Fats Waller: Phenomenal Jazz Pianist Known For His Witty Performances

Written by Jae Jones

was by far one of the best jazz pianists during his time. He was also known for his comedian personality. Waller was born May 21, 1904 as “Thomas “Fats” Waller. He was born in Harlem to a Baptist preacher and mother who played the organ and piano. Waller was the seventh out of eleven children to Edward and Adeline Waller. By the age of fourteen he was already playing the organ at Harlem’s Lincoln Theater and composed his first rag within twelve months.

Waller’s first piano solos were “Muscle Shoals Blues and Birmingham Blues, which were recorded in October 1922 at the age of 18. Waller’s father wanted him to follow a Christian path with his music as opposed to jazz, but after Waller’s mother died in 1920, he moved to stay with the family of pianist Russell B. T. Brooks.


In 1922, Waller made his debut at the Fifth Avenue and 135th Street club. Waller was more than ready for this time because he had developed his skills into an all-around keyboard dynamo who had been playing theater organ for silent movies and stage shows.

Fats Waller made his first recording in 1922 and spent the rest of that decade performing in theaters and cabarets around New York City, Chicago, and Washington, DC. He also led his own trio in Philadelphia. Waller ultimately became one of the most popular performers of his era, finding great success back in his hometown and in Europe. He was also a prolific songwriter and many songs he wrote or co-wrote are still popular, such as “Honeysuckle Rose”, “Ain’t Misbehavin'” and “Squeeze Me”. Waller performed Bach organ pieces for small groups on many occasions. He also influenced many pre-bebop jazz pianists; Count Basie and Erroll Garner both reanimated his hit songs. In addition to his playing, Waller was known for his many “wit” during his performances. Waller died December 15, 1943 from pneumonia.




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About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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