Born Antoine Domino 26 Feb 1928 in New Orleans.
Fats was part of a large family and he learned to play the piano from his brother in law – Harrison Verrett. Fats played in local clubs once he had left school, and it was there, in 1949 that two executives from Imperial records heard him.
“The Fat Man“ was his first recording and it became a top 10 hit in 1950. Dave Bartholomew, one of the executives that had discovered him co – wrote many of Fats hits over the next two decades. Fats piano style was derived from the rich mixture of Traditional Jazz , Latin Rhythms , Boogie Woogie, Cajun and Blues - all styles to be heard in New Orleans. His personal style of lazy rich vocals supported by rolling piano rhythms slowly evolved. On occasion in those early days his style was so relaxed that the sound engineers would speed up the tapes before releasing his singles. During the early 1950s Fats became a very successful R&B artist.
By 1955 Rock and Roll had arrived and he moved effortlessly into that era with “ Ain’t that a shame “ reaching the top 10 in 1955. Another big hit was “ Blueberry Hill “ this was inspired by Louis Armstrong’s version back in 1949. Fats had nearly 20 top ten singles between 1955 and 1960 and appeared in that great film “ The girl can’t help it “ in 1956.
He continued to record for Imperial until 1963. There were original compositions such as “ Let the four winds blow “ and cover versions of country songs ( Hank Williams “ Jambalaya on the Bayou “ ). His final hit single was “ Be my Guest “ in 1963. He toured extensively in North America and Europe , recreating his distinctive sound of the 1950’s for new generations of listeners.
In 1986 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He remains a giant figure of Rock and Roll, both musically and physically.
My regret is that he is one of the few Rock and Roll greats that I did not get to see live. I very nearly did in the 90’s when a group of us went to Wembley to see Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino live in concert. Amongst great excitement we had just settled into our seats when the announcement came “ Ladies and Gentlemen we are very sorry to say that Fats Domino has had to be taken to hospital with pneumonia “ !! What a major disappointment – I had seen the other two greats live before and Fats was going to be another part of my Rock and Roll knowledge Puzzle completed. Despite that the show was great and we all had to laugh when half way through his set Little Richard suddenly announced “ My great friend is ill in Hospital and, not to disappoint you, we will do a few of his songs for you “. Well, it was obviously a spur of the moment thing as the look on Little Richards Band said it all. They had clearly not rehearsed anything and something was said to Little Richard . His reply was clearly audible to the audience and it was “ Don’t worry, we have known his songs for years, just follow me “ . He then launched into “ Blueberry Hill “ - followed bravely by the band. Being professional musicians they soon picked up on it and we had five great Fats songs from Little Richard . Something not many would have had the pleasure to hear and yet another thing to love Little Richard for.
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