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Valaida Snow - Jazz's Lady Louis

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.


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.

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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


Thomas Andrews on May 27, 2012:

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!

Goldenpen777 on February 24, 2012:

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 (author) from Asheville, NC on August 03, 2011:

Thanks, PlatinumOwl.

Coolmon - I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Coolmon2009 from Texas, USA on July 27, 2011:

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

platinumOwl4 on June 14, 2011:

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 (author) from Asheville, NC on June 12, 2011:

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

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on June 12, 2011:

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

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on June 12, 2011:

Rorshak - Thanks - glad you enjoyed.

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on June 12, 2011:

Hi Ginn - I love jazz too.

platinumOwl4 on June 11, 2011:

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 from Texas on June 11, 2011:

They say you learn something new everyday...if so, this was my lesson for today. I did not know of this, 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

rorshak sobchak on June 10, 2011:

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

rorshak sobchak

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on June 02, 2011:

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

Ginn Navarre on May 31, 2011:

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

Pamela Sarzana on May 29, 2011:

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

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on May 29, 2011:

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

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on May 28, 2011:

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

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on May 25, 2011:

Thanks, Pras - Always nice to see you.

Christine Mulberry on May 25, 2011:

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

platinumOwl4 on May 25, 2011:

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 from Canada on May 24, 2011:

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 from malang-indonesia on May 24, 2011:

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...


suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on May 23, 2011:

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 on May 23, 2011:

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 from Ireland on May 23, 2011:

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

AzikSparx from Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia on May 23, 2011:

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

Dexter Yarbrough from United States on May 23, 2011:

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!

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on May 22, 2011:

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

drbj and sherry from south Florida on May 22, 2011:

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 from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on May 22, 2011:

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.

Audrey Kirchner from Washington on May 22, 2011:

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

Tim Mitchell from Escondido, CA on May 22, 2011:

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 from North Carolina on May 22, 2011:

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 from Phoenix, Arizona on May 22, 2011:

Excellent Hub as always! Shared on Facebook and twitter.

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on May 22, 2011:

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.

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on May 22, 2011:

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 from UK and Mexico on May 22, 2011:

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 (author) from Asheville, NC on May 22, 2011:

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

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on May 22, 2011:

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

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