Program : 
Andy Razaf: The Life and Lyrics of the Prince of Madagascar
Andy Razaf

Andy Razaf. Photo courtesy

Riverwalk Jazz pays tribute to legendary songsmith Andy Razaf, who wrote lyrics to hundreds of popular songs of the 30s and 40s, including "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Ain’t Misbehavin'." A cavalcade of jazz greats join The Jim Cullum Jazz Band to perform songs from Razaf's' collaboration with celebrity piano man Fats Waller. Trumpeter Doc Cheatham, vibist Lionel Hampton and vocalist Joe Williams share the bill with pianist Dick Hyman and vocalists Vernel Bagneris and Nina Ferro.


Andy Razaf’s creativity was prodigious, his life story riveting, and his music unforgettable. Andreamentania Paul Razafkeriefo was born in 1895 in Washington DC. But his story begins in Africa. Andrea’s father Henri Razafkeriefo, a nobleman and warrior was the nephew of the Queen of Madagascar; he died in battle before Andrea was born. His grandfather John Louis Waller—no relation to Fats—was a political activist and former Missouri slave who became American consul to the African country of Madagascar in the early 1890s. Andrea took his royal African ancestors as role models.


Andrea began writing song lyrics as a young boy. He sold his first song at the age of 17 while working as an elevator operator in a Tin Pan Alley office building. Predictably, the young prince’s name was botched on his first published song, which prompted him to shorten his name to Andy Razaf. Inspired by jazz music in the early years of his career, Andy Razaf collaborated almost exclusively with major black composers and musicians of the day,  including Fats Waller, James P. Johnson and Eubie Blake.


Proud of his African-American heritage, Andy Razaf was acutely aware of the racial conflicts in the U.S. in the 20s and 30s. Composed for a mobster-backed musical revue, his song "Black and Blue" is widely regarded as one of the first (if not the first) American racial protest song. Razaf encouraged black artists of the era to perform his songs and many did. Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Ethel Waters featured Razaf songs throughout their careers but Andy Razaf songs crossed the color barrier. Artists as diverse as Bill Haley and the Comets and Hank Williams Jr. had chart-topping hits with "Ain't Misbehavin,'" a tune Razaf wrote with Fats Waller.


In 1972 at seventy-six years of age, Andy Razaf, the most notable and prolific black lyricist of 20th century popular song, was finally recognized by his Tin Pan Alley peers in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.


Performers and Repertoire on This Broadcast


Vocalist Nina Ferro sings the Waller/Razaf evergreen "Honeysuckle Rose." The late trumpet legend Doc Cheatham offers a heart-warming vocal on "Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good to You?" Pianist Dick Hyman collaborates with Cullum Band pianist John Sheridan on a two-piano, four-handed rendition of Waller/Razaf's "My Fate is In Your Hands" and "The Joint is Jumpin.'"


Vernel Bagneris sings the well-known Waller/Razaf classics "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Black and Blue." Swing era legend Lionel Hampton stops in for "Memories of You," a Razaf collaboration with Eubie Blake. Joe Williams is in top form with another Blake/Razaf gem, "I'd Give a Dollar for a Dime."


Ain't Misbehavin' sheet music cover"Ain't Misbehavin'"


No one to talk with,
All by myself,
No one to walk with,
But I'm happy on the shelf
Ain't misbehavin' . . .
Saving my love for you!


I know for certain,
The one I love,
I'm through with flirtin',
It's just you I'm thinkin' of
Ain't misbehavin' . . .
Saving my love for you!


Like Jack Horner,
In the corner,
Don't go nowhere,
But what do I care?
Your kisses . . .
Are worth waitin' for
Believe me!


Don't stay out late,
Don't care to go!
I'm home about eight,
Just me an' my radio!
Ain't misbehavin' . . .
Saving my love for you! 


Music by Thomas "Fats" Waller and Harry Brooks with lyrics by Andy Razaf, 1929.


"Ain't Misbehavin'" was introduced by Margaret Simms, Paul Bass and Russell Wooding's Hallelujah Singers in the 1929 Broadway musical Hot Chocolates. Shortly after the show's opening, Louis Armstrong joined the company and played the Waller/Razaf song on solo trumpet during intermission. Niight after night Armstrong reprised his performance of "Ain''t Misbehavin'" from his spot in the orchestra pit, and his spectacular performances of the memorable tune helped launch his career. Fats Waller performed "Ain't Misbehavin'" in the 1943 Hollywood movie musical Stormy Weather. It was also featured in the 1955 musical Gentlemen Marry Brunettes and again in 1955, as the title song in the musical Ain't Misbehavin.'


Photo credit for home page teaser image: Andy Razaf. Photo courtesy