an update by John Farrell


    Letter from J. Lawrence Cook
    Lists of Waller Piano Rolls
    Release Dates
    Piano Rolls Issued As "Played By Thomas Waller"
    Piano Rolls Issued As "Played By Fats Waller"
    QRS Rolls Probably Not By Waller
    Imperial Rolls Probably Not By Waller
    My Want List Of Waller and Cook/Waller Rolls


During the years 1923 to 1931 twenty-three piano rolls marked "played by Thomas Waller" were released on the QRS label. These rolls, bearing Thomas Waller's signature in facsimile, were hand-played by Waller although some, if not all of them were edited by J. Lawrence Cook.

Cook was a musically gifted postal worker, moonlighting -- or daylighting, for he worked nights at the U.S. Post Office! -- at QRS as an artist/arranger. In addition to the QRS rolls Waller made one for Imperial, supposedly made one for the Automatic Music Roll Co. (it is almost certainly not Waller's work) and two for the Standard Music Roll Co. for release on their Standard Play-A-Roll label (some collectors claim that the latter figure should be just one, i.e. that WEST INDIES BLUES was never issued).

In 1935 QRS started producing rolls marked "Played by "Fats" Waller (or "Played by Thomas "Fats" Waller"). These were in fact played by Cook, many executed in excellent Waller style. As Fats was both impressed and pleased to hear how Cook was able to imitate him, he gave permission to have his name used on the rolls. The agreement did not require QRS to make any royalty payments to Waller, but after his death in December 1943 the executors of the Waller estate demanded royalties to continue the arrangement.


I have a copy of a letter from Cook dated 6 July 1953 :

    "Thanks very much for your interesting letter of June 26.

    "It is a positive fact that all rolls labeled as played by "Fats" Waller, were actually recorded by me. "Fats" liked the way I could imitate him on rolls, so he gave QRS permission to let me make them. After his death, his estate demanded considerable royalty for the continuance of sale of these rolls. Since this was prohibitive in view of the small amount of business involved, we discontinued the use of Waller's name, and replaced it with mine.

    "It is equally true that Waller had not yet adopted the nickname of "Fats" when he made rolls. He was Thomas Waller. So, discography or no discography the only authentic Waller player roll recordings are those labeled as played by "Thomas Waller". All the rolls I recorded for Riverside were authentic Thomas Waller recordings.

    "I was very much in the business of making records at one time. In fact I had one hit called "The Old Piano Roll Blues". But it was my misfortune to have been with a bunch of thieves who gypped me out of everything due me, so here I am. Very recently they tried again to get me to sign, but no dice. If I should at some time get an offer from a respectable concern, I'll sign again.

    "Not much time at this writing to tell you very much about myself, will have to let that go until a later date.

    Sincerely, (signed) J. Lawrence Cook"


Over the years several Waller rollographies have emerged, the best of these using Mike Montgomery's exhaustive QRS numerical listing as source material. The first edition of "The Music of Thomas "Fats" Waller" [1] itemises 21 rolls, of which only one is a genuine Waller roll, the other 20 being Cook/Waller rolls.

The second edition of the same publication [2] lists 19 of the Thomas Waller rolls but none of the Cook/Waller rolls.

In a Thomas Waller and "Fats" Waller rollography [3] Mike Montgomery lists 21 of the Thomas Waller rolls (i.e. 19 QRS titles plus the two Standard Play-A-Rolls) and 37 Cook/Waller rolls (but two of them were never issued under the Waller name). It also gives the release dates of the Thomas Waller rolls.

In "An almost complete Thomas "Fats" Waller Discography" [4], 22 of the Thomas Waller rolls are listed (one of them without a catalog number and with an incorrect release date) together with 49 alleged Cook/Waller rolls (in fact seven of them were never issued under Waller's name).

The third edition of "The Music of Thomas "Fats" Waller" [5] gives details of 23 rolls claimed to have been played by Thomas Waller rolls. CRYIN' FOR MY USED TO BE and WEST INDIES BLUES are not listed, two others are without catalog number and release date. The Cook/Waller rolls are not mentioned.

