If You Got to Ask, You Ain't Got It!

If You Got to Ask, You Ain't Got It!

by Fats Waller
The great comic/compositional/instrumental/vocal genius who was Thomas “Fats” Waller has a catalogue of awesome breadth and depth, comprised of small combo, orchestra and solo piano and organ performances, all recorded in a 20-year span from 1923 to 1943 (when he succumbed to bronchial pneumonia a few months shy of his 40th birthday). —in toto, more than 400 tunes


The great comic/compositional/instrumental/vocal genius who was Thomas “Fats” Waller has a catalogue of awesome breadth and depth, comprised of small combo, orchestra and solo piano and organ performances, all recorded in a 20-year span from 1923 to 1943 (when he succumbed to bronchial pneumonia a few months shy of his 40th birthday). —in toto, more than 400 tunes committed to disc. A gifted songwriter, whose frequent collaborator, lyricist Andy Razaf, was also one of the best of his time, Waller left behind American song monuments such as “Honeysuckle Rose” and, of course, “Ain’t Misbehavin,” and also proved himself a formidable interpreter of classic pop songs of the day, his stamp on tunes such as “(I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead” You Rascal You,” “It’s a Sin To Tell a Lie” and “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” so unmistakably Waller that it’s hard to believe he didn’t write those as well. In the mid-‘90s RCA did a great service to Waller and his legacy by issuing the heart of the artist’s oeuvre, that being the recordings he made between 1934 and 1943, in a five-volume, multi-disc (13 in all), superbly annotated collection titled Fats Waller and His Rhythm, which was also the name of one of his finest combos of that period. Those discs were allowed, unbelievably, to go out of print, but Bluebird/Legacy has stepped in to correct a wrong with “If You Gotta Ask, You Ain’t Got It,” a three-CD, 66-song overview of Waller’s art, arranged thematically as one volume of vocal performances (“Fats Waller Sings and Plays Fats Waller”), one of instrumentals only (“Strictly Instrumental”) and a third disc of Waller’s renderings of Great American Songbook entries (fancifully but tellingly titled “Fats Sings and Plays Around With Tin Pan Alley”). Volumes One and Three are largely showcases for the Fats Waller and His Rhythm combo and comprise the big man’s most enduring recordings, from the tender-hearted balladry of “A Hopeless Love Affair” to the wry discourse, “All That and No Potatoes,” with the coup de grace being the amazing version of “Ain’t Misbehavin’” recorded for the film Stormy Weather. The instrumental disc is a real treat, as it features three robust performances on pipe organ, including the Louisiana Sugar Babes’ graceful ode to the south, “’Sippi,” written by and featuring on piano the stride giant James P. Johnson (alas, Waller’s organ is barely audible on the track, a flaw in the original recording); and nine richly textured solo piano numbers that illustrate how Waller took Johnson’s stride style into new realms of expressiveness. Sixty-six tunes is barely scratching the surface of Waller’s rich art, but the smart selections, and the best sort of annotators-as-tour-guides in producer and Waller expert Orrin Keepnews and veteran jazz writer Dan Morgenstern, make this an essential, and most enlightening, celebration of an American original.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Arwulf Arwulf
During his 21-year recording career, Thomas "Fats" Waller waxed so many hundreds of songs that only a dedicated few have heard them all even once, let alone often enough to understand the true nature of his legacy. While longtime collectors can attest to the awesome breadth and depth of Waller's massive discography, your average citizen needs and deserves a chance to investigate on a more modest level, which is what compilations are supposed to be for. Most Fats Waller samplers concentrate upon his highly developed sense of humor and his vital importance in the development of swing music; the best of them also highlight his pianistic prowess and -- if you're lucky -- his pioneering role as the first person to play jazz on the organ. Producer Orrin Keepnews has achieved what should be regarded as a major accomplishment in Waller studies both intensive and casual: an intelligently compiled three-CD set with superbly insightful liner notes by Dan Morgenstern, including a detailed biography, informative commentary on each of the 66 tracks, and more than 40 previously unpublished photographs from the Fats Waller archives. The conceptual framework of this compilation will help listeners to understand and feel the essence of Waller's music more clearly perhaps than ever before. Disc one presents Waller's interpretations of songs he wrote himself. Disc two, packed with (one) organ and (ten) piano solos as well as small-group and big-band swing, purports to be "strictly instrumental," even if Waller prefaces "Serenade for a Wealthy Widow" with a plea for "currency" and makes cheeky references to conspicuous consumption all throughout "Lounging at the Waldorf." Disc three, touching upon the best-known aspects of this artist's public persona, is entitled Fats Waller Sings and Plays Around with Tin Pan Alley. Given the sheer number of extant recordings that fit into that category, the producer made extraordinarily fine choices. Keepnews admits: "I inevitably have not included all of your Waller favorites. As a matter of fact, I haven't even had room to include all of mine!" It is clear that both Morgenstern and Keepnews drew upon entire lifetimes spent developing sincere love and respect for this great artist. "If You Got to Ask, You Ain't Got It!" gets its title from Waller's famous response to the question "What is swing?" -- listen through all three discs and you'll most certainly get it for real.

