Fats Waller by Sun City Stomperz

Helen Daley

Fats Waller and his Music will be brought back to life by the Sun City Stomperz at the Sunday, January 18 Arizona Classic Jazz Society’s Jazz Party, upstairs in the Palomino Room and La Terraza at the Crowne Plaza San Marcos Golf Resort, One San Marcos Place, Chandler. The elevator is located behind the registration desk in the lobby of the hotel. The cost is $10 ACJS members, $15 non-members, students free. Become a member on January 18 and get in free (yearly membership $35 couple, $25 single). For more information call 480-620-3941 or go to www.azclassicjazz.org.

Thomas Wright Waller was born on May 21, 1904 in New York City and learned to play piano at age six. His nickname came naturally to someone weighing 300 pounds. He was the leading figure in a style that became known as stride piano. Fats’ first recording was for Okeh Records in 1922. He became a popular songwriter after penning such songs as Squeeze Me and Ain’t Misbehavin. His story was that he wrote Ain’t Misbehavin while in alimony prison so he didn’t have the chance to misbehave.

Fats was charismatic and had a penchant for booze and women. He was often found at Harlem rent parties (held to raise the rent for someone) and starred in radio shows Paramount on Parade and Radio Roundup in 1930-31 and Fats Waller’s Rhythm Club in Cincinnati from 1932-34. Back in New York, he formed Fats Waller and His Rhythm sextet for the radio program Rhythm Club. After appearing in two films, Hooray for Love! and King Of Burlesque in 1935, he was hoping to gain respect as a serious artist rather than the comedian he had become for the radio programs and traveled extensively to perform. He returned to film in the 1943 Stormy Weather and started writing songs for Early to Bed.

With declining health, Fats still maintained a heavy travel schedule. It all ended with his death aboard a train near Kansas City, Missouri while returning to New York from the West Coast on December 15, 1943.

Fats had become a beloved and influential jazz great. Come on January 18 and celebrate all that he offered to the world.