Additionally, Art Tatum was blind in one eye, and had poor sight in his other eye. He learned to read music using both glasses and braille.

It is said that Tatum was at his finest during informal social gatherings at off hours. In The Jazz Makers, Orrin Keepnews writes, "It is generally accepted ... that his most formidable playing was displayed only in circumstances and before audiences largely of his own choosing. After hours a man played strictly as he pleased (when you're not being paid for your services, there are, after all, certain privileges you can expect). He played as long and as late as he pleased ... And the after-hours that Tatum really came to life."