Fats Waller / May 21, 1904 - Dec 15, 1943

The Harlem-born entertainer, composer, vocalist and percussive stride pianist Thomas Fats Waller was the writer of great tunes like "Aint Misbehavin", "Honeysuckle Rose", "Squeeze Me", "Jitterbug Waltz", "What Did I Do (To Be So Black & Blue" and about four hundred others. He played piano, pipe organ and Hammond organ, and studied with James P. Johnson. He was a composer by 12 and cut his first records in '22 at the age of 18 after working early on in Vaudeville.

He was a notable comic storyteller and composer of novelty tunes & piano rolls, and a playful presence on the scene. A big star in his day, he was reputedly easy to work with. He toured Europe often in the '30s (including recording some sessions) and did some work for/on screen & stage (including Stormy Weather).

Crazy story: after a 1926 performance in Chicago he was kidnapped by Al Capone's gang who forced him at gunpoint to be guest entertainer at Capone's birthday party. He was a big influence on bebop & modern jazz pianists (Art Tatum, Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck and of course his student Count Basie) and also slipped some Bach into his music (he studied classical as a kid). He died of pneumonia  in winter 1943.

Tagged: blues, Celebrate Icons, comedy, Fats Waller, jazz, piano

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