Tatum's first solo piano job in New York was at the Onyx Club, which was later reported to have paid him "$45 a week and free whiskey". The Onyx was one of the first jazz clubs to open on 52nd Street, which became the city's focal point for public jazz performance for more than a decade. He recorded his first four released solo sides, for Brunswick Records, in March 1933: "St. Louis Blues", "Sophisticated Lady", "Tea for Two", and "Tiger Rag". The last of these was a minor hit, impressing the public with its startling tempo of approximately 376 (quarter note) beats per minute, and with right-hand eighth notes adding to the technical feat.
Tatum's only known child, Orlando, was born in 1933, when Tatum was twenty-four. The mother was Marnette Jackson, a waitress in Toledo; the pair were not married. It is likely that neither parent had a major role in raising their son, who pursued a military career and died in the 1980s.