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 of America
- May 21, 1904