[Dixielandjazz] New Orleans Happenings - The Bayou Buzz

Steve Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Wed Oct 18 17:58:39 PDT 2006

on 10/18/06 6:04 PM, Bill Haesler at bhaesler at bigpond.net.au wrote:

>> Steve Barbone wrote (polite snip).................. see the third entry, "New
>> Orleans Events" by Margarita
>> Darling. Click on that for a list of cultural events for the current
>> month...............
> Responded Bill; Dear Steve,
> I did. 
> All a bit about too twee for me!
> Recalled for me the Fats Waller comment: "I wonder what the poor people are
> doing tonight?"

Twee? Didn't you scroll down far enough to see the jazz listings?

> Quiz. Can anyone name the Fats' recording containing this famous line, also
> used by him on 1930s national radio?

Darned if I know, but Nat Hentoff wrote about Fats using the sentence on the
radio as you state above, during a show from a posh Chicago Hotel, circa
1938, before he started to play. The Hentoff quote, below, was both in 1999
and then again in 2005 two different articles for the Washington Post.

--- start Hentoff Quote

During the Great Depression, I would listen late at night to radio
broadcasts from jazz clubs around the country. Once, from the Panther Room
in Chicago, the announcer was describing the plush decor and the merry
imbibers as he introduced Thomas "Fats" Waller.

Before the exuberant stride pianist and singer began his set, Waller came
to the microphone and said, "I wonder what the poor people are doing

---end Hentoff quote

"I wonder what the poor people are doing tonight" was a popular expression
among jazz musicians in the 1950s in NYC at least. No doubt because Fats
used it frequently during his live shows and we thought it was hip.

Steve Barbone

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