Maurice Waller's biography of his father [6] confirms that Cook played an editorial role at some, and perhaps all of Fats' QRS sessions.

Paul Machlin's book [7] simply says on the subject, "In 1923 (Waller) made a number of piano rolls".

K.O. Eckland [8] introduces a few mysteries - Imperial rolls not hitherto associated with Waller. I doubt that these are played by either Waller or Cook, nevertheless I have included them here. Eckland's book omits WEST INDIES BLUES and makes no reference to the Cook/Waller titles.

Ginny and Bob Billings truly awesome work [9] lists all 23 QRS Waller rolls but incorrectly credits three of them to Cook. I hesitate to pick up on the typos which invariably creep into an undertaking of this magnitude except to say that the wrong release date has been given to the Cook/Waller ST. LOUIS BLUES.


I believe the following pages to be a complete list of the QRS piano rolls made by Thomas Waller, including catalog numbers and release dates. Details of the two rolls he made for Standard Music Co. are also given (the catalog number of one is still unknown to me) as are the particulars of the single Automatic Music Roll title.

Then follows a compilation of the Cook rolls issued as "Played by "Fats" Waller". Tor Magnusson rashly claimed that his list was complete, however he missed JUKE BOX SATURDAY NIGHT and I WISH I HAD DIED IN MY CRADLE. I am reasonably certain that my list is complete.

A brief comment about Imperial. For quite some time identical QRS masters were used to produce clone Imperials which were sold for less. Sometimes the Imperials dropped a verse or a chorus but normally the takes were the same. (I have heard the converse argued - that the original roll first appeared on Imperial and sometimes was extended for release on QRS).

I gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the following friends who allowed me to poke around their roll collections, examine their files and drink their whisky :

Bob and Ginny Billings, Bill Burkhardt, Frank Himpsl, Mike Montgomery, Mike Schwimmer, Ed Sprankle.


The roll box labels bear a date code to the left above the title (for instance 923 means September 1923, 324 means March 1924 and so on).

Some collectors consider these codes to be the dates on which QRS released the rolls for general sale to the public, others believe that they have a different connotation, i.e. that the codes indicated the deadline by which dealers could return unsold rolls to the QRS factory and obtain either a refund or a credit.

Until the facts are established (if indeed they ever are) I have treated the codes as release dates for the purposes of this rollography.


The format of this rollography - item #/QRS catalog #/release date/title/comments (if any) :

1. QRS 2149 March 1923 GOT TO COOL MY DOGGIES NOW [10]

2. QRS 2213 May 1923 LAUGHIN' CRYIN' BLUES

3. QRS 2245 May 1923 YOUR TIME NOW

4. QRS 2256 June 1923 SNAKE (sometimes SNAKES) HIPS [11]



7. QRS 2304 August 1923 HAITIAN BLUES

8. QRS 2322 August 1923 MAMA'S GOT THE BLUES

9. QRS 2331 August 1923 MIDNIGHT BLUES

10. QRS 2363 September 1923 LAST GO ROUND BLUES

11. QRS 2444 September 1923 YOU CAN'T DO WHAT MY LAST MAN DID [12]

12. QRS 2661 June 1924 CLEARING HOUSE BLUES [13]

13. QRS 2661 June 1924 JAIL HOUSE BLUES

14. QRS 2708 June 1924 DO IT MR. SO AND SO

15. QRS 2711 June 1924 DON'T TRY TO TAKE MY MAN AWAY

16.  According to Paul Johnson [14] an alternate take of DON'T TRY TO TAKE MY MAN AWAY was released as Imperial 5457. Johnson comments, "Rather than bring in another artist to record this piece, the QRS chiefs just asked Fats to do another version while he was at the recording piano for the Imperial label. To make it seem like Imperial still had its own stable of artists, they stamped Jack Clyde's name on it. While this is close to the QRS version, his rendition has a little more jazzy bite to it. And Waller finishes off the piece with a wonderful coda."

