Name at birth: Thomas Wright Waller
Fats Waller played stride piano and pipe organ, and his rollicking songs made him one of Americas most famous early jazz composers. Fats Waller began his career making player piano rolls in the 1920s. He accompanied singers (including Bessie Smith) on the vaudeville stage, and then wrote hit songs such as Aint Misbehavin and Honeysuckle Rose. Wallers high-energy tunes and funny, almost-naughty lyrics made him a popular star, and his output was tremendous. Fats Waller had a reputation for wild living, and it eventually caught up to him: he developed pneumonia and died on a train near Kansas City at the age of 39. His tunes were gathered into a musical review, Aint Misbehavin, which opened on Broadway in 1978 and ran for nearly four years.
Fats Waller appeared as himself in the 1943 film Stormy Weather, along with Lena Horne and the Nicholas Brothers.