JOE BLITMAN'S
FASHION & CELEBRITY DOLLS
2021 HOLIDAY ADVENT CALENDAR
DAY 7




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323-953-6490

 
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FATS WALLER

1904-1943





Thomas Wright "Fats" Waller was born in Manhattan, where his father was a deacon at a church in Harlem. 

He started playing piano when he was 6.  By the time he turned 10, he was giving performances on the organ at his father’s church. 

He dropped out of school at 15, when he was hired as an organist at a Harlem silent movie theatre for $23 a week.



He started recording when he was just 18.  His first recordings were "Muscle Shoal Blues" and "Birmingham Blues," made in October 1922 for Okeh Records.



Music was his Number One priority.  (Partying was a close second.)

And he was a powerhouse.  Fats kept up a full schedule of live appearances, while also finding time to compose and publish 400 songs!

(We're lucky we have the energy to show you today's 10 featured items from our website:)



FIT-TO-PRINT NADJA
(NU.FACE)
(2021)
NRFB
$219.99


TABLE HOST GIFT
2008 BARBIE CONVENTION
PINK MINI-BARBIE ON CHAIN
$25.00


AUSTIN-HEALEY
BARBIE SPORTSCAR
(1962)
Excellent & Complete
$125.00
SOLD - SORRY


I LOVE LUCY
"LUCY DOES A COMMERCIAL"
"VITAMEATAVEGAMIN"
(1997)
Mint On Card
$19.00
SOLD - SORRY


MISS BARBIE
(1964)
NRFB
$2,499.99





PEACHES 'N CREAM BARBIE
(1984)
$59.00


BLOOM BURSTS
(1967)
NRFB
$699.99


BEST LOOK
  SILKSTONE GIFT SET
(2020)
NRFB
$199.99


MALIBU KEN
(1975)
$49.00

SOLD - SORRY


SHORE LINES
(1970)
Near-Mint & Complete
$59.00

SOLD - SORRY


GIFT CERTIFICATES
IN ANY AMOUNT YOU WANT



Fats Waller was a very well-known, very well-regarded, and very popular entertainer.




And he lived a very wild life!

Once, while he was walking down the street after a night’s work at a Chicago speakeasy, two thugs pointed a gun at him and told him to get in their car.
 




They blindfolded him and took him for a half-hour ride out of the city. 

When the blindfold was removed, he was sitting at a piano in a room where a surprise birthday party for the gangster Al Capone was taking place. 




Fats was the entertainment.
 




The party went on for 36 hours, and every time someone made a song request, they stuffed a hundred dollar bill in Fats’ jacket pocket. 

It was a terrifying, but very lucrative, ordeal.


Waller's best-known song is “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” written in 1929.

Here he is fourteen years later performing the song in the 1943 film “Stormy Weather”:





Fats' second-best-known song is also from 1929:  “Honeysuckle Rose.” 

Lena Horne did her version of it in the 1943 movie “Thousands Cheer” at M-G-M:
 





Honeysuckle Rose


Here’s Fats doing it his way in a low-budget soundie (which is what they called music videos in the 30’s and 40’s):
 
 


As we mentioned earlier, Fats Waller is credited with writing 400 published songs.  But the actual count could even be higher -- much higher. 

Waller had a habit -- when he needed money or when he was soused -- of selling newly-written songs outright to other songwriters. 

There's a pretty good case to be made that he sold the tune for "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" to Jimmy McHugh for $500.

Here's the song, performed by Jonah Jones and Cab Calloway: 



Who knows what other standards should have Fats listed as the composer?



As a teenager, Fats had been introduced to James P. Johnson, often called "The Father of Stride," who significantly influenced Waller and his music.





Fats went on to become a master of the art form.  But what, exactly, is "stride"?

"Stride" is a jazz piano style that arose from ragtime players.

The term comes from the idea of the pianist's left hand leaping, or "striding," across the piano.

It calls for a wider reach and quicker tempos, and it makes the piano a stronger jazz instrument.  Songs were written in a stride style, but they were also intended to be improvised.

Here's a stride song written by James P. Johnson in 1939, but performed recently by pianist Jacopo Salieri, that will show you just how fun -- and challenging -- stride music is to play. 

(And how much Fats learned from Johnson -- and vice versa.)








Fats was an extraordinary composer and pianist, but he never lost his love of playing the organ.
 




Here he marries the jitterbug to the waltz in the inevitably-titled “Jitterbug Waltz”: 



Jitterbug Waltz




Another of his standards is “The Joint is Jumpin’,” inspired by "rent parties" during the Depression.
 




People would host parties in their apartments and charge admission as a way of gathering up enough money to pay their rent. 

Here’s Nell Carter paying the rent -- and raising the roof:




Eventually -- actually, way too soon -- Fats Waller's "over-achieving" lifestyle caught up with him.  He died in 1943 at the age of 39.

He had caught pneumonia and passed away while on the Super Chief train going from Los Angeles to New York City.





Earlier that year, Fats had written a Broadway musical that was intended for white audiences -- a first for Broadway.

The show was called "Early to Bed." 



It was a hit and ran for a year.


Here's current-day stride pianist Matt De Champlain playing one of the show's songs: 




35 years later, in 1978, there was a musical revue on Broadway -- for audiences of ALL colors -- featuring songs Fats Waller wrote and/or performed. 




With a cast of five, "Ain't Misbehavin'" was a huge crowd pleaser. 

It won the Tony Award for Best Musical and ran for four years. 

It then became a TV special. 




When you have the time, here’s the whole show to enjoy: 


The entire cast is superb, but it was Nell Carter who became the breakout star. 

Here's just a taste, to show you why: 



 

And here's Fats, doing what he did best:

 







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