Monday, August 02, 2010

Fats Waller on the Air - 1938 Broadcasts

Fats Waller on the Air - 1938 Broadcasts ( English) - Fats Waller: radiouitzendingen (1938) ( Nederlands)

New, never released airshots, now available on CD ............
Hans Koert

Born and raised in the south west part of The Netherlands I became fascinated as a teenager by the music of Thomas Fats Waller. His playing on the piano, his humour and swing impressed me and I tried to copy it at my piano. But, sorry 'bout that, I
never reached a tenth of the level Fats Waller showed on his records. As a student of the Rijkskweekschool ( = the Teacher Training College) in Middelburg, I had to travel each day by train from Goes to Middelburg. As I told you, I was fascinated by the music of Fats Waller and I tried to get a complete collection of all his records ( on RCA Black & White LP's). I bought myself some books, like Fats in Fact, ( internet wasn't born) to inform myself about Fats' career and learned that he visited Europe between the 29th of July 1938 and early October 1938. On the 11th of September 1938 he left by boat from Harwich (England) to sail to Flushing ( = Vlissingen)(The Netherlands) and then he took an armed train to Hamburg ..... I realized, in the late 1960s, while waiting at the platform for my train, that Fats Waller must had passed by here in Goes 30 years ago ........ It was almost if I could have touched him!!

Fats Waller (1904-1943)

I thought about this story, when I received a reissue of Fats Waller 1938 radio broadcasts released by Tai Ping Records, transferred and released by Stephen Taylor ( Bangkok)(Thailand). On the album three lengthy radio broadcasts - two with Fats Waller and his Rhythm and one, recorded at the St. George's Hall in London England with Fats alone at the keys.
Cover of the Fats Waller on the Air - 1938 Broadcasts by Tai Ping Records ( TPR-FW0102)

During the week of the 5th up to the 10th of September, 1938 Fats Waller was booked in two venues ( New Cross Empire ( South-East London) and Killburn Empire ( North-West London), so he had to move between these two venues each night. After the last concert on Saturday the 10th of September, 1938 Fats played the pipe organ at the St. George's Hall for a short-wave broadcast to the US over a Post Office wireless telegraphy link and the concert was received and relayed in the US by NBC Network This session, which also featured vocalist Adelaide Hall on some tunes, contains the regular Waller standards, although the Melody Maker from the 17th of September, 1938 suggests that Waller also played his new song: Please Find Me A Sweetheart. This session lasted up to 1.00 am and that very same day Fats Waller took the train to Harwich and took the boat to Flushing (= Vlissingen) and there the train to Hamburg and Copenhagen.

Cartoon ( courtesy: Fats Waller - Igort & Sampayo)
In Denmark Fats played at Aarhus where he was welcomed on the 14th September, 1938 by .... Svend Asmussen's Five Swing Fans. They performed together at the Aarhus-Hallen that evening and later in Copenhagen. This trip to Scandinavia might be a great contribution for another blog later as Svend Asmussen, now in his 90s, was involved with that tour. The way back to England seems to have been rather hectic, as the political situation in Germany oppressed Fats and his crew - a war was brewing ...... Some concerts in Belgium (and probably Holland) were cancelled and they made a beeline for Great Britain. An announcement for a concert in Antwerp featuring the Dutch Dance Orchestra The Ramblers, seems to be one of those cancelled concerts.

Hughes PannasiƩ and Fats Waller at the 1938 Yacht Club. (collection: Stephen Taylor)
For a jazz collector air shots are the best bits, so it is great to find on this album two more, previous unreleased broadcasts. What to think about an NBC broadcast from the 12th of July, 1938 - one of a series of several 15 minutes programs that has survived and a complete Yacht Club Broadcast from October 1938.
The album ends with some bonus tracks which are in fact vinyl test pressings (1934-1943) and up to now unreleased. The transfers of this album are made by Stephen Taylor and most of the tracks sound great ( mind that the second session was a short-wave broadcast).

Fats Waller and Svend Asmussen (1938)
Stephen Taylor is the author of the book: Fats Waller on the Air ( The Radio Broadcasts and discography) and made Additions and Corrections to the great bio-discography Fats In Fact by the late Laurie Wright. This record is, in fact, an addition that belongs to his research project Fats Waller On The Air, a book I can't discuss here as it is not in my library.

A cancelled concert of Fatts (sic) Waller with the Ramblers in Antwerp (Belgium) (1938) (negative)

The cartoons used in this blog for illustration are from the comic strip Fats Waller made by Igort & Sampayo and released in the Dutch language by Oog & Blik in 2005. It has been originally released in a French version with the same title. The story told is Fats Waller's life and career, but the makers show they have a vivid imagination at some points.

You can order the Fats Waller on the Air CD at its website.
Hans Koert

Most of us are too young to have seen Fats Waller perform -so am I, but his concerts were indelible events - his swing, his humour and charisma are legendary. During the 1930s and early 1940s concerts and radio broadcasts were almost scheduled daily. We still can listen to his records, but only few radio broadcasts have survived. Thanks to Stephen Taylor, author of the book Fats Waller on the Air ( The Radio Broadcasts and discography), we can now enjoy some unreleased 1938 broadcasts. Great stuff ......... Keep Swinging loves to point you to this kind of unexpected treasures. If you don't want to miss it ask for its newsletter.

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