17. QRS 3352 February 1926 SQUEEZE ME

18. QRS 3377 March 1926 18TH STREET STRUT [15]

19. QRS 3800 February 1927 CRYIN' FOR MY USED TO BE [16]

20. QRS 3818 March 1927 IF I COULD BE WITH YOU [17]

21. QRS 3997 August 1927 NOBODY BUT MY BABY [18]

22. QRS 4073 November 1927 I'M COMING VIRGINIA [19]

23. QRS 5143 June 1931 I'M CRAZY 'BOUT MY BABY  This roll was started by Waller and finished by Cook. In a letter to Bill Bonner, Cook said, "CRAZY 'BOUT MY BABY was indeed the last roll Fats Waller actually recorded for QRS. Fats didn't have much time for this particular session and planned to come back the following day and finish the number, but he never showed up. So the arrangement turned out to be a combination of Waller and Cook, for it was I who had to make it into a complete production master."

A doctored arrangement of the QRS master was released (also in June 1931) on Imperial 07787; it is understood that only 123 copies were sold.

24. Standard Play-A-Roll 0677 August 1924 A NEW KIND OF MAN WITH A NEW KIND OF LOVE FOR ME

25. Standard Play-A-Roll (??)[20] August 1924 (??)[21] WEST INDIES BLUES  This roll appears to have vanished from the face of the earth - it is in no known collection, indeed some collectors feel that it was never issued. Persuasive evidence to the contrary is provided by an advertisement which appeared in "The Music Trade Indicator" early in 1924, offering the title for sale together with A NEW KIND OF MAN. Serious roll collectors know how scarce the orange and black Standard label is, so perhaps it is not at all surprising that WEST INDIES BLUES defies discovery.

In April 1924 QRS issued a roll of WEST INDIES BLUES (QRS 2594) played by Sid Laney, one of Cook's several pseudonyms.

26. Automatic Music Roll A1418 tune #8 May 1928 WILD CAT BLUES

Part of a program on what is known as an A-roll (so-called because the letter A always prefixes the catalog number). They are large, multi-tune rolls manufactured for use on a coin-slot instrument and may also be played on a 65-note player piano.

A1418 is entitled "Queen of the Blues". Most authorities agree that this performance of WILD CAT BLUES (Waller's first published composition) is not hand-played by Waller at all, but is the work of a roll arranger employed by Automatic. It is a seductive argument - the piece on the roll appears to have been transcribed quite literally from an early Clarence Williams sheet music folio (reproduced on next page) which contains among others Willie "The Lion" Smith's KEEP YOUR TEMPER and the Piron/Lewis BOUNCING AROUND. Waller's ORIENTAL TONES is in the same folio, and is also included on an Automatic A-roll in an arranged version not unlike WILD CAT BLUES in feeling.

27. QRS 7307 I WISH I HAD DIED IN MY CRADLE (Before I Grew Up To Love You) [22]  The box label attributes this roll to Thomas Waller nevertheless Bob and Ginny Billings think that in fact Cook was the artist. [23].


1. QRS 561 June 1936 AFTER YOU'VE GONE (Fox trot)  This was originally issued in 1918 when the roll was credited to Ted Baxter and Max Kortlander. The Cook/Waller version was a reissue and a rearrangement.

2. QRS 1001 ST. LOUIS BLUES [24]  (New Arrangement) 1001 was originally used for a totally different tune [25]. Some copies are three choruses shorter than others.

ST. LOUIS BLUES was first released in February 1920 under this number, when it was described as "Blues & Fox Trot". In addition to the Cook/Waller roll QRS issued four other versions of ST. LOUIS BLUES - 1185 (played by J. Russel Robinson), 2323, 3871 and 4926 (all by Cook).

3. QRS 1041 April 1937 WHEN BY BABY SMILES AT ME  This was first issued in 1920, played by Pete Wendling. The Cook/Waller roll was re-released in August 1945, this time bearing the description "Swing Rhythm" on the box label and crediting Cook with the performance.

