He was said to have pushed a piano across a stage with his belly. He created such a cool groove before anyone even knew what a groove was. His lyrics, the bane of simplicity, packed an emotional whammy shared by teenagers across the country. He was Fats Domino. He was rock and roll. It was announced over the past weekend that Domino had passed at the age of 89. And its funny kids still say Fats Who?
I’ll just list some of his songs- many he co -wrote with the unsung Dave Bartholomew- How bout- “Blueberry Hill,” “Ain’t It a Shame” (also known as “Ain’t That a Shame,” which is the actual lyric), “I’m Walkin’,” “Blue Monday” and “Walkin’ to New Orleans. Should I go on? I could. Over 30 Top 40 hits, 23 Gold Records, nearly 70 Million singles sold placing him just behind Elvis Presley in all those categories. Prompting Elvis to remark once, “Face it. I can’t sing it like Fats Domino can.”
But his trademark piano rolls and the rollicking saxophone that he introduced to rock and roll as a homage to the jazz he grew up with in his home of New Orleans, were not just hits the average fan loved, he also influenced the greatest of all time. Paul McCartney claimed “Lady Madonna” was his attempt to duplicate Domino’s genius. Randy Newman was said to have been aping Domino for “Mama Told Me Not To Come” and John Lennon more than once commented that the first song he ever learned to play was “Ain’t That A Shame.” And the New Orleans groove also crossed the ocean and made a huge impact on a young man in Jamaica named Bob Marley.
I wasn’t around for the birth of rock and roll, yet many have tried to give it a place and a song. Though Alan Freed is most often credited with coining the term, songs like Ike Turner’s “Rocket 88”, Presley’s “Thats All Right” and Bill Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock” are often mentioned as the first rock and roll song; however, all of them were years after Fats recorded and released “The Fat Man.” The gem released in 1949 is worth looking up. Imagine the impact such a song must have had.
They claim down in New Orleans that he left a ‘fat” legacy by introducing the juke joints of the town into the homes of Americans via 45 inch records. Little Richard often credits himself as the architect of Rock and Roll and though that could be debated endlessly, it cant be argued that Fats Domino dug the hole and laid the foundation for the house that became rhythm and blues to the maximum. Once they asked Domino if he ever meet the Beatles. He replied, “No but they met me.” That they would not have even argued.
If you are still doubtful as to Domino’s reach and influence let me give you a short list of artists.
Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Robert Johnson, Jimmie Rodgers, Jimmy Yancey, John Hammond, Alan Freed, Sam Phillips and Fats Domino. They all have one thing in common. They were the first class inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The best band in heaven just got a huge man behind the keys. Fats is gone and that is a shame.