Tuesday, March 09, 2021

My Fats Waller Project

[Updated 2021-10-07]

Latest recording, "i've got a feeling i'm falling", 1929.

In the fall of 1968, I met Delbert Lionel Hilgartner III. He was a sophomore at MIT, I was just starting. Pi Lambda Phi frat.

Del was cool: 6'1", cowboy boots. He had spent his senior year in Davis, CA. The 3 years before that, he had lived in Tangiers, Morocco. His dad was stationed there for VOA (CIA?).

In prolly late 1970, he started the band "Blue Eyed Boy, Mr. Death". (Yeats?). He played keys (Hammond B3 w Lesley), blues harp, tambourine, and sang lead, harmony, & backup. I played mostly lead guitar, a little pedal steel, and sang harmony, lead, & backup. Randolph Axel Nelson (Randy at 1st, later Axel) played mostly rhythm guitar, + bass, bongos, & sang harmony & backup. Barry I. Levine played bass & sax & sang harmony and backup. John Broderick (J. the D.) drummed. Barry was in Del's year at MIT, Randy had been in mine but dropped out. J. the D. was a Boston townie, he'd graduated college & taught grade school I think.

We weren't bad - John sent around some recordings early last year (linked to in this post, which also talks about BEBMD & the other 2 bands I played in in Boston.). We gigged pretty steady, frats, sororities, some high schools, clubs, spring of 1971. Del graduated w a Humanities degree & moved to the Village to teach film at Cooper's Union. That ended BEBMD.

Del turned me on to North African music - I haven't collected much of that. He also turned me on to Fats Waller. The king of stride piano in the late 1920's & 1930's. Great tunes, great lyrics, very upbeat. My wife described some of the songs as "playful", I agree.

In the late 1960's, I bought 3 RCA Victor Vintage Fats Waller vinyl LPs:

  1. Valentine Stomp 1935
  2. Fractious Fingering 1936
  3. Smashing Thirds 1937

These albums also have some Fats solo piano pieces, mostly recorded in 1929.

I also bought "Classic Jazz Piano Styles" which had 4 tracks by Fats, 4 by Jelly Roll Morton, 4 by Earl Hines?, & 4 by ?.

A few months ago I started working up the Fats songs off of the 3 albums. I took a picture of the 3 albums' track lists. I highlighted my current status, what fun! iPad drawing tool intuitive!

I have recorded 11 Fats songs so far. Here's the link to my YouTube Fats Waller Playlist.

These 6 (green highlight) on the Playlist are from the 3 albums:

  1. you’ve got me under your thumb by fats waller; cleo brown in C
  2. what will I do in the morning? by fats waller in Bb
  3. i’d rather call you baby by fats waller in Bb
  4. got a bran' new suit by fats waller in Eb
  5. spring cleaning by fats waller in D
  6. i got rhythm by george gershwin; fats waller in G

These 5 are from other sources:

  1. i’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter by fats waller in Bb
  2. two sleepy people by fats waller; hoagy carmichael; frank loesser in F
  3. i can't give you anything but love by fats waller; willie nelson in G
  4. ain’t misbehaving by fats waller in Bb
  5. tea for two by doris day; fats waller in F

Note, "i got rhythm" I don't do Fats' version, I do Ella Fitzgerald's. Fats also does "tea for two", I do the 1950's movie version. "ain't misbehaving" I did with Steve (Fuzzy) Konopka in "Steve & Chris".

Next up for recording (yellow highlight), "how ya baby?" in C. In process, I just worked up the chords for "how can i?" in D (red highlight) this morning. The song has a a red flag on it in OnSong - not ready to go. Easier chords than the prior 1.

And also in the pic, 9 blue highlighted possibles! I've been working the right column of 1937 songs, I think I'll switch to the left column of 1935 songs for a while. Next up, "thief in the night".

I have 14 total songs in OnSong under Fats: the 11 recorded, the 2 in process, and "if you're a viper", which is not 1 of my favs of his. If I record it it will be after the 9 possibles.

Odd that I didn't seem to like the 1936 album??? The other highlighted tunes have been on the hit parade in my head for 5 decades, I don't think any of the 1936 tunes made the cut.

For the last few of the greens I have worked up, I have added my chart to Ultimate Guitar. I've also added lyrics to AZLyrics. Yay for me, I'm performing a public service, capturing these great songs for posterity!

I R contributing to The Commons, FTW!

[Updated 2021-03-11]
Added "how ya baby?" by fats waller in C.

[Updated 2021-03-15]
Added "how can i?" by fats waller in D.

[Updated 2021-04-14]
Added "thief in the night" by fats waller in Eb.

[Updated 2021-04-30]
Added "let's sing again" by fats waller in C.

[Updated 2021-05-04]
Added "sweet thing" by fats waller in D.

[Updated 2021-05-28]
Added "spreadin' rhythm around" by fats waller in F.

[Updated 2021-06-12]
I wanted to capture this listing of 219 songs recorded by Fats Waller and His Rhythm.

[Updated 2021-07-19]
Added "i've got my fingers crossed" by fats waller in G.

[Updated 2021-10-05]
Added "i've got a feeling i'm falling" by fats waller, billy rose, gene austin, annette hanshaw in D. I could not find a video of Fats singing this song, only of him performing it as a piano solo. I worked this version up from the Gene Austin 1929 recording.

[Updated 2021-10-07]
Probably Fats' best known collaborating lyricist was Andy Razaf (born Andriamanantena Paul Razafinkarefo). Is that not a great name? Say it, 7 syllables, 1 syllable, 6 syllables, it totally rolls off of your tongue. The Wikipedia article says that he was a nephew of Madgascar royalty - a dynasty of almost 400 years, they must have had a some decent genes ;-P

An early Music In note, when I was looking for the video for "you got me under your thumb", I came across the Cleo Brown version - it had a very tasty intro. Cleo was known as the "female Fats Waller". She was 3 years younger, born 1907 (or 1909) vs 1904 for Fats. Her skimpy Wikipedia article says in 1935 she took over for Fats as pianist for the WABC orchestra in NYC.

It seems like most of her stuff is on this 27-track album, "Here Comes Cleo". Only $9.49 Amazon download, quel bargain! I've really enjoyed it. Favs: "you got me under your thumb", "my gal mezzanine", "when hollywood goes black and tan", "who's that knockin' at my heart?".

I found her the last week of Black History Month & thought, "How appproiate & fortuitous!". Touted on Twitter, crickets :-(

Oooh, just found another album of hers, "1935-1951", 27 tracks, 18 in common w "Here Comes Cleo", only $3.99 !!! Snappin' that up right now! 9 new tracks for $3.99 a great bargain!

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