FATS DOMINO (1928-2017):
The rhythm-and-blues artist whose music laid the basis for rock ‘n’ roll, singer and pianist Fats Domino, passed away on 24 October, 2017, aged 89. His death was of natural causes.
Some notes . . .
· Domino was borne Antoine Domino Jr was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the youngest of 8 children in a musical family. By age 10 he was performing as a singer and pianist and at age 14 he dropped out of school to pursue a musical career, taking odd jobs such as factory work and hauling ice to earn money.
· In 1946, Domino started playing piano for band leader Billy Diamond, who gave Domino the nickname "Fats."
· Domino's rare musical talents quickly made him a sensation, and by 1949 he was drawing substantial crowds on his own. According to Diamond: “I knew Fats from hanging out at a grocery store. He reminded me of Fats Waller and Fats Pichon. Those guys were big names and Antoine—that’s what everybody called him then—had just got married and gained weight. I started calling him ‘Fats’ and it stuck.”
· Fats’ talent meant that by 1949 he was drawing substantial crowds on his own. That’s same year he met collaborator Dave Bartholomew and signed to Imperial Records, where he stayed until 1963.
· Domino's first release was "The Fat Man" (1949), based on his nickname, a song co-written with Bartholomew. It became the first rock 'n' roll record to sell 1 million copies, peaking at No. 2 on the R&B charts.
· The two continued to release R&B hits and Top 100 records for years, with Domino's distinctive style of piano playing, accompanied by simple saxophone riffs, drum afterbeats and his mellow baritone voice.
· Domino’s 1955 song "Ain't It a Shame," reached No 10 on the pop charts. Pat Boone’s cover, named “Ain’t That a Shame”, went to No 1. Nonetheless it boosted his visibility and he later re-recorded the song under the altered name. Btw, it was the first song John Lennon learned to play on guitar.
· In 1956, Domino had five Top 40 hits, including “My Blue Heaven” and his cover of Glenn Miller's "Blueberry Hill," which hit No. 2 on the pop charts, Domino's top charting record ever. He cemented this popularity with appearances in two 1956 films, Shake, Rattle & Rock and The Girl Can't Help It, and his hit "The Big Beat" was featured on Dick Clark's television show American Bandstand in 1957. He had further hits in the decade with “Whole Lotta Loving" (1958), “I’m Ready" (1959) and “I Want to Walk You Home" (1959).
· Despite his enormous popularity among both white and black fans, when touring the country in the 1950s, Domino and his band often had to use segregated facilities, at times driving miles away from the venue.
· In 1962 Fats left Imperial records for ABC-Paramount Records, without Dave Bartholomew. He had given Imperial 37 different Top 40 hits. Musical tastes, however, had changed. The advent of the Beatles and the British Invasion took him off the top of the charts. According to John Lennon, however, “There wouldn’t have been a Beatles without Fats Domino.”
· Fats continued to tour for the next two decades but a health in 1995 whilst on tour in Europe saw him choose to remain in New Orleans with his wife and 8 children, and cut back on appearing. He occasionally performed at local concerts and at the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival from time to time.
· Domino chose to remain in his home with wife Rosemary, who was in poor health, when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. His home was flooded, he lost all his possessions and he and his family were rescued by the Coast Guard. To raise money for repairs to Domino's home, friends and rock stars recorded a charity tribute album, Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino. Paul McCartney, Robert Plant and Elton John lent their support.
· Domino released an album, Alive and Kickin (a reference to the reports at the time that he had been killed in the hurricane), in 2006. A portion of the record sales went to New Orleans' Tipitina's Foundation, which helps local musicians in need.
· Not only had Fats Domino been one of the biggest stars of rock and roll in the 1950s, he was also one of the first R&B artists to gain popularity with white audiences. His biographer Rick Coleman has stated that Domino's records and tours with rock-and-roll shows in that decade, brought together black and white youths in a shared appreciation of his music, a factor in the breakdown of racial segregation in the United States.
· Elvis Presley stated in a 1957 interview: "A lot of people seem to think I started this business. But rock ’n’ roll was here a long time before I came along. Nobody can sing that music like colored people. Let’s face it: I can’t sing it like Fats Domino can. I know that.”
· Paul McCartney has stated that “Lady Madonna” was written in emulation of Domino's style, which makes Domino’s cover in 1968, his last hit, all the more significant.
· Domino was present in the audience of 2,200 people at Elvis Presley's first concert at the Las Vegas Hilton on July 31, 1969. At a press conference after the show, when a journalist referred to Presley as "The King", Presley gestured toward Domino, who was taking in the scene. "No," Presley said, "that's the real king of rock and roll."
Fats Domino, 1962
Domino with Jerry Lee Lewis and James Brown
President George W. Bush shakes the hand of legendary Fats Domino. Domino is wearing a New Orleans brass band musician's cap on his head and a National Medal of Arts around his neck. The President presented the medal to Domino on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2006, at the musician's home in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans. The medal was a replacement medal for the one -- originally awarded by President Bill Clinton -- that was lost in the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina.