Part 02 is such sweet sorrow,
I could not wait till it be morrow
To bring to you 02 before
I bring to you Parts 03 and 04.
Beyond 04 I cannot see,
But two to one it won’t be 03.

It’s not every day you see a poem co-authored by Shakespeare and Mistermuse….or a post about a man (Fats Waller) who was born in May and died in December, three days after my previous post featured a man (Spike Jones) who was born in December and died in May. A bit odd, perhaps, but hardly more noteworthy than a May-December romance….so, just for laughs, let’s call it a May-December Much Ado About Nothing.

Thomas “Fats” Waller, for those whose knowledge of jazz history is thin, was born May 21, 1904 in NYC. His father, a minister, was strict and tried to restrict his son to church music, but Fats was more attracted to popular music, and after his mother died, he moved in with a man who befriended him, stride pianist James P. Johnson. At age 15, Waller was hired by the Lincoln Theatre as house organist, providing improvisational background music for silent movies. Thus began his career as one of the most beloved jazz musicians and prolific song writers of his time, ending with his premature death at age 39.

Perhaps Waller is best remembered (if at all) for is his jovial personality and humorous way with popular songs such as this….

….and this:

But Fats could do ’em straight, too, as with this 1936 classic:

It’s only fitting to close with his 1929 composition and most famous song, which he often performed tongue-in-cheek, but took (mostly) seriously here:

Until the next post in this series, behave yourself.




In a comment to Part Two of this series, Don Frankel spoke of the lucky day he saw the Tony Award-winning musical AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’, a joyous celebration of the world and music of Fats Waller. I replied that I am lucky enough to own the Original Broadway Cast album. From the cover notes to that album come this quote:
The portrait of the man that emerges from the show is as complete as any fully drawn character in a play. We come to know Fats’ philosophy of life, the world that produced him and his artistry, and the source of the clown mask he used so effectively. Indeed, in the show’s most affecting moment, near the end of the evening, the jiving stops for a brief middle-of-the-night instant, the clown mask falls, and the entire cast sings Fats’ haunting Black and Blue.
The song’s composers were Waller and Harry Brooks, with lyrics by Andy Razaf:


We close with Part Three of the Fats Waller Documentary narrated by his son:



His brio was contagious. His exuberance was infectious. His genius was serious. Yet he was better for your health than a fistful of vitamins. His name was Thomas “Fats” Waller. Today is his birthday.

Waller was born in NYC on May 21, 1904. By the time this multi-talented jazzman/entertainer died tragically young in 1943, he had become one of the music world’s most popular personalities and song writers. Among his many compositions are such standards as Ain’t Misbehavin’, Honeysuckle Rose, and I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling. Some of my personal Waller favorites may not be standards, but deserve to be: Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now, How Can You Face Me, My Heart’s At Ease, Ain’tcha Glad — dozens more.

Simply put, I love this guy….and I would not only like to celebrate his birthday with something to remember him by on this day, but on each day until International Jazz Day on May 24. Give a look/listen — The Joint is Jumpin’: