October 25, 2017

Goodbye to Fats Domino.

One of the last truly great ones of early rock and roll has died. He was 89.

NYT obit:
Mr. Domino had more than three dozen Top 40 pop hits through the 1950s and early ’60s, among them “Blueberry Hill,” “Ain’t It a Shame,” “I’m Walkin’,” “Blue Monday” and “Walkin’ to New Orleans.” Throughout he displayed both the buoyant spirit of New Orleans, his hometown, and a droll resilience that reached listeners worldwide.

He sold 65 million singles in those years, with 23 gold records, making him second only to Elvis Presley as a commercial force. Presley acknowledged Mr. Domino as a predecessor.

“A lot of people seem to think I started this business,” Presley told Jet magazine in 1957. “But rock ’n’ roll was here a long time before I came along. Nobody can sing that music like colored people. Let’s face it: I can’t sing it like Fats Domino can. I know that.”
Read the whole obit. Excerpt:
Antoine Dominique Domino Jr. was born on Feb. 26, 1928, the youngest of eight children in a family with Creole roots....

Music filled his life from the age of 10, when his family inherited an old piano. After his brother-in-law Harrison Verrett, a traditional-jazz musician, wrote down the notes on the keys and taught him a few chords, Antoine threw himself at the instrument — so enthusiastically that his parents moved it to the garage.

He was almost entirely self-taught, picking up ideas from boogie-woogie masters like Meade Lux Lewis, Pinetop Smith and Amos Milburn. “Back then I used to play everybody’s records; everybody’s records who made records,” he told Offbeat magazine in 2004. “I used to hear ’em, listen at ’em five, six, seven, eight times and I could play it just like the record because I had a good ear for catchin’ notes and different things.”

He attended the Louis B. Macarty School but dropped out in the fourth grade to work as an iceman’s helper. “In the houses where people had a piano in their rooms, I’d stop and play,” he told USA Today in 2007. “That’s how I practiced.”...

In that racially segregated era, white performers used his hits to build their careers. In 1955, “Ain’t It a Shame” became a No. 1 hit for Pat Boone as “Ain’t That a Shame,” while Domino’s arrangement of a traditional song, “Bo Weevil,” was imitated by Teresa Brewer....
Now, "Blueberry Hill," which I — who listened to AM Top 40 radio back then — remember as his biggest hit, was a Glenn Miller tune in the 1940s, but Miller got it from Louis Armstrong. Here's Fats on Ed Sullivan in 1956:



ADDED: I'm wrong about "Blueberry Hill." Miller didn't get it from Armstrong. The Armstrong recording was 1949. Miller was 1940, but there were 6 different "Blueberry Hill" recordings in 1940:
Victor Records released the recording by the Sammy Kaye Orchestra with vocals by Tommy Ryan on May 31, 1940 (catalog #26643, with the flip side "Maybe"; matrix #51050[1]). Gene Krupa's version was issued on OKeh Records (#5672) on June 3 and singer Mary Small did a vocal version on the same label with Nat Brandwynne's orchestra, released June 20, 1940 on OKeh Records #5678. Other 1940 recordings were by: The Glenn Miller Orchestra on Bluebird Records (10768), Kay Kyser, Russ Morgan, Gene Autry (also in the 1941 film The Singing Hill), Connee Boswell, and Jimmy Dorsey. The largest 1940 hit was by The Glenn Miller Orchestra, where it reached #1.
It was a Tin Pan Alley composition, with the music by Vincent Rose (born Vincenzo Cacioppo, in Palermo, Italy) and lyrics by Larry Stock (who was born in Budapest, Hungary) and Al Lewis (born in NYC and not to be confused with the Al Lewis we knew and loved as Grandpa Munster).

Race and pop culture is an important subject, and I was wrong to assume I knew the time line of inspiration and borrowing.

41 comments:

Chuck said...

Putin singing "Blueberry Hill":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekeq4szDmJo

rhhardin said...

