He was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 7, 1900 to Luther James Robert Abbey and Eva Lee Alexander.
He started his career in 1920 as a classical violinist with the orchestra of J. Rosamond Johnson. Five years later, he recorded with Clara Smith on "If You Only Knowed" and "You Better Keep the Home Fires Burning". In 1926, he led the Savoy Bearcats and toured with the band the next year in Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. For a decade, he toured throughout Europe and performed in India two times.
He led a band with blues singer Ethel Waters. In Chicago he led a trio until 1964. His sideman during his career included Fletcher Allen, Emile Christian, Bill Coleman, Peter DuConge, and Crickett Smith. He recorded Jazz and Hot Dance in Denmark (Harmony, 1938) an album as a leader, in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was also issued under the name Whoa Babe.
He died on September 1975.
- Lotz, Rainer (2002). Kernfeld, Barry (ed.). The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. 1 (2nd ed.). New York: Grove's Dictionaries. p. 3. ISBN 1-56159-284-6.
- "Abbey Got Cash And Praise From European Newspapers". The Afro-American. September 6, 1930. Retrieved November 26, 2011.
- Shope, Bradley (2016). American Popular Music in Britain's Raj. Rochester: University of Rochester Press. pp. 67–68. ISBN 9781580465489.