"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
Teachout tries his hand at transcribing Waller's vocal on "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie":
Be sure it’s true when you say "I love you." It’s a sin to tell a lie-uhhllllrrrry! [unctuously] Millions of hearts have been broken, yes, yes, Just because these words were spoken. (You know the words that were spoken? Here it is.) [simperingly] I love you I love you I love you [in an orotund bass-baritone] I love you. [gleefully] Ha-ha-ha! Yes, but if you break my heart, I’ll break your jaw and then I’ll die. So be sure it’s true when you say "I love [twitteringly, in falsetto] yooooou." Ha, ha! It’s a sin to tell a lie. Now get on out there and tell your lie. What is it?
If you can listen to “Baby Brown,” “Sweet and Slow,” or “You’re Not the Only Oyster in the Stew” without breaking out in an ear-to-ear smile, you might as well button up your hair shirt and stick to Machaut or Tori Amos. God didn’t mean for you to be happy.
In a piece for Commentary, "Mister Waller's Regrets," Teachout addresses whether Waller lived up to his talent before his death at 39.
What he did (as opposed to what he might have done) was more than enough to earn him a place among the giants of jazz. Of the 675-odd recordings he made between 1922 and 1943, perhaps a third remain irresistibly listenable to this day, not merely for the brilliance of his playing but also for the scapegrace charm of his singing. Few jazz musicians have had a higher batting average.
As for the "serious" compositions Waller never got around to writing, I cannot imagine they would have been more memorable than the life-enhancing records of popular songs he made so casually and in such miraculous profusion, and to which it is impossible to listen without breaking out in the broadest of smiles.
The picture above of Fats in England with his bulldog, Belulah, was found at FatsWaller.org.