There should be a wikiobit that everybody could use to prepare for celebrity death, instead of just NYT advancers. Get the public's point of view out there while there's still time.

Curious George said...

"Nobody can sing that music like colored people..."

Looks like some Elvis statues will be coming down.

Oso Negro said...

Damn, it has been a rough year for musicians I like. Chuck Berry, David Bowie, Tom Petty, Walter Becker, Glen Campbell, Gregg Allman, Don Williams and now Fats.

Quaestor said...

Fats Waller begat Fats Domino. Fats Domino begat Chubby Checker. Chubby Check begat Barry White. Barry White begat Fat Joe. Fat Joe begat Big Pun.

the Fats Domino Effect.

Unknown said...

To some extent the charges of vilany leveled at white cover singers of the 50s are overblown. Back then the "song" was the thing, and it was not uncommon to have several versions of the same song on the charts at the same time. (And "Your Hit Parade" had house singers, not a needle-drop like Casey's American Top 40).

That said, black singers did get a very raw deal, and kudos for Domino for breaking through from that market and giving us a lot of great music over a very long time.

Here is Van Morrison's tribute.

I guess The Killer is the only founder left..

Bay Area Guy said...

Fat black folks like Fats Domino seem kinda cool.

Fat white people like Harvey Weinstein, just seem uncool and disgusting.

I guess Minnesota Fats was kinda cool in the pool hall in the 50s.

I loved Blueberry Hill, and will miss Fats Domino, but at age 89, I hope and think he lived a good life.

Bill said...

I was shocked to see the headline, because I was sure that Fats Domino had died years ago. Then I realized I'd had him confused with Fats Waller, whom I first appreciated when I saw Eraserhead as a college freshman.

Wince said...

Chuck said...
Putin singing "Blueberry Hill"

Back when Oceana was not at war with Eurasia?

Amexpat said...

89, pretty good for someone named Fats. Good news for Chubby Checker who was born in 1941.

Ann Althouse said...

"I guess The Killer is the only founder left."

Little Richard lives.

SeanF said...

Amexpat: 89, pretty good for someone named Fats. Good news for Chubby Checker who was born in 1941.

Chubby Checker's stage name was actually inspired by Fats Domino's - a reference to being overweight for the first name, a game for the last name.

I was surprised to see that Fats Domino was the same age as Robert Guillaume, who died yesterday. I watched "Benson" during my teens, but Fats was before my time. Feels like he should be a generation older.

YoungHegelian said...

Okay, NYT, but it's not "Bo" Weevil, it's "Boll" Weevil.

"Bo" is Obama's dog's name. A "Boll Weevil" is a insect pest that routinely devastated cotton harvests in the South.

Here's a recording, & Fats is definitely saying "Boll". Southern accents, including black Cajun, can swallow ending consonants, so by Southern standards, he's workin' to say those last els.

Wince said...

I remember being first turned on to Fats by the rockumentary/concert film Let the Good Times Roll (1973) during the early 1970's revival of the 1950s.

Watch the video thru Blueberry Hill.

Notice, when interviewed back in the 1950s, Fats wanted to show the Russians the rock and roll beat.

Can you say "COLLUSION!"

RIP

ga6 said...

Want to see fat cool? Rent or download the Hustler, the fat man, by Jackie Gleason...

Yancey Ward said...

In my family, my mother was the music fan and I got most of my interests directly from the 45s she collected when she was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s and right into the 70s when she was already my mother. My father, on the other hand, appeared to have little no musical interests except for one- Fats Domino, whose LPs he bought and they still have in the basement.

Had I not done a search a couple of years ago, I too would have been surprised to find that Domino was still alive as of yesterday. Even though I listened to his music a few times a year on YouTube, I haven't seen a article written about in in the last 30 years until today.

gg6 said...

ALEHOUSE SAYS: "...Race and pop culture is an important subject, and I was wrong to assume I knew the time line of inspiration and borrowing...."
Hey, not to worry...it's always difficult to keep track of Invention vs Inspiration..."Standing on the shoulders of giants" and all that (12th Cen. !)

eddie willers said...

