to view music!
of Jazz Studies collection of Waller memorabilia includes
several drafts of music in Waller's hand. These are basically
early attempts (first versions or rough sketches) of songs
Waller was writing, made in pencil on music manuscript
paper. Different drafts in the collection can probably
best be understood as distinct stages of Waller's compositional
process. The first stage would have consisted of a single
melodic line on one staff ( "Foolin' Myself").
Waller also occasionally wrote out single melodic lines
on manuscript paper he had already prepared for the accompaniment
by linking two staves into a single brace, as if either
chord indications or perhaps a more complete piano part
were to be added later ( "Middle O' De Road",
"I Would Rather Die [Than To Live Without You]",
and "Gotta Get You Off My Mind"). The next stage,
a developed draft, would consist of a melodic line accompanied
by chord indications designated by letters and numbers
("Do It All Over Again"); a somewhat more elaborate
version of this stage is represented by the skeletal outline
of the piano part itself ("Blue Dawn/Theme Song").
The draft of "Blue Dawn" also includes Waller's
characteristic shorthand symbol for repeating a phrase
or group of measures that he had used earlier in the same
is, numbers that indicate which measures are to be repeated
(e.g., "1-4"). A third stage consists of a fully
worked out, two-stave piano version of the song ("You're
Givin' Your Lovin' [To Somebody Else]", "My
Song of Hate", and an untitled song which is actually
"Squeeze Me"). The final stage, of course, would
be the completed version of the song in vocal score (a
brace of three staves): a separate staff for the melody
and lyric linked to two staves beneath it for the piano
part ("If You Don't Want Me").
In addition to
these piano drafts and vocal scores, the collection includes
some instrumental parts in Waller's handwriting (for "Walkin'
The Floor" and "Spreadin' Rhythm Around").
Though the 1935 copyright of "Spreadin' Rhythm Around"
attributes the music to Jimmy McHugh, the fact that these
parts are in Waller's handwriting argues strongly that
he, not McHugh, was the original composer of the song
(see Machlin, "Fats Waller Composes", Annual
Review of Jazz Studies 7, 1994-95, pp. 1-24). Finally,
there are also a few individual sheets of manuscript paper
on which Waller has made the preparations necessary to
begin composinghe has written the title of the song
and his name at the top of the page, grouped the staves
into braces, and even indicated the key and time signaturesbut
has left the rest of each sheet blank, even though some
of these prepared pages are accompanied by a set of hand-printed
lyrics with the same title (by Spencer Williams, Waller's
earliest collaborator), obviously intended to be set to
music by Waller.
of all these documents lies in the evidence they provide
for Waller's approach to composing popular songs. They
demonstrate, too, that Waller had an intuitive grasp of
the elements of a successful Tin Pan Alley song: the basic
32-bar chorus formula (four phrases of eight measures
each organized in an A-A-B-A scheme in terms of musical
material), melodies that are fresh, stylish, and completely
suited to the accents and inflection of the lyrics, and
a harmonic language enriched by novel and colorful details.
Though often providing only a minimal outline of the music,
the sketches and drafts in the Institute of Jazz Studies
Collection clearly served Waller's creative purposes well;
from them he could conjure complete and elegant final
versions of his songs.