Alberta Hunter – In Calcutta ?

Prelude:  It was late summer 1982.  I had heard about a 82 year old blueswoman who drew in the crowd at  the Cookery, in the Village…and went there to stand at the bar.   And Alberta Hunter cast her spell on yet another, one magic night in the summer of 1982

Alberta brought a purity and a deep understanding to the blues. She lived the ‘blues” and like many a musician, her life was poured out every night she performed.  If you have never heard about Alberta Hunter, check out this video of Alberta in her 80’s!

And the Ethel Waters song that she revived and made famous.. My Handyman !

But why the title of this post ?
Well while fishing the internet we came across this excerpt from a bio on Alberta Hunter found on

“During World War II she entertained troops in China, Burma, India, Korea and Europe with the USO. After the war was over she continued to work in the US and in Canada. In 1956 she retired to care for her mother and didn’t reappear until 1977. Surprised that she still had a following after her long retirement, she performed in cabarets until she died in 1984.”

Alberta Hunter in India ? It had to have been Calcutta since thats where we know that some other well known jazz musicians found themselves in India during World War II ..In our film Finding Carlton – Uncovering the Story of Jazz in India we document the swinging Calcutta of WW II ..Also see Paul Gonsalves , and Jimmy Witherspoon

But there just didnt seem to be any more information on Alberta in India. We scoured our resources including Jehangir Dalal..the compendium and fount of all knowledge related to the Pre War diaspora of African American jazz Musicians in India, and Naresh Fernandes – archivist extraordinaire and author; Email requests to the the friends of Finding Carlton turned up nothing ..

And then secreted away in the Roy Butler Archives at the University of Chicago..thanks to Dr Brad Shope’s a cutting from the Chicago Defender…telling us that Alberta not only sang in Calcutta , but directed the directed the show in Calcutta …

Did she sing at the Grand Hotel, where we found Carlton ?

For more posts on Alberta Hunter – click here

2 thoughts on “Alberta Hunter – In Calcutta ?

  1. Pingback: Alberta Hunter | foremothers

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