Antoine Dominique "Fats" Domino was born in 1928 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He learned to play the piano aged 7, and his style was influenced by boogie woogie pianists like Albert Ammons, and Meade Lux Lewis. Later his triplet piano play came from Little Willie Littlefield.
In 1949 he recorded "The Fat man," and many consider this was the very first rock’n’roll record to attracted national attention. The song was a reworking of Champion Jack Dupree’s "Junker's Blues" and became an R & B hit in 1950. Fats received a gold record in 1953.
Fats teamed up with producer and co-writer Dave Bartholomew, and their cooperation resulted in a flurry of R & B and Top 100 hit records. Between 1949-1960 Fats had 23 million sales with no less than 17 co-written with Dave Bartholomew. Fats’ band included Herbert Hardesty (Tenor Saxophone), Reggie Houston (saxophone), Lee Allen (saxophone), Earl Palmer (drummer) and bandleader Fred Kemp (saxophone). 90% of all the solos on Fats’ records were played by saxophonist Alvin "Red" Tyler. Fats Domino also played on other artists records including the piano on Lloyd Price's million seller "Lawdy miss clawdy" (1952). In 1955 Fats Domino finally broke through with Ain't That a Shame" which hit the Top Ten. The song was covered by Pat Boone whose softer version went to #1 because it received wider radio airplay in a segregated era.
A year later Fats’ up-tempo version of the old Louis Armstrong song, "Blueberry Hill", reached #2 in the Top 40 in the US, was #1 on the R&B charts for 11 weeks.
Fats Domino continued to have a steady series of hits for Imperial through early 1962 and many were double sided (22). The owner of Imperial Records, Lew Chudd sold his record company to Liberty in 1963 but Fats fortunes faded somewhat so he changed labels to ABC-Paramount and recorded Red Sails in the Sunset.
By the end of 1964 the British Invasion had changed the tastes of the record-buying public, and Fats Domino's chart run was over. Despite the lack of chart success, Fats Domino continued to record steadily until about 1970, and sporadically after that. He also continued as a popular live act for several decades and his music has influenced countless numbers of musicians, including Lennon and McCartney. In his song, "I Want to Walk You Home", there is a line "I want to hold your hand" which many think may have inspired Lennon and McCartney when writing their song of the same title.
In 1968, the Beatles modeled their song, "Lady Madonna", on Fats Domino's style, combining it with a nod to Humphrey Lyttelton's 1956 hit "Bad Penny Blues", a record which Joe Meek had engineered. Domino returned the compliment in 1970 by covering not only "Lady Madonna", but two other Beatles songs, for his Reprise LP Fats is Back. Throughout their career both John Lennon and Paul McCartney recorded Fats Domino songs. Fats’s last chart entry was in 1968 with a cover of the Beatles “Lady Madonna.”
Fats Domino appeared in four films: Shake, Rattle & Rock! (1956), The Girl Can't Help It. (1956), Jamboree (1957) and The Big Beat (1958).
The Fat Man survived Hurricane Katrina refusing to leave his home in the Lower Ninth Ward. Despite the warnings he stubbornly refused to leave as his wife Rosemary, who was suffering from poor health. The ensuing flooding meant Fats lost almost all of his possessions. To help quell rumours he had perished in the storm he made several public appearances and released Alive and Kickin' in 2006. A portion of the record sales went to New Orleans' Tipitina's Foundation, which helps local musicians. To raise money for repairs for his own home, friends and fellow musicians recorded a tribute album, Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino, featuring Robert Plant, Elton John, and Sir Paul McCartney. In 2012, Fats Domino appeared in a cameo role in season three of the television series Treme.
Fats Domino died in 2017, at his home in Harvey, Louisiana, at the age of 89, from natural causes. Worth a listen:
That Fat man (1950)
Ain't That a Shame (1955)
My Blue Heaven (1956)
Blueberry Hill (1956)
Blue Monday (1956)
I'm Walkin' (1957)
When The Saints Go Marching In (1959)
I Want To Walk You Home (1959)
Walking to New Orleans (1960)
Jambalaya (On The Bayou) (1961)
Red Sails In The Sunset (1963)
Lady Madonna (1968)
Lawdy miss clawdy (1952)