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Fats Waller
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    (May 21, 1904-December 15, 1943)
    Born in New York City, New York
    Birth name was Thomas Wright Waller
    Jazz pianist, vocalist and composer
    Wrote 'Ain't Misbehavin,' 'Honeysuckle Rose,' 'The Joint Is Jumpin,' 'Squeeze Me,' 'I've Got A Feeling I'm Falling' and 'Black and Blue'
    Appeared in the films 'King of Burlesque' (1936) and 'Stormy Weather' (1943)
    Songs were the basis of the Broadway musical 'Ain't Misbehavin' (1978)
    Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame (1970) and the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame (1989)
    He said about growing up with a minister father, 'As soon as I was old enough, I went right out and did all the things I'd been held back from doing.'
    He weighed 300 pounds.
    He was a frequent patron of a Harlem brothel called Valentine's Daisy Chain.
    His reputation as the 'clown prince' of jazz overshadowed his talents as a musician and songwriter.
    Oscar Levant called him 'the black Horowitz.'
    He was so popular that Al Capone's henchmen kidnapped him to become the surprise guest at the gangster's birthday party (1926).
    One critic called him 'the greatest jazz pianist who ever tried to make people laugh and the greatest comedian who ever played jazz.'
    He was one of the few jazz musicians of the day popular enough overseas to tour Europe (1938-39).
    He famously responded to the question 'What is jazz?' with 'If you have to ask, don't mess with it.'

Credit: C. Fishel

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