is definitely special and deserves more recognition!

    • profile image

      Goldenpen777 5 years ago

      Suzicat7, I am a student doing a short biography on Valaida Snow, for a class. What do you think about Mark Miller's biography about her called "Queen of the Trumpet"? In it he says she made up her internment, and returned to the U.S. unharmed. His take on her is that she was gifted, but also inclined to subterfuge. In my studies of the Nazi occupation in Europe, it was rare that any one, non-Aryan taken prisoner (especially for two years) would have been treated as their cherished guest. Can you direct me to more info on Snow?

    • suziecat7 profile image
      Author

      suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Thanks, PlatinumOwl.

      Coolmon - I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • Coolmon2009 profile image

      Coolmon2009 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      Thank you for the introduction to Valaida Snow. I enjoyed reading your article and i will bookmark it.

    • platinumOwl4 profile image

      platinumOwl4 6 years ago

      suziecat7, thank you very much it may be a learning experience for the both of us. I hope it will and keep posting those great articles.

      have a good one

    • suziecat7 profile image
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      suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Platinum - I'll investigate the area syrup and let you know. Thanks for stopping by.

    • suziecat7 profile image
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      suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Wayne - Nice to see you - thank you so much.

    • suziecat7 profile image
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      suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Rorshak - Thanks - glad you enjoyed.

    • suziecat7 profile image
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      suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Hi Ginn - I love jazz too.

    • platinumOwl4 profile image

      platinumOwl4 6 years ago

      When I asked about the syrup, what I meant was syrup in your area. Someone who has made the product for between 75-100 years using the same process. Thanks again for a great hub I am still in awe of it, there is so much there. Just the prison and weight loss alone is haunting.(preferable cane) I love the flavor

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas

      They say you learn something new everyday...if so, this was my lesson for today. I did not know of this woman...wow, she had some chops! What a shame so much of her talents were lost to the world before her name could be welded into the stars. You did a great job of exposing her life and talents to the reader...a great read from start to finish...up and awesome! WB

    • profile image

      rorshak sobchak 6 years ago

      Nice write up. I enjoyed reading it. It is always interesting to catch up on our history.

      rorshak sobchak

    • suziecat7 profile image
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      suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Mulberry1 - So many had never heard of her before and that's a shame. Thanks so much for stopping by.

    • Ginn Navarre profile image

      Ginn Navarre 6 years ago

      I as others was not aware of this talented lady---just give me jazz & blues anyday and I will be there.

    • profile image

      Pamela Sarzana 6 years ago

      What a great story, She had a great career , was well traveled and spoke many different languages. What an interesting life she had.

    • suziecat7 profile image
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      suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Hi Platinum - I'm glad you enjoyed. Don't know anything about the syrup though.

    • suziecat7 profile image
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      suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      C-bless - Valaida did perform at the Apollo. Thanks for stopping by.

    • suziecat7 profile image
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      suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Thanks, Pras - Always nice to see you.

    • mulberry1 profile image

      mulberry1 6 years ago

      Very interesting. I hadn't heard of her, but I love her music!

    • platinumOwl4 profile image

      platinumOwl4 6 years ago

      This is an absolutely extraordinary Hub.Thank you for the research and the enlightenment I enjoyed because of it.I look forward to reading more about famous women as you discover them especially during this period and where she was imprisoned. Oh! by the way do you have a great syrup from that area. Many of the commercial syrups are to sweet and thin for my taste.

    • C-Bless profile image

      C-Bless 6 years ago from Canada

      WOW - I have never heard that name and what a great story of her life. Loved the dance video -- reminded me of the '25 Years at the Apollo' dance scenes. As I read, I kept thinking of Josephine Baker. A truly great hub. Thank you for sharing...

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Wow.. this was nice information, Suzanne. I had never heard about her before. Thanks for share with us. She is very talented and I really enjoy her pictures and video. You got my vote. Cheers...

      Prasetio

    • suziecat7 profile image
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      suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Thank you all for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate you all. Valaida was quite the woman. She was talented and gutsy.

    • feenix profile image

      feenix 6 years ago

      suzicat7, Alaida Snow, WOW! Now, that is a name from the past. I had not thought about her in years and I am grateful to you for publishing this hub and reminding me of her. She was a favorite of my dad and mom, and when I got older, I really did appreciate her talents myself. This is an awesome hub, in my opinion.

    • chspublish profile image

      chspublish 6 years ago from Ireland

      It's great to learn about this all round talented person.

    • AzikSparx profile image

      AzikSparx 6 years ago from Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia

      Thanks for sharing a new information for me since I've never know her before.

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

      Dexter Yarbrough 6 years ago from United States

      Well, I am ashamed to admit that I had never heard of Valaida Snow. I am so appreciative to you for sharing this information about her. I certainly will share it with others. Thank you so much!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 6 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      A marvelous tribute to this talented lady. A great story, supplying so much valuable information. Many thanks!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 6 years ago from south Florida

      What a fascinating story, susie, thank you fo sharing it with us. Valaida was a Renaissance woman with her remarkable talent for music, ability to play several instruments and knowledge of several languages.

      Well-written and well-researched my dear. Voted up.

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I didn't know about Valaida, suziecat7, but coming from Louis Armstrong that's high praise indeed. Her life story is reminiscent, as mentioned, of such great talent as Billie Holiday. Interesting that she was friends with Josephine Baker, another great talent.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

      I will have to pass this on to my son Pat as he is a huge jazz fan! Well done, as always!

    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 6 years ago from Escondido, CA

      Thank you for this enlightenment. Well written flowing hub presenting so much imagery. In one sense a tear is formed thinking of her life with its duality in presenting joyous music and her suffering during two missing years. I have to force my mind to not think of the possible atrocities she endured. And, give her great credit to continue once again in her love of and for music. Great choice suziecat7 to share with us all.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks suziecat7, never was aware of Valaida before. Its always fine to discover persons such as her and their histories. Very good research and write.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Excellent Hub as always! Shared on Facebook and twitter.

    • suziecat7 profile image
      Author

      suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Thanks Bob - yes, her lifestyle may very well have contributed to her early death though no one really knows what happened to her in those two years. So glad you could stop by.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      What a shame that she was arrested and imprisoned. Maybe she might not have died so young if that had not happened to her. I really enjoyed the video's. Up and Awesome!

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Thank you Suzie for introducing me to this fascinating person. Funny you should mention Josephine Baker as I was just thinking she was "larger than life" like Baker. I doubt if prison killed her, it was probably her lifestyle like Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday, etc...Bob Voted Up

    • suziecat7 profile image
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      suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Thanks, dahoglund. She was not as well known in America as she should have been because of all her travels. Appreciate the comment.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I had never heard of her but I am not real knowledgeable about jazz. Interesting biography.