Wednesday, May 21, 2014

`A Barrelhouse of Talent and Love'

A few artists make us happy. That is the nature of their gift. Think of Louis Armstrong, Laurel and Hardy, P.G. Wodehouse and Thomas “Fats” Waller. 

Timme Rosenkranz (1911-1969) was a Danish aristocrat, writer, concert and record producer, and jazz enthusiast who lived for fifteen years in New York City. When he opened the Mel-O-Dee Music Shop in Harlem in 1940, his first customer was Armstrong, who bought fifty dollars’ worth of records. Rosenkranz’s Harlem Jazz Adventures: A European Baron’s Memoir, 1934-1969, was published by the Scarecrow Press in 2012. He concludes the chapter titled “To Fats Waller with Love, Honeysuckle Rosenkrantz” like this: 

“There is one more Fats story I must squeeze in here. We were at the Onyx Club one day when June Richmond was singing. June was one of the first black vocalists to be featured with a white band—Jimmy Dorsey—and she was enormously popular singing by herself, in Europe. 

“June, as her fans know, was a hefty lady, in the same general weight range as Fats. When Fats saw her, he said loud enough for everyone to hear, `My, my, my—all that meat and no potatoes!’ After that, it was just about all June could do to start the next number. 

"Yes, Fats Waller was great. I think of him often, especially when I’m sitting with my record player at home in Hellerup, north of Copenhagen. I put on his happy sounds, and I don’t have to close my eyes to see that great big happy kid in front of me, waggling his eyebrows and wiggling his torso. I hear him laugh and laugh, and remember the wonderful days and nights I spent with him. Sometimes, awash in his music, I feel him right there in the room, and I am twice blessed to have known such a barrelhouse of talent and love.” 

Waller was born on this date, May 21, in 1904, in New York City, and died on Dec. 15, 1943, at the age of thirty-nine, during a cross-country train trip near Kansas City, Mo. Listen and be happy as he performs “The Joint is Jumping” and “Don’t Let It Bother You.”

1 comment:

mike zim said...

Another favorite happiness-maker is Dan Hicks.
Appropriate that he has a Fats tribute show today at the SF Jazz Fest.