Fats Domino

  • Pianist, singer and songwriter born Antoine Domino in 1928 in New Orleans Louisiana. Died in 2017 from natural causes.
  • Domino learned to play the piano around the age of ten from his brother-in-law, who was a jazz musician. By fourteen years old, he was performing in bars around New Orleans. A local bandleader heard him perform at a backyard barbeque in 1947, and he was impressed enough to invite him to join his band, The Solid Senders. The band had a regular gig at the Hideaway Club, and the job paid $3 a week. The bandleader gave him the nickname of Fats, because of Domino’s hearty appetite, and because of his resemblence to jazz pianists Fats Waller and Fats Pichon.
  • Two years later, he was signed to the Imperial Records label after the owner of the company heard him perform. Domino was recommended by the label’s talent manager, Dave Bartholomew. Bartholomew was co-writer and producer of most of Domino’s future hits. Domino’s first single was a variation on a traditional New Orleans piano blues song. His version was titled The Fat Man. It was produced with a strong back beat and Domino’s scat falsetto singing. Released in late 1949, it was considered one of the first rock and roll records ever, and the first to sell over a million copies. It reached #2 on the R&B Singles chart, and in 2015 it was named to the Grammy Hall of Fame, the one of four Domino songs enshrined there. Domino wasn’t convinced that he had invented rock and roll – he felt that he was playing the same New Orleans rhythm and blues music that he had been performing for the previous ten years.
  • From 1949 to 1954, he continued to release singles that charted on the R&B chart. His first #1 single on the chart was Goin’ Home in 1952. He also had top five R&B hits with Every Night About This Time, Going to the River and Please Don’t Leave Me. These were all released initially as singles – his debut album was released in 1956, and many of the tracks on his first eight studio albums were compilations of songs he had recorded many years earlier.
  • In 1955, he released his first single to cross over to the pop chart. Ain’t That a Shame topped the R&B chart and it peaked at #10 on the Hot 100. It made the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002. From 1955 to 1959, Domino had 58 more songs reach the pop chart, with seven of them topping the R&B chart. In 1956, his most famous song, Blueberry Hill, reached #2 on the pop chart and #1 on the R&B chart. Other Hot 100 top five hits included I’m In Love Again, Blue Monday, and I’m Walkin’ (Grammy Hall of Fame in 2019). Blueberry Hill was one of his few hits that he did not write – published in 1940, earlier versions were jazz and big band hits. Domino’s version made the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1987.
  • He continued to record for Imperial Records until 1963. That year, the label was sold, and Domino left to sign with another record label. With the label change, he no longer collaborated with Bartholomew. His new label insisted that he record in Nashville, and his new producers instilled a country and western sound to his music. He released eleven singles for his new label – several charted, but there were no hits, and by 1964 the British invasion made Domino obsolete. He changed labels again and released singles and several albums until the late 70s. He continued to perform – his last tour was in 1995.
  • He continued to live in New Orleans, and his home was destroyed during hurricane Katrina in 2005 – he remained in his home during the storm due to his wife’s poor health, until he was rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter.
  • In 1969, Domino attended Elvis Presley’s first concert at the Las Vegas Hilton. After the show, when a journalist referred to Presley as “the King,” Presley pointed at Domino, saying “that’s the real king of rock and roll.” Domino was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in its inaugural class of 1986. The following year, he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award. In 1998, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. Rolling Stone ranked him at #25 on the list of the Greatest Artists of All Time. Here’s Fats Domino performing Blueberry Hill on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956.

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