Best known as an incomparable jazz piano and organ player, a hilarious showman, and songwriter of such hits as “Ain’t Misbehavin'”, “Honeysuckle Rose” and “Your Feet’s Too Big”, 300 lb. Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller worked throughout the 1920s in the all-black vaudeville circuit run by the Theatre Owners Booking Association (T.O.B.A.), often accompanying singers like Sara Martin and Bessie Smith. By the 1930s he was contributing songs to Broadway shows and a star of radio and record albums. He died of pneumonia in 1943 at the age of 39. Predictably, he was on tour at the time. His resurrection a few decades later in shows like Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Black and Blue was just as inevitable.
To find out more about these variety artists and the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.