Thomas 'Fats' Waller (1904-43) was quite a remarkable musician. In the 1920s he became one of jazz's greatest stride pianists, learning from the style's master James P. Johnson and then developing a rollicking style of his own. During that era, Waller became jazz's first organist, somehow making the huge pipe organ swing. In the 1930s he became quite famous due to his comic personality and singing. Waller had the ability to take the most unpromising material and turn into a funny satire, essentially turning trash into treasures. And in addition, he was a masterful songwriter Waller accomplished all of this while eating, drinking and partying excessively. He lived quite a few lives during his relatively brief lifetime. The youngest of 11 children, Fats Waller started playing piano when he was six, playing organ in his father's church when he was 10. While he grew up in a strict household, Waller was much more interested in playing jazz than classical music and he ultimately rebelled against his father. At 14 he played the organ for silent movies at the Lincoln Theater in Harlem. At 15 he worked in theaters and cabarets as a pianist and soon left home, living and learning directly from James P. Johnson.