Behemoths (Four different ones)

Last week Mahlerman gave us some meaty musical Behemoths to munch on, so – having already covered the specky four-eyeses – I thought it might be apt to turn to those other playground unfortunates, the fatties.

Gobble-gut, garbage-guts, guzzle-guts or gully-guts – I leave it to Jonathon Green to list the many names we can call a glutton, but it seems that in the world of American jazz piano they insisted on Fats. I have two for you. First, here’s Thomas Wright ‘Fats’ Waller, a prodigiously gifted pianist from Harlem who copyrighted over 400 melodies – including the evergreen Ain’t Misbehavin’ – before his death in 1943. He was 39 years old and died from pneumonia on an eastbound cross country train in the vicinity of Kansas City.

Antoine Dominique “Fats” Domino Jr. was 15 years old when Waller died, but he’s still going strong in his eighties. Born and raised a native Creole speaker in New Orleans, he continues to put on and perform in post-Katrina benefit concerts. Here is an absolutely blissful Ain’t that a Shame. I defy you not to be cheered by it.

Mama Cass Elliot, contrary to popular belief, did not choke to death on a ham sandwich, but died from a heart attack in a London hotel room. Born Ellen Naomi Cohen she had a short, colourful life which included: a platonic marriage to a band mate, later annulled, in order to keep him out of the Vietnam draft; a non-platonic marriage to an heir to a Bavarian baronetcy, which ended in divorce after a few months; and an illegitimate daughter whose father she never publicly identified.

She’s best remembered now for the lovely Dream a Little Dream, but here’s an intriguing song called California Earthquake.

At the age of 17, Barry Eugene Carter – aka Barry White – was jailed for four months for stealing $30,000 worth of Cadillac tyres. While in prison he heard Elvis singing It’s Now or Never on the radio, and the subsequent Damascene conversion turned him away from LA gang life and onto music. So it goes. He had a prolific career as a producer and songwriter and, of course, as a solo recording artist. A proper heavyweight, White suffered from high blood pressure, kidney problems, a stroke and died in 2002 from “total renal failure”. His last words were: “Leave me alone, I’m fine”.

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About Author Profile: Brit

'Brit' is the blogging name of Andrew Nixon, a writer and publisher who lives in Bristol. He is the editor and co-founder of The Dabbler.

3 thoughts on “Behemoths (Four different ones)

  1. Brit
    November 28, 2011 at 13:18

    Apologies to anyone who wanted to post a comment here – we had a vicious spam attack and had to temporarily disable comments on some posts. However, our defences are now restored.

    john halliwell
    November 28, 2011 at 14:08

    Fats Waller was a great talent, so great he impressed Big Al. According to Wikipedia:

    ‘His playing once put him at risk of injury. Waller was kidnapped in Chicago leaving a performance in 1926. Four men bundled him into a car and took him to the Hawthorne Inn, owned by gangster Al Capone. Fats was ordered inside the building, and found a party in full swing. Gun to his back, he was pushed towards a piano, and told to play. A terrified Waller realized he was the “surprise guest” at Al Capone’s birthday party, and took comfort that the gangsters didn’t intend to kill him. According to rumor, Waller played for three days. When he left the Hawthorne Inn, he was very drunk, extremely tired, and had earned thousands of dollars in cash from Capone and other party-goers as tips.’

    As a kid in the fifties, I was forever confusing Fats Domino with Fats Waller: “Hey John, have you heard Fats’ Ain’t That a Shame; fantastic!” “Yeh, brilliant; Fats Waller’s great.” “Fats Domino, idiot!” “Yeh, great!” Eventually, it all dropped into place.

    Your song selection is wonderful, Brit.

    Where’s the inimitable Malty. He would have really gone to town on a very large omission: Demis Roussos

    November 28, 2011 at 14:13

    I wanted to comment that you can tell great pop singers (like Barry White or Elvis or Amy Winehouse) by the way that they don’t even seem to have to push words out, they just kind of speak and it rings out through the speakers loud and clear – unlike most of the x factor puppets and their cohorts, who strain and squawk their way through songs with blood vessels popping on their temples as they attempt to force some kind of meaning on the meaningless

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