Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

“Fat Boy”: It’s the Organ

Billy Stewart was a Washington DC musical talent who backed Bo Diddley in the 1950s during Diddley’s Chess years.  Stewart would get the chance to make his own recordings on Chess in the early 1960s when the label hired a new A&R person, Roquel Davis.

Rick Simmons in Carolina Beach Music:  The Classic Years writes this about Stewart’s first 45 from 1962:

His first recording was “Reap What You Sow” which went to #18 on the R&B charts and #79 on the Billboard Hot 100 … Perhaps more importantly the flip side of the record was a song [Roquel] Davis had asked Stewart to write and record based on his nickname ‘Fat Boy.’  Though ‘Fat Boy‘ did not chart, it got a fair amount of airplay and would become Stewart’s signature song”:

“Fat Boy”

Billy Stewart (1962)

Incredibly, there’s another version of “Fat Boy” without this infectious organ track???  “Fat Boy” would see release in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia when first issued in 1962.  

Stewart was twelve years old when he began singing with his younger brothers Johnny, James, and Frank as The Four Stewart Brothers, according to Soulwalking, who went on to host their own radio show every Sunday at Washington, DC’s WUST Radio Music Hall for five years. 

WUST is the present-day venerated music venue, 9:30 Club.  In the 1940s, this same building – incredibly enough – was a music club named for its co-owner, Duke Ellington (click on link to Washington Post piece).

Musical Architectural History

9:30 Club (pre-2015)

[photo credit:  Brian Liu]9-30 Club

WUST Radio Music Hall

[photo credit:  Michael Horsley]WUST Radio Music Hall III

Duke Ellington‘s

[photo credit:  DC Public Library]

Howard University’s WHUT-TV broadcast a new documentary “Fat Boy:  The Billy Stewart Story” by filmmaker Beverly Lindsay-Johnson. as reported by The Washington Post‘s John Kelly in his January 3, 2021 column.

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One Small Detail Dept:

Billy Stewart’s King Records Connection

I’m just as stunned as you are that the King Records vault — according to The King Labels: A Discography compiled by Michel Ruppli (with assistance from Bill Daniels) — includes an unreleased version of “Fat Boy”!

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One Response

  1. You people think you know everything but you are not real music lovers especially of the soul music that was played. The organ that you perceive as infectious in fact those of us who really appreciated that music really felt the organ was a integral part of the song. without it, the song, to those of us from DC, sounds dead just it must be to those who have dead ears, not to appreciate the sound of the hammond organ lick. I would really like to find a recording with the organ or a copy of the song because my ’45 is played out.

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