Fats Domino on “The Perry Como Show”

Fats Domino, who passed away this Tuesday on October 24 at the age of 89, was one of the great early rock and rollers. His piano playing, his rhythm, his voice, and talent for performing helped set the foundation of rock music, influencing others as he remained a beloved legend through his lifetime.

Domino was born as Antoine “Fats” Domino Jr. in New Orleans on February 26, 1928. He got his first break when bandleader Billy Diamond heard Domino at a backyard barbecue in the summer of 1947. Diamond gave Domino his nickname “Fats” because the young man reminded him of famous pianists Fats Pichon and Fats Waller.

Domino gained national attention with his recording of “Fat Man” in 1949, but the release of “Ain’t That A Shame” in 1955 broke through on the pop charts. Pat Boone’s recording of the song written by Domino and Dave Bartholomew went to number one on the charts because it received more airplay during that racially segregated time, but Domino’s version still hit the top ten.

“Blueberry Hill,” released in 1956, became Domino’s biggest hit. The song from 1940 — which was written by Vincent Rose, Al Lewis and Larry Stock — had been recorded by others but Domino’s take on it became a rock and roll classic. He recorded several other classics between 1956 and 1959, including “I’m Walkin’.”

Although most known for his early work, Domino continued to be active even in recent years. In August 2005, some reported that he had died in Hurricane Katrina, but he survived despite losing all of his possessions and having to be rescued. In 2007, he performed in New York for the first time in twenty years.

Domino’s work influenced many artists through the years. Elvis Presley spoke of how Domino influenced him, and artists like Paul McCartney and John Lennon recorded Domino’s songs. His rhythm also influenced ska musicians. And many credit his work as helping break down racial barriers in the early rock and roll years.

On May 25, 1957, Domino appeared on “The Perry Como Show.” He performed two new songs, “Valley of Tears” and “It’s You I Love.” Then, later in the show, he reappears with Como as some teens “take over” the show with Domino singing “I’m Walkin’.” Check it out.

RIP Fats.

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    Happy Elvis Presley Day?

    There has been a movement to get January 8 to be a national day in honor of Elvis Presley. In 2012, some members of Congress signed a resolution to name the day in honor of the King of Rock and Roll, but other activities distracted the legislators from following through.

    Of course, Elvis fans chose the date because Elvis was born on January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi. But almost as importantly, January 8 is also the date in 1946 when the eleven-year-old Elvis, hoping for a bicycle or a rifle, was instead given a guitar. For his birthday, his mother Gladys took him to the hardware store where she bought him the instrument that would inspire his musical career and change history.

    So, while the fiscal cliff and other matters distracted Congress from giving us an Elvis Presley day in 2013, we can still recognize that boy and his guitar here. One of my favorite Elvis Presley performances with a guitar is “One Night” from his 1968 “Comeback” TV special.

    Elvis’s “One Night” was a slightly cleaned up version of Smiley Lewis’s recording of “One Night (of Sin),” a song that, depending on the source, is about an orgy or a trip to a whorehouse and was written by Dave Bartholomew, Pearl King, and Anita Steiman. “Colonel” Parker and the record company had reservations about the steamy song that Elvis liked, so the lyrics were cleaned up a little, including the change of “One night of sin is what I’m now paying for” to “One night with you is what I’m now praying for.”

    The “clean” version was a hit in 1958. Although Elvis also recorded the original “dirty” version, it was not released until 1992. For a comparison of the two versions, check out this article on Crooked Timber. Below you can hear Smiley Lewis’s take on “One Night (of Sin).”

    Although Elvis’s cover using the original lyrics was decades from being officially released, in his 1968 performance, he goes back to the original song in both attitude and some of the lyrics, singing the original lines “The things I did and I saw / Would make the earth stand still” instead of the clean version’s “The things that we two could plan / Would make my dreams come true.” And whereas Lewis’s take on those lyrics is slower, more regretful, and bluesy, Presley’s 1968 performance is steamy, funny, and steeped in joyful sexuality.

    Elvis’s 1968 stage presence is a long way from an eleven-year-old with his first guitar. Music writer Greil Marcus has described the performance, “No one has ever heard him sing like this; not even his best records suggest the depth of passion in this music.” (Mystery Train, p. 126.) He adds, “It was the finest music of his life. If ever there was music that bleeds, this was it.”

    This performance alone should earn the King an Elvis Presley Day.

    What is your favorite Elvis Presley guitar performance? Leave your two cents in the comments?

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