The Story Behind The Song: “Ain’t Misbehavin’”


(writers: Thomas “Fats” Waller, Andy Razaf & Harry Brooks)


Fats Waller (#17 pop, 1929)
Hank Williams, Jr. (#1 country, 1986)

On May 9, 1978, the Longacre Theater in New York brought a musical revue to Broadway. “Ain’t Misbehavin’” celebrated the creative legacy of Thomas “Fats” Waller, an influential bluesman who invented the “stride” piano. The production featured thirty of his compositions, including “Honeysuckle Rose,” ”T’ain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do,” “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter” and, of course, “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”

The latter was the first major success for an unusual vocalist and trumpet player named Louis Armstrong, who performed it in an all-black revue in Harlem titled “Hot Chocolates,” which opened during 1929. Waller, born in New York City in 1904, composed “Ain’t Misbehavin’” at his home on 133rd Street in Harlem, with the aid of Andy Razaf. The rest of “Hot Chocolates” was already mapped out, but the producers need a theme to complete the show. Waller already had the melodic idea in his head and the lyrics were put together in short order – just 45 minutes.

In 1943, Waller re-worked his 1929 version of “Ain’t Misbehavin’” for the movie “Stormy Weather.”
Unquestionably, the song was an unlikely candidate for country success, but Hank Williams, Jr. happened to hear it one day and “Ain’t Misbehavin’” stuck in his head. As a result, he put it on record and the song emerged as the third single from Hank’s “Five-0” album.

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