Fats Waller

If You Got to Ask, You Ain't Got It (Bluebird / Legacy)

Box Sets

Fats Waller

If You Got to Ask, You Ain't Got It! (Bluebird/Legacy)

In a career that spanned just 39 years from cradle to grave, Harlem-born pianoman Thomas "Fats" Waller penned what you thought was a Willie Nelson tune ("Honeysuckle Rose"), what sounds like a Gal's Panic title ("Panic Is On!"), and the crushing ode to both the remarkable and the pedestrian ("Your Feets Too Big"). If that were all, it'd be enough, yet before his death in 1943, Waller's bouncy, bawdy style of "stride" piano – imagine Scott Joplin's martial ragtimes on a fifth of Old Grand Dad – became the hepcat beat to beat in post-prohibition, prewar juke joints and wherever else it mattered. As for the nickname, it fits Fats hand-in-glove and foot-in-spat: His fingers always shuffle or pirouette expansively, often explosively across every single track on this exhaustive, ecstatic 3-CD compilation, whether buoyed by Waller's scatting witticisms and double-entendre lyrics, or not. One whole disc is dedicated to Tin Pan Alley tracks, minus the kooky, boozy vocals ["(I'll Be Glad When You're Dead) You Rascal, You" is a rollicking standout], which brings to mind a more hefty Harlem version of no less than Vaudevillian keyboard gunslinger Chico Marx! It's a puzzle why Waller's star has dimmed in the public consciousness while contemporaries like Louis Armstrong, who noted "That Fats was a solid sender, yes, yes," remain closer to the popular spotlight. More so, even, when you realize that Waller not only dominated the airwaves with a weekly live radio broadcast (Fats Waller's Rhythm Club) but also the record shops of the day, maintaining a lengthy association with RCA Victor, and via two major Hollywood musicals, Hooray for Love and King of Burlesque. All that and "Ain't Misbehavin'," too? "You Must Be Losing Your Mind."


A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Music Reviews
Fall Platters
Jeff Lofton
Jericho (Record Review)

Michael Toland, Nov. 29, 2019

Texas Platters
Golden Dawn Arkestra
Darkness Falls on the Edge of Time (Record Review)

Rick Weaver, Sept. 20, 2019

More by Marc Savlov
The Twentieth Century
Suitably bonkers Canadian surrealist comedy rewrites history

Nov. 27, 2020

Jiu Jitsu
No jiu jitsu, and not enough Nic Cage in this Predator rip-off

Nov. 20, 2020

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle