Fats Waller’s Muzak Session 1935

HearMeIt has been amazing to experience the music and the stories behind it as we have researched the archives, but we haven’t had a lot of opportunities to really step inside the studio.  One of the researchers stumbled upon this account of an actual day of recording in the Muzak Studios.

Book: “Hear Me Talkin’ to Ya: The Story of Jazz As Told by the Men Who Made It”
Authors: Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff
Excerpt (pages 261 thru 262)
W.T. Ed Kirkeby (Fats Waller manager)

I had booked a date with Muzak to do some transcriptions with Fats and his Rhythm.  As we had three shows daily at the Lowe’s State Theatre, we had to sandwich this recording session in between our stage work.  The recording studio was just across the street from the stage entrance, so it was no job to get there.  Fats and I had quite a hassle with the stagehands’ union which was insisting on putting on an extra electrician at Fats’ expense.  One hundred bucks a week just to plug in a line for his Hammond organ.  “Take yo hand outa ma pocket,” Fats had screamed, and was glad to get away from the scene of the holdup.

Once in the Muzak studio we lost no time.  The first show at the theatre had keyed up the boys, and with a fine Steinway piano and an excellent “studio sound” Fats looked forward to having himself a ball.  Everyone was keyed up and in the proper frame of mind for musical stimulation – and the panic was soon on.  The boys played like there was no tomorrow.  They knew all the tunes and the masters piled up at a truly amazing rate.  With the next show ahead Fats had to keep a terrific pace, but with all the drive there was always that feeling of relaxation, of Fats having fun.  He would chuckle and grin, raise his eyebrows in glee, and when Gene Sedric would come up for a solo Fats’ booming voice would urge him to greater efforts with, “Get on yo feet, Baby Bear, and earn yo salary.”  Or to Slick Jones who would be frantically chewing a wad of gum, “Gimme some skin, man gimme some skin.”  And as the pace became more torrid and the joint really began to rock, Fats would scream to Bugs Hamilton, “Ah send me, send me….SEND ME…..YEAH!”  And Buggsy’s trumpet would soar to the clouds and do fine things under the spell of the Waller drive.  Yes, it was happy music and it made for a joyous day not only for those who made the music, but for us in the control room who were lucky enough to be in on the (Muzak) session.

The date was over for Fats and his Rhythm with a grand total of twelve sides recorded.  “On stage” at the theatre was only ten minutes away and the boys disappeared fast.  Fats got away with “I’ll see you later”, for he was to return after the second show for a session of piano solos.  And later that afternoon he did just that.  Four more solo records seemed like play, and that powerful left hand was a one-man rhythm section.  No one could doubt after that second record session, in addition to his three shows at the theatre on the same day, that the tremendous drive and vitality that characterized Fats’ work was really without equal anywhere.

This session was held at Muzak on March 11, 1935.  Here’s a taste of that incredible recording…

Contributed by Bruce McKagan, Muzak Archives Director

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Tagged as: 30s music, Fats Waller, Muzak Archives

1 Comment

  1. Excuse me for not contributing lately, my “condition” has been robbing me more of energy than time. A remission today make this comment possible. I always thoght that

    Waller session took place in 1937 not 1935.
    I believe that one of Fat’s numbers done at the session was “The Spider and the Fly”, a sex song of seduction done in Fat’s inimitable way. One of the four piano solos was “Tea for Two” remarkably reflective for a guy who was also a comedian. Too bad Fats never got to play any of the great organs in the Muzak studios. If you don’t mind my mentioning a compeititor,Fats did get to a Hammond organ at Lang-Worth a few years later singing and playing spirituals in a solo performance.

    But a request now with a Muzak electric organ: Late 1940, early 1941 the great singer Buddy Clarke, did a series of songs for Muzak accompanied by only a quartet or quintet featuring a great organist named Bob Hamilton. On one of the numbers “There’s a Great Day Coming Manana” has Buddy’s great imitation of Al Jolson on it. It’s a song that sounds hopeful but turns cynical……”There’s a great day coming manana,IF MANANA EVER COMES” Perfect for today!

    Would I love tohear it once more. What do you say?

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