4. QRS 3293 June 1936 I AIN'T GOT NOBODY  Originally issued in 1925, played by Pete Wendling. The Cook/Waller roll was a reissue and a rearrangement. A third version, credited to Cook, was released in September 1944, a totally different arrangement described on the box label as "Blues Fox with Jam Chorus" . All versions used the same catalog number.

5. QRS 6154 April 1935 ROSETTA (Fox Trot) [26]  The same arrangement of ROSETTA was also released on Imperial 08796. In 1944 QRS released a second, different version credited to Cook, using the same catalog number.

6. QRS 6155 April 1935 YOUR FEET'S TOO BIG [27]  Also issued as Imperial 08797. In 1944 QRS released a second, different Cook version marked "Swing Fox Trot" using the same catalog number.

7. QRS 6156 April 1935 NO SWINGIN' IN HERE [28] (Swing Fox Trot)  Also issued as Imperial 08798. In November 1944 QRS released a second Cook version, in some cases the dies used to label the 1935 roll were also used for the 1944 hence while Cook's name appears on the box, Waller's name is still on the roll.

8. QRS 6215 August 1935 SWEET AND SLOW (Fox Trot)  Also issued as Imperial 08857.

9. QRS 6233 September 1935 BASIN STREET BLUES  Also issued as Imperial 08875. In October 1945 QRS released a second, shorter version (played by Cook) using the same catalog number.

10. QRS 5288 December 1935 I'M GONNA SIT RIGHT DOWN AND WRITE MYSELF A LETTER (Fox Trot)  Also issued (same date) as Imperial 08930.

11. QRS 6321 January 1936 SING AN OLD FASHIONED SONG (To a Young Sophisticated Lady)  Also issued as Imperial 08963.

12. QRS 6331 February 1936 SWING, MR. CHARLIE (Fox Trot)  Also issued as Imperial 08973

13. QRS 6343 March 1936 CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS (A Rhythm Cocktail) (Fox Trot) [29]  Also issued as Imperial 08985.

14. QRS 6419 June 1936 HONEYSUCKLE ROSE (Fox Trot) [30]  Also issued as Imperial 09061. In 1944 QRS released a second Cook version using the same catalog number.

15. QRS 6531 November 1936 MR. GHOST GOES TO TOWN (Fox Trot)  Also issued as Imperial 09173.

16. QRS 6589 February 1937 I CAN'T BREAK THE HABIT OF YOU (Fox Trot)  Also issued as Imperial 09231 (the last Imperial release of Cook/Waller rolls).

17. QRS 6746 October 1930 BIG APPLE (Latest Dance Sensation)

18. QRS 6760 November 1937 SHE'S TALL, SHE'S TAN, SHE'S TERRIFIC (Fox Trot From "Cotton Club Parade")

19. QRS 6761 November 1937 QUEEN ISABELLA (Fox Trot)

20. QRS 6776 December 1937 THE DIPSY DOODLE (Fox Trot)

21. QRS 6884 June 1938 SOPHISTICATED SWING (Fox Trot)

22. QRS 6885 June 1938 THE FLAT FOOT FLOOGIE (Fox Trot) [31]

23. QRS 6896 July 1938 A-TISKET A-TASKET (Fox Trot) [32]

24. QRS 6904 August 1938 OL' MAN MOSE (Fox Trot)

25. QRS 7044 June 1939 'TAIN'T WHAT YOU DO (It's The Way That Cha Do It) (Fox Trot)

26. QRS 7056 June 1939 WELL ALL RIGHT (Tonight's The Night) (Fox Trot)

27. QRS 7090 August 1939 THE JUMPIN' JIVE (HEP HEP) (Fox Trot)

28. QRS 7138 November 1939 PEACH TREE STREET (Blues Song)

29. QRS 7233 May 1940 W.P.A. (Fox Trot)

30. QRS 7270 July 1940 STOP PRETENDING (Fox Trot)

31. QRS 7290 August 1940 CROSSTOWN (Fox Trot)

32. QRS 7319 October 1940 RHUMBOOGIE (From "Argentine Nights") (Boogie Woogie Style)

33. QRS 7324 October 1940 BEAT ME DADDY, EIGHT TO THE BAR (Boogie Woogie Style)  A later, shortened version may exist.

34. QRS 7343 November 1940 FIVE O'CLOCK WHISTLE (Slow Bounce)

35. QRS 7368 January 1941 SCRUB ME MAMA WITH A BOOGIE BEAT  A later shortened version exists omitting three choruses.

36. QRS 7383 February 1941 JAVA JIVE

37. QRS 7389 February 1941 THERE'LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE  A later, shorter version may exist.

