Fats on Friday with Ted Lewis — Royal Garden Blues

Thanks to bsgs98 for the You Tube with great photos

This was actually a record from a session on March 5, 1931 where Fats Waller sat in with the Ted Lewis Band. Fats was coming to be known not only as an extraordinary piano player, but also an extraordinary singer, songwriter, and comedian. The tune is the now legendary Royal Garden Blues, written in 1919 by Spencer Williams and Clarence Williams (who were not related.) I’ll quibble here with Wikipedia that the song IS a 1920’s jazz standard, since it was post World War I and it doesn’t sound like Ragtime to me. The best remembered versions of it—by Bix Beiderbecke, King Oliver, and Louis Armstrong—were recorded in the 1920’s.

Ted Lewis fronted this band. Like most great entertainers, he understood human nature and needs. He always wore a top hat and carried his clarinet more as a prop. His tag line was, “Is Everybody Happy?” He was more of a personality than a musician. His singing was okay but, he was a terrible clarinet player. One critic described his clarinet playing as “… sounding like a dog dying in anguish…” Fortunately, this record featured the brilliant young Benny Goodman on Clarinet. Also on this record were Muggsy Spanier, cornet; David Klein, trumpet; George Brunies, trombone; Don Murray, various saxes; Bud Freeman, tenor sax; Sam Shapiro and Sol Klein, violin; an accordionist to be named later(?); Tony Gerardi, guitar; Harry Barth, bass; John Lucas, drums; and Fats Waller, piano and vocal. Not sure who among them were regulars with the Ted Lewis Band. Ted Lewis (1890 -1971) lived to be 81 years old.  I think once again, Fats stole the show on this record, but Ted Lewis chose well in his musicians.



About Richard Rollo

I am a retired Community College Instructor. I taught Political Science 1 American Government for 22 years in Southern California. I am originally from Northern Minnesota. My earliest years were spent in the living quarters of a rural Duluth Winnipeg & Pacific Railway Depot. Then my family joined the great 1950's migration to Southern California where I joined up with fellow baby boomers in overcrowded schools.
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