35. Fats Waller: Full On

Posted on 27/02/2017


35: Fats Waller : Full On

I dealt with one aspect of Fats Waller in Post 11. That post only touched on one aspect of his genius. He had many other facets. This post will address some more.

  1. Headlines in the News.

This begins with the wonderful admonition:

‘Sit the down, woman, I would have a chat with thou’

Not quite Shakespeare, but wonderfully cod-formal. Having sat her down he then admonishes her with the phrase ‘headlines’ which refers to the fact that her name is in the news (presumably the chatty part). She is his ‘to have and to hold’ but meantime ‘she is getting much too bold’. ‘High time you desist’ or ‘you’ll be headlines in the news’ (ie dead). He goes on to say how kindly he has treated her, but enough’s enough:

‘you’d better quit running with that crowd/or be prepared to wear a shroud’

that is quite severe language (a shroud is pretty final), and implies that Fats had some practical measures to apply, behind his mask of amiability.

‘Headlines, from all the papers will shout/bylines, at last your sins found you out/ha ha this time you wont be able to read/ headlines in the news’

and finally the admonition ‘you’d better call an undertaker, cause there will be a need for one soon’

A slightly grim undertone’ but carried off with his usual brio.

2. Loungin at the Waldorf.

This is a remarkable song, as black people were not allowed in posh hotels in the USA in the 1930’s. But Fats treats everything as though it were normal

‘Good morning Mrs Hemingway, how are you today…..very very good

Mrs Brockman, mercy mercy me….Caviar, why certainly: put it on them biscuits

anchovies? I never heard of them things

Sweet Ceasar what a break

Shuttup boy, you know they dont pass no chitlins around in here (referring to a pig delicacy much loved by the black community) pigs feet: you in the Waldorf, yes I know you know me well, but…

Now give me all the Waldorf Cakes right now

ah there goes the elevators; there goes the baggage van (with suitable noises off from Fats)

Looks like everybody’s loungin at the Waldorf’

The whole thing being accompanied by Fats and his rhythm playing ‘lounge’ music of the period as a background.Totally charming!

3. My mummie sent me to the store.

This ingenious song sees Fats going to the grocery store:

‘My Mummie sent me to the store, to the store, to the store/ but what my mummie sent me for/I really cant remember/I think it was the groceries, let me see/ oh gee oh gosh oh gee/I dont remember/I’ve forgotten what she needed for the pantry shelf/all I know is that she said keep a big one for myself, and I’ve got that/but what she sent me for I really cant remember: can you boys help me out (to the band)?

[band] did she sent you out for pie? [Fats] No you know she didnt ask for pie

[band] did she want to go for rye (whisky)? [Fats] No you know my mamma didnt like no liquid, No’

‘wasnt pie, it wasnt rye, oh what was I supposed to buy. Oh I really cant, really cant remember. My memory is so unreliable mercy

The outstanding lines, for me anyway, are that his Mummie had said keep a big one for myself ‘and I’ve got that’ and the suggestion from the band that Mummie had sent him out to buy whisky, which would have been unthinkable in those days. A real cracker!

Thats just a summary of another three, but there are dozens of others just as good. He took mundane popular songs and skewed them so that they became hilarious.

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