A happy 83rd birthday to Antoine Dominique Domino, otherwise known as Fats, born on this day in 1928.
A native of Louisiana, Domino’s family spoke French, but most of them were also equally conversant in a second language: music. Domino dropped out of school at 14 to work a day job, but at night he played music in the clubs.
Domino did rock and roll before it was called that — the link above to The Fat Man was released in 1950. When the craze hit, Domino was a natural with his piano playing, personality and voice, right down to the wah, wah, wahs. He sold more records than any other African-American artist in the 50s — though Pat Boone reached No. 1 with a cover of Domino’s Ain’t That Shame (Fats’ version was No. 10).
Domino had plenty more hits built primarily around two themes: walking and/or blue — Blueberry Hill, I’m Walkin’, Blue Monday, I Want to Walk You Home, Walking to New Orleans.
When the decade changed so did Domino’s fortunes — he never achieved that level of popularity again. His influence didn’t wane, though: the Beatles were fans, and both Paul McCartney and John Lennon covered Domino songs. McCartney said he wrote Lady Madonna in Domino’s style.
Domino remained popular in concert but in the 80s he ceased traveling, preferring to stay home in New Orleans, where he made annual appearances at the city’s blues festival.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Domino was out of touch for an extended time, and rumors of his death circulated. A sign was spray-painted on his home: “RIP Fats: You will be missed.” Though the reports were exaggerated — Domino had been rescued — he did lose much to Katrina.
From Domino’s The Fat Man:
They call, they call me the fat man
‘Cause I weigh 200 pounds
All the girls love me
“Cause I know my way around