I first saw and fell in love with the show Ain’t Misbehavin’ on Broadway in 1978. As a matter of fact, being a ballroom dancer, the old-time music was right up my alley. With songs like “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” I was in Tin-Pan heaven.
Singer, songwriter, bandleader, actor, radio, and stage performer Thomas “Fats” Waller was the inspiration for the show. He either wrote or performed all of the songs. Widely acclaimed, the show ran for nearly 4 years and over 1600 performances.
Who was Fats Waller?
Fats Waller was born in New York City on May 21, 1904. Although he studied classical piano, he eventually took up with pioneer Ragtime pianist James P. Johnson to learn the stride piano style. In fact, as you watch Ain’t Misbehavin’ you’ll hear lots of stride piano being played, along with some Dixieland, Jazz, and Swing. For instance, the song, “Handful of Keys” is a good example of stride piano.
Incidentally, if you have an interest in other jazzy piano styles, here’s a Dance Safari post, “Boogie-Woogie Piano Duets – Start Snapping Your Fingers“.
Legend has it…
…that Fats was kidnapped at gunpoint, ordered into a limousine, and delivered to Al Capone’s birthday party to entertain the mob boss and his guests. Read about it here.
The Last word
Fats Waller was crazy about music, performing, and women. Not surprisingly, his nickname came from his weight of more than 300 lbs. With this in mind, some say his love of food and booze contributed to his untimely death at the young age of 39. Thank goodness he left us with a show like Ain’t Misbehavin’ to remind us of his great talent. If you haven’t done so already, please click this link to watch the entire show. It’s good stuff!