Product Details

Release Date:
Rca Victor

Related Subjects


Disc 1

  1. Honeysuckle Rose
  2. How Can You Face Me?
  3. The Panic Is On
  4. Sugar Rose
  5. I'm Crazy 'Bout My Baby
  6. Lost Love
  7. Our Love Was Meant to Be
  8. The Joint Is Jumpin'
  9. A Hopeless Love Affair
  10. Hold My Hand
  11. Patty Cake, Patty Cake
  12. Honey Hush
  13. Anita
  14. Squeeze Me
  15. Old Grand Dad
  16. All That Meat and No Potatoes
  17. Ain't Nothing to It
  18. Bessie, Bessie, Bessie
  19. Cash for Your Trash
  20. You Must Be Losing Your Mind
  21. Up Jumped You with Love
  22. Ain't Misbehavin'

Disc 2

  1. St. Louis Blues
  2. 'Sippi
  3. Thou Swell
  4. Numb Fumblin'
  5. Ain't Misbehavin'
  6. Love Me or Leave Me
  7. Smashing Thirds
  8. My Fate Is in Your Hands
  9. African Ripples
  10. Viper's Drag
  11. Keepin' out of Mischief Now
  12. Stardust
  13. Carolina Shout
  14. Serenade for a Wealthy Widow
  15. Rosetta
  16. Functionizin'
  17. Loungin' at the Waldorf
  18. Blue, Turnin' Grey Over You
  19. In the Gloamin'
  20. Mamacita
  21. The Jitterbug Waltz
  22. Honeysuckle Rose

