|Mechanical Music Digest Gallery|
|You Are Not Logged In||Login/Get New Account|
Please Log In. Accounts are free!
Logged In users are granted additional features including a more current version of the Archives and a simplified process for submitting articles.
|MMD Gallery MMMedia fatswaller1|
THE PIANO ROLLS played by THOMAS WALLER and "FATS" WALLER
by John Farrell
During the years 1923 to 1931 twenty-three piano rolls marked "played by Thomas Waller " were released on the QRS label. These rolls, bearing Thomas Waller's signature in facsimile, were hand-played by Waller although some, if not all of them were edited by J. Lawrence Cook.
Cook was a musically gifted postal worker, moonlighting -- or daylighting, for he worked nights at the U.S. Post Office! -- at QRS as an artist/arranger. In addition to the QRS rolls Waller made one for Imperial, supposedly made one for the Automatic Music Roll Co. (it is almost certainly not Waller's work) and two for the Standard Music Roll Co. for release on their Standard Play-A-Roll label (some collectors claim that the latter figure should be just one, i.e. that WEST INDIES BLUES was never issued).
In 1935 QRS started producing rolls marked "Played by "Fats" Waller
(or "Played by Thomas "Fats" Waller"). These were in fact played by Cook,
many executed in excellent Waller style. As Fats was both impressed and
pleased to hear how Cook was able to imitate him, he gave permission to
have his name used on the rolls. The agreement did not require QRS to make
any royalty payments to Waller, but after his death in December 1943 the
executors of the Waller estate demanded royalties to continue the arrangement.
Letter from J. Lawrence Cook
I have a copy of a letter from Cook dated 6 July 1953 :
"Thanks very much for your interesting letter of June 26.
Over the years several Waller rollographies have emerged, the best of these using Mike Montgomery's exhaustive QRS numerical listing as source material. The first edition of "The Music of Thomas "Fats" Waller"  itemises 21 rolls, of which only one is a genuine Waller roll, the other 20 being Cook/Waller rolls.
The second edition of the same publication  lists 19 of the Thomas Waller rolls but none of the Cook/Waller rolls.
In a Thomas Waller and "Fats" Waller rollography  Mike Montgomery lists 21 of the Thomas Waller rolls (i.e. 19 QRS titles plus the two Standard Play-A-Rolls) and 37 Cook/Waller rolls (but two of them were never issued under the Waller name). It also gives the release dates of the Thomas Waller rolls.
In "An almost complete Thomas "Fats" Waller Discography" , 22 of the Thomas Waller rolls are listed (one of them without a catalog number and with an incorrect release date) together with 49 alleged Cook/Waller rolls (in fact seven of them were never issued under Waller's name).
The third edition of "The Music of Thomas "Fats" Waller"  gives details of 23 rolls claimed to have been played by Thomas Waller rolls. CRYIN' FOR MY USED TO BE and WEST INDIES BLUES are not listed, two others are without catalog number and release date. The Cook/Waller rolls are not mentioned.
Maurice Waller's biography of his father  confirms that Cook played an editorial role at some, and perhaps all of Fats' QRS sessions.
Paul Machlin's book  simply says on the subject, "In 1923 (Waller) made a number of piano rolls".
K.O. Eckland  introduces a few mysteries - Imperial rolls not hitherto associated with Waller. I doubt that these are played by either Waller or Cook, nevertheless I have included them here. Eckland's book omits WEST INDIES BLUES and makes no reference to the Cook/Waller titles.
Ginny and Bob Billings truly awesome work  lists all 23 QRS Waller
rolls but incorrectly credits three of them to Cook. I hesitate to pick
up on the typos which invariably creep into an undertaking of this magnitude
except to say that the wrong release date has been given to the Cook/Waller
ST. LOUIS BLUES.
Lists of Waller Piano Rolls
I believe the following pages to be a complete list of the QRS piano rolls made by Thomas Waller, including catalog numbers and release dates. Details of the two rolls he made for Standard Music Co. are also given (the catalog number of one is still unknown to me) as are the particulars of the single Automatic Music Roll title.
Then follows a compilation of the Cook rolls issued as "Played by "Fats" Waller". Tor Magnusson rashly claimed that his list was complete, however he missed JUKE BOX SATURDAY NIGHT and I WISH I HAD DIED IN MY CRADLE. I am reasonably certain that my list is complete.
A brief comment about Imperial. For quite some time identical QRS masters were used to produce clone Imperials which were sold for less. Sometimes the Imperials dropped a verse or a chorus but normally the takes were the same. (I have heard the converse argued - that the original roll first appeared on Imperial and sometimes was extended for release on QRS).
I gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the following friends who allowed me to poke around their roll collections, examine their files and drink their whisky :
Bob and Ginny Billings, Bill Burkhardt, Frank Himpsl, Mike Montgomery,
Mike Schwimmer, Ed Sprankle.
The roll box labels bear a date code to the left above the title (for instance 923 means September 1923, 324 means March 1924 and so on).
Some collectors consider these codes to be the dates on which QRS released the rolls for general sale to the public, others believe that they have a different connotation, i.e. that the codes indicated the deadline by which dealers could return unsold rolls to the QRS factory and obtain either a refund or a credit.
Until the facts are established (if indeed they ever are) I have treated
the codes as release dates for the purposes of this rollography.
Piano Rolls Issued As "Played by Thomas Waller"
The format of this rollography - item #/ QRS catalog #/ release date/ title/ comments (if any) :
1. QRS 2149 March 1923 GOT TO COOL MY DOGGIES NOW 
2. QRS 2213 May 1923 LAUGHIN' CRYIN' BLUES
3. QRS 2245 May 1923 YOUR TIME NOW
4. QRS 2256 June 1923 SNAKE (sometimes SNAKES) HIPS 
5. QRS 2270 June 1923 'TAIN'T NOBODY'S BIZNESS IF I DO
6. QRS 2286 July 1923 PAPA BETTER WATCH YOUR STEP
7. QRS 2304 August 1923 HAITIAN BLUES
8. QRS 2322 August 1923 MAMA'S GOT THE BLUES
9. QRS 2331 August 1923 MIDNIGHT BLUES
10. QRS 2363 September 1923 LAST GO ROUND BLUES
11. QRS 2444 September 1923 YOU CAN'T DO WHAT MY LAST MAN DID 
12. QRS 2661 June 1924 CLEARING HOUSE BLUES 
13. QRS 2661 June 1924 JAIL HOUSE BLUES
14. QRS 2708 June 1924 DO IT MR. SO AND SO
15. QRS 2711 June 1924 DON'T TRY TO TAKE MY MAN AWAY
16. QRS 2711 June 1924 DON'T TRY TO TAKE MY MAN AWAY [Alternate
17. QRS 3352 February 1926 SQUEEZE ME
18. QRS 3377 March 1926 18TH STREET STRUT 
19. QRS 3800 February 1927 CRYIN' FOR MY USED TO BE 
20. QRS 3818 March 1927 IF I COULD BE WITH YOU 
21. QRS 3997 August 1927 NOBODY BUT MY BABY 
22. QRS 4073 November 1927 I'M COMING VIRGINIA 
23. QRS 5143 June 1931 I'M CRAZY 'BOUT MY BABY
24. Standard Play-A-Roll 0677 August 1924 A NEW KIND OF MAN WITH A NEW KIND OF LOVE FOR ME
25. Standard Play-A-Roll (??) August 1924 (??) WEST INDIES
26. Automatic Music Roll A1418 tune #8 May 1928 WILD CAT BLUES
Roll A1418 is entitled "Queen of the Blues". Most authorities agree that this performance of WILD CAT BLUES (Waller's first published composition) is not hand-played by Waller at all, but is the work of a roll arranger employed by Automatic. It is a seductive argument - the piece on the roll appears to have been transcribed quite literally from an early Clarence Williams sheet music folio (reproduced on next page) which contains among others Willie "The Lion" Smith's KEEP YOUR TEMPER and the Piron/Lewis BOUNCING AROUND. Waller's ORIENTAL TONES is in the same folio, and is also included on an Automatic A-roll in an arranged version not unlike WILD CAT BLUES in feeling.
