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Tue, 12.02.1890

Fatte Marble, Jazz Pianist born

Fatte Marble

*Fatte Marble was born on this date in 1890.  He was a Black jazz pianist and composer. 

Born in Paducah, Kentucky, in 1890, Fate Marable learned piano from his mother, Elizabeth Lillian (Wharton) Marable, a piano teacher. Fatte had five siblings, two brothers, Harold and James, and three sisters, Mabel, Juanita, and Neona. 

At age 17, he began playing ragtime piano in 1907 on the steamboat J.S. No. 1 that worked out of Rock Island, Illinois.  His first band, comprised of a violinist, trumpet, and drum and Fate on piano, performed on the J.S. until 1910 when the boat burned.  After the loss of the J.S. steamboat, Marable became the bandleader on the paddle-wheeler Sidney, owned by the Streckfus Line.  During summer, Marable’s band entertained people along the rivers on dance excursions. 

On his many trips through New Orleans, Marable fell in love with the wild new music called Jazz.  In an interview, Fatte said, “We were going in and out of New Orleans all the time, and I began to notice the type of music they were playing. It just got under my skin."  In 1919 he organized an all-black Jazz band with musicians recruited from New Orleans.  He hired 18-year-old Louis Armstrong, who wowed audiences with his improvisations.  Fatte Marable’s band became a training ground for early jazz musicians, including Johnny Dodds, Zutty Singleton, King Oliver, Johnny St. Cyr, Tommy Ladnier, Red Allen, and Pops Foster.  He taught them to read music and to play with discipline.  In 1920 and 1921, Marable’s band was considered the best dance band in the country.  

Marable's band took jazz to every town along the river.  Along the way, he trained local musicians who carried jazz inland.  He led bands on the boats until the mid-1940s.  The 1940 WPA survey "The Negro in Pittsburgh" states that Marable greatly influenced the development of Jazz in Pittsburgh.  He settled his family in Pittsburgh while he steamed the rivers with his band.  In the off-season, Marable spent time in Paducah, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh.  He performed at the Wyle Avenue clubs in Pittsburgh’s Hills District.  

Marble first arrived in Pittsburgh in 1907, playing ragtime on the J.S. streamer. Beginning with Marable's influence, Pittsburgh produced the legendary jazz pianists Earl Hines, Mary Lou Williams, Billy Strayhorn, Erroll Garner, Ahmad Jamal, Horace Parlan, and Shirley Scott. According to the jazz historian Dr. Nelson Harrison, Marable's son Fate Jr., who lives in Pittsburgh, remembers seeing Garner jamming with his father's bands on the riverboats. 

In the mid-1940s, Marable left the rivers and settled in St. Louis, where he played in clubs. The only recording the Fate ever made was in 1924.  Fatte Marable's Society Syncopators recorded the songs "Frankie and Johhny" and ‘Pianoflage." On January 16, 1947, Fate Marable died of pneumonia in St. Louis, Missouri. He was 56 years old. He is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Paducah, Kentucky.  

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