Some say, “The Blues had a Baby and they called it Rock’n’Roll.” Willie Dixon said, “Blues is the roots and the other music is the fruits.” Before anyone knew what Rock’n’Roll was, the rollicking good-time R&B coming out of the West Coast and New Orleans showed the direct connection between uptempo Blues and the music of the future, and nobody showed it better than Fats Domino. With his warm engaging personna, his rollicking piano style and his ever-present smile, Fats was one of the first to cross the race line, as his records appealed to young people all over the world.
This is where it all began:
The breakthrough song was ‘The Fat Man’, adapted by Fats and Bartholomew from the old ‘Junker’s Blues’, an anti-drug song by local pianist ‘Champion Jack’ Dupree. It sold a million copies, made No.2 in the R&B Charts and established a smooth, relaxed band sound that characterised Fats’ career with Imperial, with Earl Palmer‘s typically funky New Orleans drumming and some silky brass fills. Only two of the next bunch of singles made the Top Ten but in 1952, the slow Blues, ‘Goin’ Home’ went to No1. The crossover hit ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ in 1955 established Fats as a genuine star, despite the fact that crooner Pat Boone’s version went higher up the pop charts. The next two years brought Fats massive success with ‘I’m in Love Again’, ‘My Blue Heaven’, ‘Blueberry Hill’, ‘Blue Monday’ and ‘I’m Walking’. He appeared in the 1956 films ‘Shake, Rattle and Rock’, and ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’, and there was a near riot at one of his gigs in Fayetteville NC when police used tear gas on the racially mixed audience of kids.
In 1963 the Imperial label was sold and Fats joined ABC-Paramount, who ditched long-time producer Bartholomew and added backing vocals to the mix. In truth, Fats was not so popular by then; his records still hit the charts, but they had not troubled the Top Ten since ‘Walkin’ to New Orleans’ in 1960. When the British Invasion came along, Fats was caught between his original rocking style and a whole new sound. He took up the challenge by touring Europe and his 1968 version of The Beatles ‘Lady Madonna’ was his last chart success; ironically the Fab Four’s original was an ‘homage’ to Fats’ piano style.
Fats rocks out at a Festival in Holland;
Fats Domino passed away in October 2017 at the age of 89 at his home in Harvey, Louisiana.