27. QRS 7307 I WISH I HAD DIED IN MY CRADLE (Before I Grew Up To
Love You) 
Piano Rolls Issued As "Played by Fats Waller"
1. QRS 561 June 1936 AFTER YOU'VE GONE (Fox trot)
2. QRS 1001 ST. LOUIS BLUES  (New Arrangement)
3. QRS 1041 April 1937 WHEN BY BABY SMILES AT ME
4. QRS 3293 June 1936 I AIN'T GOT NOBODY
5. QRS 6154 April 1935 ROSETTA (Fox Trot) 
6. QRS 6155 April 1935 YOUR FEET'S TOO BIG 
7. QRS 6156 April 1935 NO SWINGIN' IN HERE  (Swing Fox Trot)
8. QRS 6215 August 1935 SWEET AND SLOW (Fox Trot)
9. QRS 6233 September 1935 BASIN STREET BLUES
10. QRS 5288 December 1935 I'M GONNA SIT RIGHT DOWN AND WRITE MYSELF
A LETTER (Fox Trot)
11. QRS 6321 January 1936 SING AN OLD FASHIONED SONG (To a Young
12. QRS 6331 February 1936 SWING, MR. CHARLIE (Fox Trot)
13. QRS 6343 March 1936 CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS (A Rhythm Cocktail)
(Fox Trot) 
14. QRS 6419 June 1936 HONEYSUCKLE ROSE (Fox Trot) 
15. QRS 6531 November 1936 MR. GHOST GOES TO TOWN (Fox Trot)
16. QRS 6589 February 1937 I CAN'T BREAK THE HABIT OF YOU (Fox Trot)
17. QRS 6746 October 1930 BIG APPLE (Latest Dance Sensation)
18. QRS 6760 November 1937 SHE'S TALL, SHE'S TAN, SHE'S TERRIFIC (Fox Trot From "Cotton Club Parade")
19. QRS 6761 November 1937 QUEEN ISABELLA (Fox Trot)
20. QRS 6776 December 1937 THE DIPSY DOODLE (Fox Trot)
21. QRS 6884 June 1938 SOPHISTICATED SWING (Fox Trot)
22. QRS 6885 June 1938 THE FLAT FOOT FLOOGIE (Fox Trot) 
23. QRS 6896 July 1938 A-TISKET A-TASKET (Fox Trot) 
24. QRS 6904 August 1938 OL' MAN MOSE (Fox Trot)
25. QRS 7044 June 1939 'TAIN'T WHAT YOU DO (It's The Way That Cha Do It) (Fox Trot)
26. QRS 7056 June 1939 WELL ALL RIGHT (Tonight's The Night) (Fox Trot)
27. QRS 7090 August 1939 THE JUMPIN' JIVE (HEP HEP) (Fox Trot)
28. QRS 7138 November 1939 PEACH TREE STREET (Blues Song)
29. QRS 7233 May 1940 W.P.A. (Fox Trot)
30. QRS 7270 July 1940 STOP PRETENDING (Fox Trot)
31. QRS 7290 August 1940 CROSSTOWN (Fox Trot)
32. QRS 7319 October 1940 RHUMBOOGIE (From "Argentine Nights") (Boogie Woogie Style)
33. QRS 7324 October 1940 BEAT ME DADDY, EIGHT TO THE BAR (Boogie Woogie Style) A later, shortened version may exist.
34. QRS 7343 November 1940 FIVE O'CLOCK WHISTLE (Slow Bounce)
35. QRS 7368 January 1941 SCRUB ME MAMA WITH A BOOGIE BEAT
36. QRS 7383 February 1941 JAVA JIVE
37. QRS 7389 February 1941 THERE'LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE
38. QRS 7483 September 1941 THE BOOGLIE WOOGLIE PIGGY (Fox Trot)
39. QRS 7489 September 1941 ALL THAT MEAT AND NO POTATOES (Fox Trot) 
40. QRS 7722 August 1942 YEA MAN! (Fox Trot)
41. QRS 7729 August 1942 FAT MEAT IS GOOD MEAT
42. QRS 7739 September 1942 COW COW BOOGIE 
43. QRS 7759 November 1942 MAD ABOUT HIM, SAD WITHOUT HIM BLUES
44. QRS 7760 November 1942 MISTER FIVE BY FIVE
45. QRS 7777 December 1942 DON'T GET AROUND MUCH ANY MORE
45.1 QRS 7787 December 1942 WHEN MY BLUE MOON TURNS TO GOLD AGAIN
46. QRS 7789 December 1942 JUKE BOX SATURDAY NIGHT (From "Stars On Ice")
47. QRS 7847 June 1943 THE CANTEEN BOUNCE (Boogie Woogie)
48. QRS 7852 June 1943 DON'T STOP NOW (Fox Trot)
49. QRS 7873 June 1943 THE FUDDY WUDDY WATCHMAKER (Boogie Woogie)
50. QRS 7878 June 1943 SEE SEE RIDER (Boogie Woogie Blues)
51. QRS 7883 September 1943 AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'
52. QRS 7893 November 1943 THERE'S A MAN IN MY LIFE (Fox Trot)
53. QRS 7899 December 1943 SHOO-SHOO BABY
QRS Rolls Probably Not Played by Waller
The following is a list of QRS rolls which, although it seems unlikely that they were ever issued under his name, have been attributed to "Fats" Waller in piano rollographies, auction lists etc.