38. QRS 7483 September 1941 THE BOOGLIE WOOGLIE PIGGY (Fox Trot)

39. QRS 7489 September 1941 ALL THAT MEAT AND NO POTATOES (Fox Trot) [33]

40. QRS 7722 August 1942 YEA MAN! (Fox Trot)

41. QRS 7729 August 1942 FAT MEAT IS GOOD MEAT

42. QRS 7739 September 1942 COW COW BOOGIE [34]  A shortened version was issued later


44. QRS 7760 November 1942 MISTER FIVE BY FIVE

45. QRS 7777 December 1942 DON'T GET AROUND MUCH ANY MORE


47. QRS 7789 December 1942 JUKE BOX SATURDAY NIGHT (From "Stars On Ice")

48. QRS 7847 June 1943 THE CANTEEN BOUNCE (Boogie Woogie)

49. QRS 7852 June 1943 DON'T STOP NOW (Fox Trot)

50. QRS 7873 June 1943 THE FUDDY WUDDY WATCHMAKER (Boogie Woogie)

51. QRS 7878 June 1943 SEE SEE RIDER (Boogie Woogie Blues)

52. QRS 7883 September 1943 AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'  All box labels bearing this catalog number state "played by J. Lawrence Cook" but some roll labels carry Waller's name. The same title was released in November 1929 as QRS 4767 and Imperial 07381, these would be slightly different from each other and entirely different from QRS 7883.

53. QRS 7893 November 1943 THERE'S A MAN IN MY LIFE (Fox Trot)

54. QRS 7899 December 1943 SHOO-SHOO BABY


The following is a list of QRS rolls which, although it seems unlikely that they were ever issued under his name, have been attributed to "Fats" Waller in piano rollographies, auction lists etc.

1. QRS 1188 September 1920 12th STREET RAG [35]  The 1920 version was played by Max Kortlander, a rearrangement credited to Cook was issued later under the same catalog number.

2. QRS 3269 November 1925 MILENBERG JOYS  The original issue was played by Art Kahn, a later rearrangement using the same catalog number is credited to Cook.

3. QRS 3554 August 1926 WHEN ALL THE SAINTS GO MARCHIN' IN  The original version was played by H.T. (i.e. Theodore) Johnson, a later issue bearing the same catalog number is marked "played by J. Lawrence Cook".

4. QRS 4926 May 1930 ST. LOUIS BLUES  This is almost certainly played by Cook because the Cook/Waller version was released as QRS 1001. A later version marked "New Arrangement" , also played by Cook, was released sometime around 1944.

5. QRS 5353 February 1932 TIGER RAG  This also appeared at the same time as Imperial 07996, a later issue is a rearrangement. All rolls under this catalog number were played by Cook.

6. QRS 6327 February 1936 IT'S A SIN TO TELL A LIE  This version is a waltz, some rolls are marked "played by Walter Redding" ( a Cook pseudonym), others "played by Harold Scott" (another Cook pseudonym). It also appeared as Imperial 08969. In 1944 QRS issued a fox trot version marked "played by J. Lawrence Cook", some copies have the old label on the roll and the new label on the box.

7. QRS 7308 September 1940 MAPLE LEAF RAG  Almost certainly issued only as a Cook roll.

8. QRS 7883 September 1943 AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'  Released only as "played by J. Lawrence Cook" under this catalog number. The title was also issued in November 1929 as QRS 4767 and Imperial 07381, they would be entirely different from QRS 7883.

9. QRS 7971 September 1944 "BOOGIE" ON ST. LOUIS BLUES  As this was released after Waller's death in December 1943 it is unlikely that the roll ever carried his name.

