Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Real Reason WLW Fired Fats Waller?

Blues man Thomas "Fats" Waller (of "Ain't Misbehavin'" fame) is among the many veterans of WLW who went on to make it big. He had his own show--Fats Waller's Rhythm Club--for a time, and also played on the stations's nightly Moon River program.

Waller was fired and for many years the story was that he was fired over his drinking. One version, propounded by newspaperwoman Mary Wood, held that he left empty gin bottles around the studio. (Those who thought it made a cuter story said the bottles were hidden behind the organ console, and interfered with the instrument's operation.) Oh, Fats--you devil!

Another tale was that he left of his own accord because his manager had gotten him a three-movie deal in Hollywood.

Now emerges a new story, from the late Bill Angert, Sr., Lewis Crosley's best friend. Lewis revealed to Angert that Waller, who was black, was fired because he was trying to make time with a white woman--a secretary at WLW. Whether Lewis or Powel made the decision is unclear, though Lewis was more responsible for the day-to-day operations. When you consider that the manufacturing side of the Crosley enterprise, the Crosley Corporation, had only one African-American employee from 1922 through the middle of World War II, the story takes on a semblence of reality. Such were the times. And, like so many other talented performers who worked for WLW, Waller went on to greater things.
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

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