Musical selection: I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter
New York, May 8, 1935
I'm Gonna Sit Right Down . . . The Early Years, Part 2, 1935-36
Bluebird/RCA 66640-2




Whatever audiences may have made of Waller on stage, off stage-at least to his band-he was apparently something of a contradiction. On the job, he was, as always, hardworking, encouraging, and efficient. Behind the scenes or on the road, however, he could apparently be mercurial, abruptly shifting moods. Occasionally, without warning, he would abruptly order a halt to a tour and return to New York. (Indeed, he developed something of a reputation for skipping dates for which he was under contract, especially if he had prior experience with the venue that had in some way proven unsatisfactory, or that had aroused his antipathy through racism.) On the other hand, various band members have documented incidents of Waller's substantial personal generosity, including his purchase of new instruments specifically for them.

Kirkeby's documentation of the tours is remarkable for the variety of circumstances in which Waller has been captured on film. Whether on the bus, at rest stops, on board ship, or at various locations in England, we see Waller and those around him in performance, preparing for performance, and relaxing afterwards; we also find him at play, at rest, socializing, and even (though rarely!) contemplating. These photographs, then, reveal Waller in a broad array of social and professional contexts; taken collectively, they suggest not the clichéd view of Waller as a simple buffoon, but they disclose instead the underlying complexity of his personality-one fully committed to his art.
© Copyright 2002, Institute of Jazz Studies Rutgers University Libraries
These scenes show Waller in the vicinity of the El Paso, Texas/Juarez, Mexico border during a trip to Los Angeles, June 16-19, 1941.
Waller poses with a young girl near the Howard Theater in Washington, D.C., August 2, 1941.