Sunday, May 21, 2017

May 21: Happy Birthday, Fats Waller

Today marks the 1904 birth of Thomas "Fats" Waller, one of the great jazz pianists of the mid-20th century. The Harlem native began playing at rent parties, raising some cash for the hosts. He broke into the music business writing novelty songs, and started recording with Victor Records in 1926.

Waller played the organ in addition to piano, and also laid down the vocals on his solo songs. His technique was considerable--he was an innovator in the difficult realm of stride piano, which requires fast alternation on the bass end of the keyboard, with the right hand augmenting the basic melody.

He hosted a radio show called "Fats Waller's Rhythm Club" from 1932-34. Waller's virtuosity and his smooth, comic patter made him a very popular entertainer in Depression-era America.

Happy Birthday, Fats!