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.
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