Pete Wendling was born 126 years ago Friday. And I forgot to send a card! He was an acclaimed ragtime pianist, which led to a decade long career "cutting" piano rolls. But he had a longer career as a composer, book ended by "Yaaka Hula Hickey Dula," a 1916 faux Hawaiian number introduced by Al Jolson, to "On the Street of Regret" in 1942. Here's a mid-career success, "Swingin' in a Hammock," by Dick Robertson with Bob Haring and his Orchestra in 1930.
There are seven birthday salutes on tonight's "Big Broadcast" (six and one "make good" for Sidney Bechet), but Fats Waller is responsible for twenty five out of sixty seven selections. He's heard on only nine, which speaks to his strength as a songwriter rather than the host's incompetence.
Tonight's typically crowded "Big Broadcast" includes King Oliver, the trumpet-playing leader who brought Louis Armstrong to Chicago in 1922. Oliver's career on record was brief, 1923 to 1931, and he didn't always make the wisest career moves, like turning down the job at the Cotton Club that catapulted Duke Ellington to global fame. His chops went bad by the early 30s, but he continued touring with groups until 1936. He passed two years later.
The first "Big Broadcast" after a fundraiser is usually calm and music-driven. That can be predicted safely for tonight, since it was recorded on Tuesday. It will include "thank you" mentions that couldn't be managed last week (oh, for just a few dozen more!), some quality requests, and five solid birthdays. May is an amazing month: Bing, Kate Smith, Lorenz Hart, Irving Berlin, King Oliver, Fats Waller, Al Jolson, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw! Tonight Fred Astaire, Billy Cotton, Alice Faye, Red Nichols and Mary Lou Williams will be saluted.