K. O. Eckland's List Of Imperial Titles:

1. Imperial 7381 January 1928 AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'  This was extracted from the QRS 4767 master, however the Cook/Waller version was released as QRS 7883.

2. Imperial 7920 October 1931 CONCENTRATIN' ON YOU

3. Imperial 8013 March 1932 KEEPIN' OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW

4. Imperial 8090 July 1932 MY HEART'S AT EASE

5. Imperial 8379 September 1933 AIN'TCHA GLAD

Mike Montgomery and I have listened carefully to these rolls. They are competent but somewhat pedestrian arrangements, manifestly not the work of either Waller or Cook.


QRS 6215 SWEET AND SLOW (also issued as Imperial 08857)

QRS 6531 MR. GHOST GOES TO TOWN (also issued as Imperial 09173)

QRS 6589 I CAN'T BREAK THE HABIT OF YOU (also issued as Imperial 09173)





QRS 7233 W.P.A.







[1] Compiled by John R.T. Davies , published by JJ Publications, London 1950.

[2] Ditto (revised by R.M. Cooke). Published by "Friends of Fats" (the Thomas "Fats" Waller Appreciation Society - Cooke was Hon Secretary at the time), published by the Century Press, London 1953.

[3] Published Brooklyn, NY in July/August 1958 in Record Research, Vol. 3, No. 6, Issue 18, p11.

[4] Author Tor Magnusson. Based upon information obtained from Bill Bonner's QRS numerical listing (now in the custodianship of Ed Sprankle) which in turn was compiled from Mike Montgomery's. Published 1964 in Goteborg, Sweden, in a Swedish musical magazine, and again in February 1975 in Matrix Magazine (an English jazz record research publication), issue 106.

[5] Compiled by John R.T. Davies, revised by Bob Kumm and the Storyville team. Appeared on pp. 6-7, Vol. 1, No. 2, Storyville magazine (London publisher) in December 1965.

[6] Maurice Waller & Anthony Calabrese - "Fats Waller" at p.46. Published in 1977 by MacMillan, NY. See also The Billings Rollography, Vol. 5, P.340 for further confirmation that Cook edited the Waller rolls.

[7] Paul S. Machlin - "Stride - the Music of Fats Waller", published 1985 by Twayne, Boston, Mass., USA.

[8] Fats Waller - a Chronology of his Works. Printed privately in USA 1987.

[9] The Billings Rollography (published 1990 by Rock Soup, Belmont CA, USA) Vol. 3, p.286

[10] In his book "Fats Waller" (part of the "Kings of Jazz" series) Charles Fox says that Fats cut this roll in 1922, but offers no evidence to substantiate his claim.

[11] Reissued as QRS Q-108

[12] Reissued as QRS Q-109

[13] Reissued as QRS Q-138

[14] The Piano Roll Shop Winter 1996 Catalog

[15] Reissued as QRS Q-151

[16] Duet with James P. Johnson

[17] Duet with James P. Johnson. Reissued as QRS Q-152

[18] Reissued as QRS Q-139

[19] Reissued as QRS Q-147

[20] I have been unable to discover the catalog number of this roll

[21] This release date is a guess

[22] I do not know the release date

[23] See The Billings Rollography, Vol. 5, p.340

[24] No release date is given on the box label

[25] WHEN YOU'RE ALONE, a fox trot played by Victor Arden and Max Kortlander

[26] QRS originally issued the hymn TAKE ME AS I AM under this number

[27] QRS originally issued the hymn SAFELY THROUGH ANOTHER WEEK under this number

[28] Reissued as QRS Q-195

[29] Reissued as QRS Q-223

[30] This catalog number was originally used for the hymn OLD HUNDRED

[31] Reissued as QRS Q-249

[32] Reissued as QRS Q-247

[33] The box label on Bill Burkhardt's copy reads "ALL THAT MEAT NO AND POTATOES" !

[34] The date is a guess

[35] Reissued as QRS Q-167

Original text dated 4 April 1998
HTML revised 8 April 1998
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