During the New Year of 1926, prohibition reigned around The United States of America, and Chicago was a wide-open town for the mobs. The mob set out their own rules and territories, and if anyone stepped out of line well then they died. Alphonse “Al” Capone had his hand in many of Chicago’s recent shoot outs, that had arranged for him to be the sole proprietor in a whole chain of breweries. And of course, brothels, gambling dens, and speakeasies that allowed him to net millions.
He was just 27 years old, and everyone from the press to the police, even the politicians were in his pocket. Thomas “Fats” Waller was a different type of rising legend, to him, the mob was just a story he read from the newspaper and the family was his musical partners. His experience with booze and woman, well was only in the form of consumption. He was 21 when he left New York to play some concerts and gigs in Chicago – but already his dazzling jazz style was well known.
Fats was always a big hit at the Sherman Hotel, and his nightly audience included men with bulging pockets – not just cash, they were armed. One night he had revolver poked against him and told to get into a black limousine. Fats panicked and thought his career was over, but on arrival at the fancy salon, he was just pushed towards a piano and told to play. And he played, he played jazz music as if his life depended on it.
The clapping and applause were immense, Al Capone was clapping the loudest, he was having a birthday and Fats was a present. The party lasted three whole days, Fats exhausted himself and played his whole repertoire. But with every request from The Boys, came bills stuffed in his pocket – and he also consumed vast amounts of drink.
By the time Fats was finally let go, he had several thousands of dollars on him and was completely drunk – with a new acquired taste certain taste for vintage champagne.