‘Fats’ is dead. Now, Ain’t that a Shame?
For anyone who enjoys music, the recent passing of Antoine “Fats” Domino was a great loss. For those who didn’t know the name, he’s one of the major reasons you have “your” music.
He is hailed by many as a pioneer of what later became known as Rock’n’Roll. Through his blending of blues, boogie-woogie, and rhythm and blues styles, “Fats” was able to capture large numbers of fans in several genres.
Back in the later 1940s, when Domino was starting his professional music career, the 5-foot, 5-inch piano player from New Orleans, was given the nickname “Fats” by his band leader, Billy Diamond.
And, as they say, the rest was history.
Domino is noted for such hits as “Ain’t It A Shame” (later changed to “Ain’t That A Shame,” by Pat Boone), “I’m Walking,” “Blue Monday,” “Walking to New Orleans.” and “I Hear You Knocking.”
And then there was another song for Antoine that might well endear him forever to those who watch old television shows — “Blueberry Hill.” How many times did Richie Cunningham come through the front door on “Happy Days” singing, “I found my thrill ....”
Answer: A lot!
As we know, “Happy Days” was a TV show from the 1970s that told the story of life in the 1950s.
That’s the kind of influence “Fats” Domino held over the American conscience. For many, he was the 1950s; he was Rock’n’Roll music; he was an important part of our lives.
Domino was in the first class of inductees into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame during ceremonies in 1986 at the museum in Cleveland, Ohio. During the ceremonies, Billy Joel gave the induction speech for “Fats.”
Telling the audience how he, himself, got involved in playing Rock’n’Roll, Joel mentioned that “Fats” Domino “proved the piano was a Rock’n’Roll instrument.”
An impressive line-up of entertainers was included in the inaugural constellation of musical stars. That first list included — Elvis Presley (of course), Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Cooke, James Brown, Ray Charles, and the Everly Brothers.
The “Fat Man” was keeping company with an elite group of performers, wouldn’t you say?
Through the years, “Fats” was praised as one of the founders of the new kind of music.
When Elvis Presley was restarting his singing career in Las Vegas in 1969, a reporter referred to Presley as the King of Rock’n’Roll. Elvis quickly disagreed, pointing to someone else in the room — “Fats” Domino.
Then, Elvis called Domino, “one of my influences from way back.”
If raw numbers give any indication of a performer’s value as an entertainer, then Domino is at the top of the list.
For example, between 1950 and 1963, Domino was on Billboard magazine’s pop chart 63 times. He also made the Rhythm and Blues charts another 59 times.
“Fats” also compiled a listing of more hit records than Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Buddy Holly combined!
But, like many other American musicians of those olden days, the British Invasion of the mid-1960s took away much of Domino’s audience and popularity. Many listeners were becoming interest in the fresh and loud styles of The Beatles, Herman’s Hermits, The Rolling Stones, Gerry and The Pacemakers, Lulu and Petula Clark.
This list could easily reach the hundreds.
But, in many respects, Domino withstood the onslaught from the English empire. His name remained on the lips of music aficionados through all the decades. He was revered for his influences on the American music scene.
Interestingly, while his career was interrupted for years by young musicians from across the seas, it was those very same artists who revealed that “Fats” Domino was one of their greatest influences.
He may be gone, but he’ll never be forgotten.
“Fats,” you will be missed, but thanks for all of the great music you gave us.
May you rest in peace.