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Fats Waller

James P. Johnson (1894-1955)

Wikipedia article on James P. Johnson

Discography including audio files

List of compositions


Today, James P. Johnson is perhaps best known as the teacher of Fats Waller. However, in 1920 when Fats was his sixteen-year old pupil, James P. Johnson was the King of Stride Piano. After teaching Fats, though, James left Harlem and stride piano behind, and spent the rest of his life composing symphonies. These symphonies are no longer performed or remembered (and according to the Wikipedia article, "many are presumed lost"), but his contribution to Fats Waller's education is. Before leaving Harlem, he wrote a number of hit songs, including the Charleston, which became more or less the theme song of the Roaring Twenties. And apparently his retirement from jazz was not complete, since he accompanied Bessie Smith, and led a small swing group in the 1940s, after recovering from his first stroke. Another stroke in 1951 disabled him, and he died in 1955.