Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller (May 21, 1904 – December 15, 1943) was an influential American jazz pianist, organist, composer, singer, and comedic entertainer, whose innovations to the Harlem stride style laid the groundwork for modern jazz piano. He wrote the Valentine Stomp above in 1929.
. 1602 ~ Pier Francesco Cavalli, Italian opera composer
. 1813 ~ Alexander Dargomyzhsky, Russian composer
. 1882 ~ Ignace Friedman, Polish pianist and composer
. 1894 ~ Jack Benny (Benjamin Kubelsky), The stingy, violin-playing, perennial-39- year-old comedian of radio, television and vaudeville
. 1923 ~ Cesare Siepi, Opera basso
. 1925 ~ Elliot Lawrence (Broza), Emmy Award-winning composer, conductor, arranger, musical director of Night of 100 Stars, Night of 100 Stars II,
. 1993, 1994, 1995 Kennedy Center Honors; Tony Award: musical direction: How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying
. 1931 ~ Phyllis McGuire, Singer
. 1934 ~ Florence Henderson, Singer
. 1946 ~ Gregory Hines, Dancer
. 1950 ~ Roger Fisher, Guitarist with Heart
. 1957 ~ Lionel Hampton’s only major musical work, “King David”, made its debut at New York’s Town Hall. The four-part symphony jazz suite was conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos.
. 1972 ~ “Grease” opened at the Eden Theatre in New York City. The musical later moved to the Broadhurst Theatre on Broadway where it became the longest-running musical ever with 3,388 performances. A hit movie based on the stage play starred John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John and produced the hit song, Grease, by Frankie Valli, You’re the One That I Want and Summer Nights by Travolta and Newton-John.
. 1984 ~ British rocker Elton John married Renata Blauel in Sydney, Australia on this day.
. 2003 ~ Jack Maher, 78, who served more than three decades as publisher of respected jazz magazine Down Beat and its parent company, Maher Publications, died. Down Beat began in 1934 to chronicle the comings and goings of touring swing bands. A previous owner forfeited the magazine to his printer, Mr. Maher’s father, John Maher. After his father died in 1968, Jack Maher put up his own money to acquire Down Beat, outbidding Playboy founder and jazz aficionado Hugh Hefner. Mr. Maher was credited with transforming Down Beat into a leading forum on jazz, with a roster of writers that included Leonard Feather, Nat Hentoff, Dan Morgenstern and Ira Gitler. He changed a number of his father’s policies, including one that had frowned on putting pictures of black musicians on Down Beat’s cover.
. 2004 ~ Joe McFarlin, whose late-night shows on WCCO radio featured big bands, swing and traditional jazz for a quarter-century, died. He was 78. McFarlin was as a nightly presence on 830 AM during the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, attracting a following across the country. McFarlin retired from WCCO in 1992. Management and format changes had reduced his broadcast to about two hours on the weekends and he was forced to choose from a jazz-free play list. He served as a U.S. Navy signalman during World War II and was stationed in the Philippines and Pearl Harbor. McFarlin began his radio career in 1947 at WREX in Duluth and worked at several other stations before moving to the Twin Cities in 1961, where he worked at KRSI before joining WCCO.
. 2011 ~ George Shearing, British-American blind jazz pianist (Lullaby of Birdland), died at the age of 91