…or was it ‘Harlem Fuss’?
Above: Waller on the right, and Condon (second from left).
Eddie Condon’s description of this recording session (the morning after a major drinking session with Fats Waller, whom he was supposed to be ‘minding’ for the record company), on 1st March 1929:
“We stopped at the Riverside Towers and I got my banjo. At ten minutes before twelve we walked into the Leiderkranz Hall at Fifty-eighth Street and Lexington Avenue. Mr Adams (boss of the Southern Music Company – JD) was waiting for us.
“‘I see you are punctual,’ he said to me. ‘Congratulations.’ To Fats he said, ‘Well, Mr Waller, what is it to be this morning?’
“‘ Well, Mr Adams,’ Fats said, ‘this morning I think we’ll start with a little thing we call ‘The Minor Drag.’ It’s a slow number. Then we got a little ol’ thing for the other side we call – he hesitated – ‘Harlem Fuss’…
“…When we finished Mr Adams came of of the control-room. He didn’t say anything. We listened to the playback.
“I had a difficult time believing what I heard because it sounded wonderful. I looked at Mr Adams. He was smiling.
“‘You see,’ he said to me, ‘what careful rehearsal will do? You have performed your job excellently.’
“I walked over to Fats. ‘What are we going to play for the other side?’ I whispered. ‘What is Harlem Fuss?’
“‘It’s just a little blues in a major key,’ he said.
“We made it. When the master was cut Mr Adams was delighted.
“After that the Southern Music Company, with careful planning and preperation, brought out the record on a Victor Label with the titles reversed: ‘Harlem Fuss’ was called ‘ The Minor Drag’ and ‘ The Minor Drag’ was called ‘ Harlem Fuss.’ I got my seventy five dollars.”
Quiz question: what was racially/socially ground-breaking about Fats Waller’s “Harlem Fuss/ Minor Drag” 1929 recording session?
Prize: any Eddie Condon or Fats Waller CD you wish copied from my collection and posted to you free of charge.
PS: Stroppy remembers Jimmy Hendrix – like Waller a short-lived, wayward musical genius – 40 years on.