The Wild Story Of Al Capone Kidnapping Jazz Legend Fats Waller

Fats Waller, born Thomas Wright Waller, was a jazz musician whose talent for comedy made him not just a piano player, but a true performer. Waller was born in New York City and started playing the piano at just 6 years old. Over the years, the young boy also learned to play other instruments including the string bass, reed organ, and the violin, per Biography. His talent came naturally, and he was exposed to music at a young age, thanks to his mother, who was an organ player for the church. His grandfather, Adolph Waller, was also a violinist.

Waller's father was a clergyman, and he wanted his son to follow in his footsteps, but Waller was determined to be a musician. According to Thought Co, Waller dropped out of school in his teens and found work as an organ player at the Lincoln Theatre in Harlem. He recorded songs in the early 1920s, and in 1924, a song he wrote titled "Squeeze Me" debuted. His popularity grew throughout the years, and he gained plenty of fans, one of which was gangster Al Capone, also known as Scarface.

Why was Fats Waller kidnapped?

Mob boss Al Capone dominated Chicago duringĀ Prohibition, and he ran bootlegging, prostitution, and gambling operations. In 1926, 21-year-old Fats Waller was on tour in Chicago, and as he left the Sherman Hotel after a performance, unidentified men approached him and forced him inside a limousine. The jazz musician had no choice but to comply with his kidnappers, as he was held at gunpoint, as reported by The Vintage News. Waller was transported to Capone's headquarters at the Hawthorne Inn.

Upon arrival, Waller observed the lively atmosphere. There was an ongoing party, and the men who abducted him told him to play the piano. After playing a song, Waller observed the crowd and saw that one of the people applauding was none other than Chicago's biggest mob boss himself. It turned out that the celebration was for Capone's 28th birthday, and his men wanted to surprise the notorious gangster by having Waller perform live for him, according to the Capital City Theatre.

Fats Waller was treated well

As reported by The Independent, despite being kidnapped, Fats Waller was treated fairly well when he arrived at Al Capone's birthday celebration. He was reportedly paid $100 for each song he played, and he was offered copious amounts of food and expensive drinks during the days-long party. He was brought there for a reason, though, and that was to play for Capone, and play he did. In fact, per The Vintage News, Waller played the piano the entire time he was there and only took breaks between his performances. He slept on the piano bench, but people made sure he was well nourished.

After a couple of days of merriment, Capone's party ended. Waller was brought back to the Sherman Hotel without issues. He was several thousands of dollars richer, and a mob boss was happy. The story of Waller's kidnapping was told by his own son, Maurice Waller, in the book titled "Fats Waller."