Fats Life with Fats Domino

On March 25, 2012, in Fats Domino, Music, New Orleans, by Milo

I was sitting in the lounge on Saturday (last week) quietly basking in the glory of Wales beating France by 16 points to 9 to win the 2012 Grand Slam – the third Grand Slam in 8 seasons – when I received a message from Alison Bruce and we spent the next half hour or so talking about future characters in her next novel, having fun creating one in particular, when she mentioned Fats Domino. The name came out of the blue, I haven’t heard mention of his name or listened to his music for quite some time.

Fats Domino

Fats Domino

It’s funny how one person can trigger long forgotten memories but in a matter of minutes I was hunting for old Fats records – yes those old crackly vinyl things that no one plays anymore – to see if I could find an old Fats Domino record. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t find the one I wanted. I was sure it was sitting next to a Sam Cooke album which itself was sitting next to a Del Shannon album. Or at least that’s how I thought they were, but we are talking 20 years ago!! Records passed down to me from my dad as he tried his best to get me interested in music that you could understand the lyrics to and songs that told a story – maybe that’s why I love country music these days!

Half an hour later I gave up looking for the old LP’s and resorted to searching Amazon for an album. It didn’t take long, in fact only a couple of minutes had passed and I’d downloaded This is Gold volumes 1, 2 & 3. The beauty of modern technology. Fast, immediate and there when you want it – unless there’s a power cut or the broadband is down! Listening to Red Sails in the Sunset, the iconic Blueberry Hill, Slow boat to China and the humorous Wigs it made me wonder who Fats Domino was. I mean as a kid I had no clue. All I remember was that he was a heavy set guy, Black and a terrific singer. Google came to my rescue!

Wigs wigs wigs, That’s where it’s at
Wig over here, Wig over there
Wigs everywhere, They sellin’them fast
And you should know, They even sellin’ wigs
In the grocery store, Wigs wigs wigs
That’s where it’s at, Wig over here
Wig over there, Wigs everywhere

Born in 1928 in New Orleans, Louisiana – one of nine children – where Creole was his first language, Antoine Dominique “Fats” Domino Jr was inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of fame in 1986. Lew Chudd – head of Imperial Records in Los Angeles – discovered the 19 year old at the Hideaway club in New Orleans and offered the young singer a recording contract and the opportunity to work with Dave Bartholomew – songwriter and record producer – who became his exclusive arranger.

Fats Domino Red Sails In The Sunset

Fats Domino Red Sails In The Sunset

His piano playing was simple but effective having taught himself from a very early age, his music consisting of only three chords for the most part, but it was his distinctive New Orleans vocals that made him into the singer we know and love today.

The Fat Man, recorded in December 1949 at the J&M studios, became his first Rhythm and Blues hit selling in excess of 500,000 copies. Not only that but it has become widely recognised in the music industry to represent the very first Rock n Roll song ever recorded.

A string of hits followed including All by Myself and Poor Me but it wasn’t until 1955 Fats recorded his first album titled Carry on Rockin’ but it was reissued in April 1956 under the title Rock and Rollin’ With Fats Domino. The album included number one hits Ain’t That a Shame, All By Myself and Poor Me and produced by Bunny Robyn.

Not one to let the grass grow Fats turned to Hollywood and acting in 1957 and appeared with Big Joe Turner in Shake, Rattle and Roll – singing three hit songs – and the impressive The Girl Can’t Help It where he sang one of his most famous tracks Blue Monday.

In 1963 Fats changed labels and signed with Paramount records and recorded Red Sails in The Sunset which to this day, along with I Want to Walk You Home, remains my all-time favourite Fats Domino track.

Married to his wife Rosemary he continues to live in New Orleans and still performs – albeit occasionally – at his club in the city’s French Quarter. He has eight children.

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