May 21, 1904 – December 15, 1943
Title sums it up. “Jam, Jive and Everything!.” Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller is one of the most charming, talented and prolific artists to ever tickle the ivories of a stride piano.
We share a birthday – May 21st. His last recording session was in Detroit, Michigan – home of my birth. I guess it was destiny that his music and spirit would come to bring me such joy!
What excites me about Fats?
When I was a kid and first saw the ground breaking musical Stormy Weather (1943) I was familiar with its star Lena Horne because my father loved him some Miss Lena. But for me, the wonderful surprise of the film was Fats Waller.
Fats Waller and Lena Horne
When you see him you’re totally invested. His personality jumps off the screen. People talk about presence. Fats created “presence!”
Fats is credited with advancing the musical style – stride piano. Although known for his two most famous compositions: “Ain’t Misbehavin'” and “Honeysuckle Rose”, he penned many more uncredited hits such as “I Can’t Give you Anything but love, Baby” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street”.
Waller copyrighted over 400 songs and began his professional career as a pianist at the age of 15, working in cabarets and theaters.
His life and artistry became the Broadway musical revue “Ain’t Misbehavin‘ produced in 1978. (The show and star Nell Carter won Tony Awards.)
Recordings of Fats Waller were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame which is a special Grammy Award established in 1973 to honour recordings that are at least 25 years old and that have “qualitative or historical significance”.
Here ’tis, a tribute to Fats’ brilliance and charm:
Fats Waller – Ain’t Misbehavin’ – Stormy Weather (1943)
This song cracks me up!
Fats Waller – Your Feet’s Too Big! (1936)
Fats Waller – Honeysuckle Rose (1929)