Fats Waller (1904-1943)
(2008 INDUCTEE) THOMAS “FATS” WALLER WAS A GIFTED JAZZ PIANISTAND SINGER AS WELL AS A VERSATILE PROLIFIC AND INFLUENTIAL COMPOSER. HE RECORDED FOR GENNETT IN 1924.
IN MEMORY OF ROLAND H. “DOC” CUTTER, MAYOR OF RICHMOND, 1956-1963. DONORS: NANCY CUTTER TURLA, J. ROBERT CUTTER, ROLAND L. CUTTER
It is fair to say that no jazz artist, not even Louis Armstrong, was able to touch on America’s funny bone and yet maintain musical integrity as did Thomas “Fats” Waller. He was a master pianist, the first jazz organist, composer of numerous hit songs, band leader, radio performer, and scene-stealer in several Hollywood films. Fats was born to deeply religious parents, his father being a church deacon. In his mid-teens, Tom, in grief over his mother’s death, left home and roomed with friends. This led in time to an acquaintance with the celebrated Harlem “stride” pianist James P. Johnson, who would shortly become his mentor and teacher, introducing him to the world of night clubs, entertainers, and theater, as well as instilling in Tom’s receptive mind the elements of jazz piano. Soon he would be accepted as a junior member of an elite group of players who performed at the so-called “rent parties” or “parlor socials” unique to black communities as a way of raising money. It would be 1926 before the young pianist entered the Gennett studio in Long Island City, New York. Released on both Gennett and Champion, his recordings were labeled “Negro Spiritual, piano acc., Thos. Waller.” He was a participant in more than one pioneering recording session where black and white jazzmen played together.
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