Fats Waller

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About Fats Waller

Thomas “Fats” Waller is one of the most important figures in pre-WWII American music, a singer/keyboardist/composer whose pioneering path moved through ragtime, stride, swing, Broadway, and more. Born in New York City in 1904, Waller learned piano and organ as a child, playing the latter in a local theater, and studied stride piano with the style’s progenitor, James P. Johnson. His syncretic piano style combined elements of ragtime and stride in a way that laid the path for early jazz and swing. Waller began his recording career in 1922, and before the decade was over, he had written and cut a passel of future standards like “Honeysuckle Rose” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” as well as crafting the music for Broadway shows like Hot Chocolates. In the ’30s, Waller became a household name through his radio programs and film appearances. Waller was a man who burned the candle at both ends, and in 1943, in the midst of his travels, he caught pneumonia, passing away at just 39 that December. He left behind a catalog of songs that remain at the bedrock of musical history, such as the ones that powered the ’70s hit Broadway show Ain’t Misbehavin’.

New York, NY, United States
May 21, 1904
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