Waller, Thomas “Fats”


Rare 1936 receipt (for salary advance) signed by the popular songwriter, master of the stride piano



Autograph ID: 2428
Condition: Very good, trivial creasing
Description: “(1904-1943) American jazz pianist, organist, composer and comedic entertainer. Master of stride piano, prolific songwriter of novelty swing tunes, one of the most popular performers of the 1920s and 30s.

Studied classical piano and organ as a child, learned stride piano style from legendary Harlem stride pianists James P. Johnson and Willie “The Lion” Smith. Obtained first piano roll assignments and recordings for Okeh Records at 18. His singing, songwriting, and lovable, roguish stage personality sold hundreds of recordings for RCA Victor in a day when much of society did not recognize jazz as “serious” music. His greatest success came with his own five- or six-piece combo, “Fats Waller and his Rhythm”.

Among his songs are “Squeeze Me” (1919), “Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now”, “Ain’t Misbehavin'” (1929), “Blue Turning Grey Over You”, “I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling” (1929), “Honeysuckle Rose” (1929), “Jitterbug Waltz” (1930), “Your Feets Too Big” (1941), and “This Joint Is Jumpin'” (1942). For his hit Broadway show, “Hot Chocolates”, with lyricist Andy Razaf he wrote “What Did I Do (To Be So Black and Blue)?” (1929) a searing treatment of racism, black and white, which became a hit for Louis Armstrong. Appeared in several films most notably “Stormy Weather” in 1943, released months before his death. His weight of nearly 300 pounds and perpetual drinking contributed to his premature death.

2 ¾ x 5 ¼ printed receipt completed by E. Melsher and signed “Thomas ‘Fats’ Waller” all in pencil, no place, November 24 1936, Waller acknowledging receipt of $50 from Melsher (likely a salary advance).

In Chicago in 1926 Waller was kidnapped by 4 men and bundled into a car which pulled up outside the Hawthorne Inn, owned by gangster Al Capone. Fats was ordered inside the building to find a party in full swing. A terrified Waller suddenly realized he was the “surprise guest” at Al Capone’s birthday party. Waller played, according to rumor, for 3 days. When he left the Hawthorne Inn, he was very drunk, extremely tired, and had earned thousands of dollars in cash given to him by Capone and by party-goers as tips.”
Type: Document

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