This here spot is more than hot, in fact the joint is jumpin’

Having just about recovered from a random case of colitis (something I’d never even heard of ’til last weekend) I was thanking heaven for intravenous therapy, sophisticated antibiotics and for the nursing profession in general when it occurred to me that despite its drawbacks we do live in an enchanted age.

2013 may not have the dash and brio of times gone by but at least our odds of remaining sentient are better. Hey, if William Henry Harrison hadn’t caught pneumonia while taking the oath of office he may have been a great president, and if Thomas Wright Waller had made it beyond the age of 40 his name would surely be as tip-of-the-tongue as that of Louis Armstrong.

Born in Harlem in 1904 to a preacher father and a church organist mother, Waller was playing piano at six and composing organ music at fourteen.  Having learned the “stride” style he turned professional at fifteen (against his father’s wishes) and between his first recording session in 1922 (on piano roll) and his last in 1943, recorded well over 600 jazz, ragtime, swing and classical “sides.”

Everything about him was legendary: his appetite for food and liquor (hence the name “Fats”); his ability to master any keyboard he saw, from pipe organ (which he called the “God box”) to celesta; his facility for fitting in to any performance role (e.g. as soloist, sideman or as the leader of a crackerjack ensemble); his otherworldly ability to lay down recordings in a single take; his comedic timing; his generosity and easygoing disposition; and especially his room-filling vivacity.  You get the feeling Fats Waller was fun to be around.

Right through the ‘20s and ‘30s the man had a lead foot for life, flinging aside racial handicaps to become one of the most popular performers of his time both at home and abroad. Certainly that was the case in 1926 when he was kidnapped after a performance in Chicago.

Forced into a darkened building with a gun at his back, he quickly discovered himself to be the guest entertainer for Al Capone’s birthday bash, already in full swing. Delighted to know that the gangsters weren’t going to kill him he played for three days, finally arriving back at his hotel in a drunken stupor with thousands of dollars of tips in his pocket.

All the while, Waller was writing songs (over 400 were copyrighted, while others were not) and adding more than a page or two to today’s book of jazz standards. “Both big in body and in mind…(he was) a bubbling bundle of joy,” recalled one collaborator.

By 1943, he was just breaking into film (alongside Lena Horne and Cab Calloway in “Stormy Weather”) when it all came to an end on the eastbound Super Chief one December night. Recovering from a bout of influenza, Fats Waller succumbed to pneumonia and died just prior to the train’s arrival in Kansas City. Word swept through the station so quickly that his dear friend Louis Armstrong, a passenger on the unboarding/boarding westbound train, heard the news then and there…and cried for hours on end.

Recorded by Fats Waller and His Rhythm in 1937, “The Joint is Jumpin’” is about a Prohibition era Rent Party. Said to have played a major role in the development of early jazz and blues music and particular to Harlem, where local musicians were at a premium, tenants would throw a party (sometimes hiring competing musicians who would take turns trying to outdo each other) and pass the hat to help pay their rents.

LISTEN TO THIS SONG – Saturday 2 March 

The Joint is Jumpin’

They have a new expression along old Harlem way

That tells you when a party is ten times more than gay

To say that things are jumpin’ leaves not a single doubt

That everything is in full swing when you hear someone shout.

Here ’tis:

The joint is jumpin’

It’s really jumpin’

Come in, cats, and check your hats

I mean this joint is jumpin’

The piano’s thumpin’

The dancers are bumpin’

This here spot is more than hot

In fact, the joint is jumpin’

Check your weapons at the door

Be sure to pay your quarter

Burn your leather on the floor

Grab anybody’s daughter

The roof is rockin’

The neighbors knockin’

We’re all bums when the wagon comes

I mean, this joint is jumpin’

Let it be! Yes!

 Burn this joint, boy! 

 Yes!

Oh, my! Yes!

Don’t you hit that chick, that’s my broad

Where’d you get that stuff at?

Why, I’ll knock you to your knees! What?

Put this cat out of here! What?

Get rid of that pistol! Get rid of that pistol!

Yeah!  Get rid of it, Yes! Yeah!

That’s what I’m talkin’ about! Ha, ha! Yes!  

Now it’s really ready! 

No, baby, not now, I can’t come over there right now

Yeah, let’s do it!

 The joint is jumpin’

It’s really jumpin’

Every Mose is on his toes

I mean this joint is jumpin’

Uh-oh! No time for talkin’

This place is walkin’, yes

Get your jug and cut the rug

I think the joint is jumpin’, Listen

Get your pig feet, bread and gin

There’s plenty in the kitchen

Who is that that just came in

Just look at the way he’s switchin’

Aw, mercy,

Don’t mind the hour, I’m in power

I’ve got bail if we go to jail

I mean this joint is jumpin’

Don’t give your right name, no, no, no, no

One thought on “This here spot is more than hot, in fact the joint is jumpin’

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