Disc 3

  1. (I'll Be Glad When You're Dead) You Rascal You
  2. You're Not the Only Oyster in the Stew
  3. What's the Reason (I'm Not Pleasin' You)
  4. Lulu's Back in Town
  5. I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter
  6. Dinah
  7. There'll Be Some Changes Made
  8. Somebody Stole My Gal
  9. Christopher Columbus
  10. It's a Sin to Tell a Lie
  11. She's Tall, She's Tan, She's Terrific
  12. The Sheik of Araby
  13. Two Sleepy People
  14. A Good Man Is Hard to Find
  15. Hold Tight (Want Some Seafood, Mama)
  16. 'Tain't What You Do (It's the Way You Do It)
  17. Your Feet's Too Big
  18. Darktown Strutters' Ball
  19. I Can't Give You Anything But Love
  20. You Run Your Mouth, I'll Run My Business
  21. Let's Get Away from It All
  22. 'Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Fats Waller   Primary Artist,Piano,Celeste,Vocals,Pipe organ,Soloist
Casey   Guitar
Bill Coleman   Trumpet
James P. Johnson   Piano
Pee Wee Russell   Clarinet
Slam Stewart   Bass
Jack Teagarden   Trombone,Vocals
Jabbo Smith   Cornet
Irving Ashby   Guitar
Adrian Rollini   Bass Saxophone
Zutty Singleton   Drums
Charlie Teagarden   Trumpet
Herman Autrey   Trumpet
Benny Carter   Trumpet
Artie Bernstein   Bass
Arnold Boling   Drums
Garvin Bushell   Clarinet,Bassoon,Alto Saxophone
Bob Carroll   Tenor Saxophone
Hank Duncan   Piano
John Haughton   Trombone
Ray Hogan   Trombone
George James   Alto Saxophone
Slick Jones   Drums
Stan King   Drums
Nappy Lamare   Guitar
Dave McRae   Alto Saxophone
Mezz Mezzrow   Clarinet,Alto Saxophone
Alton Moore   Trombone
Floyd O'Brien   Trombone
Gene Porter   Clarinet,Tenor Saxophone
Yank Porter   Drums
Jimmy Powell   Alto Saxophone
Rudy Powell   Clarinet,Alto Saxophone
George Robinson   Trombone
Gene Sedric   Clarinet,Tenor Saxophone
Lonnie Simmons   Tenor Saxophone
Fred Skerritt   Baritone Saxophone
Billy Taylor   Upright Bass
Charles Turner   Bass
George Wilson   Trombone
Sterling Bose   Trumpet
Joe Catalyne   Clarinet,Tenor Saxophone
Harry Dial   Drums
Max Farley   Clarinet,Tenor Saxophone
Courtney Williams   Trumpet
Arthur Trappier   Drums
Lawrence Fields   Alto Saxophone
Cedric Wallace   Bass
Mae Carlisle   Vocals
Emmett Matthews   Tenor Saxophone
Billy Taylor   Bass
William Alsop   Alto Saxophone
Nathaniel Williams   Trumpet
Bobby Williams   Trumpet
John "Bugs" Hamilton   Trumpet
Joe Thomas   Trumpet
Alfred Skerritt   Alto Saxophone
Harry Dial's Blusicians   Drums,Vibes
James "Hal" Smith   Guitar
Fred "Rodriguez" Robinson   Trombone
Chauncey Graham   Tenor Saxophone
Larry Hinton   Drums
Herb Flemming   Trombone

Technical Credits

Hoagy Carmichael   Composer
Chu Berry   Composer
Billy Higgins   Composer
Earl Hines   Composer
Fats Waller   Arranger,Composer
Jimmie Grier   Composer
Jimmy McHugh   Composer
Richard Rodgers   Composer
Andy Razaf   Composer
Frank Loesser   Composer
Fred E. Ahlert   Composer
Louis Armstrong   Author
Shelton Brooks   Composer
J. Fred Coots   Composer
Henry Creamer   Composer
Walter Donaldson   Composer
Dorothy Fields   Composer
Porter Grainger   Composer
Lorenz Hart   Composer
Gus Kahn   Composer
Buddy Kaye   Composer
Orrin Keepnews   Producer,Liner Notes
Dan Morgenstern   Essay
Mitchell Parish   Composer
Leonard Ware   Composer
Harry Warren   Composer
Clarence Williams   Composer
Spencer Williams   Composer
Reginald Foresythe   Composer
Seth Rothstein   Art Direction
Howard Fritzson   Art Direction
Clarence Todd   Composer
Harry Brooks   Composer
Randall Martin   Art Direction
Pinky Tomlin   Composer
Joe Young   Composer
Alex Hill   Composer
Tom Adair   Composer
Harry Akst   Composer
Benny Davis   Composer
Fred Fisher   Composer
Francis Wheeler   Composer
Leo Wood   Composer
Billy Mayhew   Composer
Harold Spina   Composer
Willie Spottswood   Composer
Sam Theard   Composer
Ada Benson   Composer
Jerry Brandow   Composer
William Henri Woode   Composer
Robert Graham   Composer
W. Benton Overstreet   Composer
Bert Clarke   Composer
Phil Ponce   Composer

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