1. QRS 1188 September 1920 12th STREET RAG 
2. QRS 3269 November 1925 MILENBERG JOYS
3. QRS 3554 August 1926 WHEN ALL THE SAINTS GO MARCHIN' IN
4. QRS 4926 May 1930 ST. LOUIS BLUES
5. QRS 5353 February 1932 TIGER RAG
6. QRS 6327 February 1936 IT'S A SIN TO TELL A LIE
7. QRS 7308 September 1940 MAPLE LEAF RAG
8. QRS 7883 September 1943 AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'
9. QRS 7971 September 1944 "BOOGIE" ON ST. LOUIS BLUES
Imperial Rolls Probably Not Played by Waller
1. Imperial 7381 January 1928 AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'
2. Imperial 7920 October 1931 CONCENTRATIN' ON YOU
3. Imperial 8013 March 1932 KEEPIN' OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW
4. Imperial 8090 July 1932 MY HEART'S AT EASE
5. Imperial 8379 September 1933 AIN'TCHA GLAD
Mike Montgomery and I have listened carefully to these rolls. They are
competent but somewhat pedestrian arrangements, manifestly not the work
of either Waller or Cook.
My Want List of Waller and Cook/Waller Rolls
QRS 6215 SWEET AND SLOW (also issued as Imperial 08857)
QRS 6531 MR. GHOST GOES TO TOWN (also issued as Imperial 09173)
QRS 6589 I CAN'T BREAK THE HABIT OF YOU (also issued as Imperial 09173)
QRS 6761 QUEEN ISABELLA
QRS 6884 SOPHISTICATED SWING
QRS 6904 OL' MAN MOSE
QRS 7044 'TAIN'T WHAT YOU DO
QRS 7233 W.P.A.
QRS 7270 STOP PRETENDING
QRS 7319 RHUMBOOGIE
QRS 7383 JAVA JIVE
QRS 7389 THERE'LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE
QRS 7729 FAT MEAT IS GOOD MEAT
 Compiled by John R.T. Davies , published by JJ Publications, London 1950.
 Ditto (revised by R.M. Cooke). Published by "Friends of Fats" (the Thomas "Fats" Waller Appreciation Society - Cooke was Hon Secretary at the time), published by the Century Press, London 1953.
 Published Brooklyn, NY in July/August 1958 in Record Research, Vol. 3, No. 6, Issue 18, p11.
 Author Tor Magnusson. Based upon information obtained from Bill Bonner's QRS numerical listing (now in the custodianship of Ed Sprankle) which in turn was compiled from Mike Montgomery's. Published 1964 in Goteborg, Sweden, in a Swedish musical magazine, and again in February 1975 in Matrix Magazine (an English jazz record research publication), issue 106.
 Compiled by John R.T. Davies, revised by Bob Kumm and the Storyville team. Appeared on pp. 6-7, Vol. 1, No. 2, Storyville magazine (London publisher) in December 1965.
 Maurice Waller & Anthony Calabrese - "Fats Waller" at p.46. Published in 1977 by MacMillan, NY. See also The Billings Rollography, Vol. 5, P.340 for further confirmation that Cook edited the Waller rolls.
 Paul S. Machlin - "Stride - the Music of Fats Waller", published 1985 by Twayne, Boston, Mass., USA.
 Fats Waller - a Chronology of his Works. Printed privately in USA 1987.
 The Billings Rollography (published 1990 by Rock Soup, Belmont CA, USA) Vol. 3, p.286
 In his book "Fats Waller" (part of the "Kings of Jazz" series) Charles Fox says that Fats cut this roll in 1922, but offers no evidence to substantiate his claim.
 Reissued as QRS Q-108
 Reissued as QRS Q-109
 Reissued as QRS Q-138
 The Piano Roll Shop Winter 1996 Catalog
 Reissued as QRS Q-151
 Duet with James P. Johnson
 Duet with James P. Johnson. Reissued as QRS Q-152
 Reissued as QRS Q-139
 Reissued as QRS Q-147
 I have been unable to discover the catalog number of this roll
 This release date is a guess
 I do not know the release date
 See The Billings Rollography, Vol. 5, p.340
 No release date is given on the box label
 WHEN YOU'RE ALONE, a fox trot played by Victor Arden and Max Kortlander
 QRS originally issued the hymn TAKE ME AS I AM under this number
 QRS originally issued the hymn SAFELY THROUGH ANOTHER WEEK under this number
 Reissued as QRS Q-195
 Reissued as QRS Q-223
 This catalog number was originally used for the hymn OLD HUNDRED
 Reissued as QRS Q-249
 Reissued as QRS Q-247
 The box label on Bill Burkhardt's copy reads "ALL THAT MEAT NO AND POTATOES" !
 The date is a guess
 Reissued as QRS Q-167
04 April 1998;
04 December 2000;
18 December 2001 (add 45.1}
CONTACT FORM: Click HERE to write to the editor, or to post a message about Mechanical Musical Instruments to the MMD
Unless otherwise noted, all opinions are those of the individual authors and may not represent those of the editors. Compilation copyright 1995-2019 by Jody Kravitz.
Please read our Republication Policy before copying information from or creating links to this web site.
Click HERE to contact the webmaster regarding problems with the website.