My father (to hear him tell it) could not tell the difference between Fats Domino and the Beatles.

The generation gap writ large.

mockturtle said...

Putin singing "Blueberry Hill":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekeq4szDmJo


Thank you, Chuck. I enjoyed that. :-)

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Ah yes, the ballad of the girl with the purple ass.

Man, that guy could sing. Love ya, Fats.

traditionalguy said...

Fats Domino, Bill Haley and Bo Diddley founded Rock and Roll. All the rest caught up to them later.

glenn said...

Mr. Domino is f’n funny. I can see the interviewer now, “Mr Domino, you have had a string of hits” “Call me Fats”

Carter Wood said...

Covers by white singers were needed to reach the all-important Canadian market, as in Pat Boone covering Little Richard.

Etienne said...

His piano playing was not much more than pounding with his right index finger, while rocking his left hand on the bass notes. doo-to-doo doo-to-dum...

When I first became aware of music, it was my third grade music teacher who could play a guitar and make it sound like there was three instruments (picking and strumming).

Alas, I hated practice, as my attention span was short. I think they gave me a bell and a drum stick in the 4th grade.

Gahrie said...

Is there any less important subject than race and pop culture?

azbadger said...

Richie Cunningham's version was pretty good

tcrosse said...

His piano playing was not much more than pounding with his right index finger, while rocking his left hand on the bass notes.

Well, Fats actually could play the piano.
The Fat Man

richlb said...

Fats nearly died post-Katrina. He had to be rescued by the Coast Guard.

mockturtle said...

Well, Fats actually could play the piano.
The Fat Man


Nice!

Char Char Binks said...

Rock n roll is garbage, so who ripped off whom doesn't register with me.

FleetUSA said...

While growing up in NOLA I had the enormous good fortune to attend a dance (circa 1961) which featured Fats Domino and his band. I distinctly remember he played non-stop for about an hour -- by non-stop I mean that one song ended and the next one began in the same breath. Then he took a 30 minute break (kids - not me - went for smokes) and came back with another 60 minutes of non-stop music. Still remember my date for the evening.

Ann Althouse said...

"Okay, NYT, but it's not "Bo" Weevil, it's "Boll" Weevil."

Sorry, it's "Bo Weevil."

Ann Althouse said...

And look at this image.

We know the insect is called a boll weevil. There's a traditional folk song and it can be transcribed in different ways, but the song as published by Brewer and by Domino was spelled "Bo Weevil." The NYT is correct.

khematite said...

eddie willers said...
My father (to hear him tell it) could not tell the difference between Fats Domino and the Beatles.


He should have listened to something by the Beatles other than "Lady Madonna."

Anonymous said...

Takes me back to the Jr. High sock hops. Boy, those were the days!

Daniel Jackson said...

Little Richard Lives!

He is eternal and will never die.

William said...

Why wouldn't Fats Domino listen to white music and be influenced by it? Black musicians were inventive and talented. Composers like Kern and Gershwin were willing to listen and fold such rhythms into their music, I'm pretty sure Fats tapped his foot to Fascinating Rhythm and thought that it was worth imitating. There's a lot of ping ponging going on with black/white cultures..........I like Fats, but I think Louis Armstrong was the premier black singer of the twentieth century. I rank him just below Sinatra as the best male vocalist. I think Fats made quite a bit more money than Louis. Rock n Roll was far more lucrative than Dixieland. Life is unfair in countless ways.

readering said...

Reported today: Once asked if he got to meet The Beatles when they were in New Orleans, Fats Domino replied, "No, they got to meet me."

FleetUSA said...

A good example of a Fats Domino non-stop performance:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqTEGmEgx4E

Luke Lea said...

Somebody else may have written Blueberry Hill, but Fats Domino owns it.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

Loved Fats' phrasing and tone. Happy rock! Even Ain't That a Shame comes off as if he's really done crying and into the "Let's party!" stage of the failed relationship. I really like Cheap Trick's version of that song. RIP.