Just before he died in 1943, Fats Waller wrote the music for a Broadway book musical with a mostly white cast, the first black composer to do so–and the only one ever to do it with commercial success. Yet “Early to Bed” is largely ignored by historians of musical theater, while jazz scholars describe the circumstances surrounding its composition rather than the work itself. Encouraging this neglect is the fact that no actual score survives. This essay, based on research that assembled all surviving evidence of the score and the show, gives a summary account of “Early to Bed” and what survives from it. The aim is to fill a gap in Waller scholarship, calling attention to some of his highest quality work, and possibly stimulating further reconstruction work that might result in a recording of the score.

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