Let’s face it, precious few artists have ever left such an indelible a mark on the music industry in such a short space of time as Fats Domino did. The Louisianian had pretty much ensured the word “legend” would be his epitaph within just a few months of his UK chart career, having suggested it would be so with the opening strains of 1956’s ‘Blueberry Hill‘, and confirming it just a couple of months later with the deathless ‘Ain’t That A Shame‘. The two singles were released in the opposite order Stateside, and while it is true that the man born Antoine Domino, Jr in New Orleans amassed around two dozen single releases before truly coming to prominence, few would argue that those two records are the ones that made his induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame practically irrefutable. For a while, Elvis Presley was the only man who could touch him in terms of record sales and popularity, and, as we all know, Domino would play a pivotal role in the shaping of that new-fangled fad we came to know as rock and roll.
What makes his rise to fame even more remarkable is that he was the youngest of eight children in what was a poor family, and quit school early to work in a factory, trying to raise enough cash to keep himself afloat, until a chance meeting with a local bass player called Billy Diamond (who was responsible for bestowing the ‘Fats’ moniker upon him) resulted in Domino joining Diamond’s band at the Hideaway Club, where the crowds would consistently grow in number and demand would be high. With his reputation enhanced, he set about recording a cluster of songs written with long-term friend and collaborator Dave Bartholomew, who had managed to convince an important Imperial Records figure (Lew Chudd) to sign Domino to the label, culminating in the release of his late 1949 debut single ‘The Fat Man‘, and thus a lengthy career was borne to rival any other.
Over the course of the next 50 years, Fats Domino would be cited as a major influence on all manner of artists, several of whom would go on themselves to join the elusive “legendary” club, most notably, of course, The Beatles. It’s hardly surprising when you listen to such masterful works as ‘Walking To New Orleans‘, ‘Blue Monday‘, ‘I’m Walkin’‘ and ‘I’m In Love Again‘, classics all, especially when you consider that amongst the sprawling body of work, there is very little room for any duds.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina back in 2005, the then 77-year-old found himself back in the spotlight again, having never forgotten his humble beginnings and still resident in the city of his birth, by now so badly ravaged by the cyclone that he was briefly presumed dead. This proved to be untrue as Domino had, in fact, been rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter.
Although his public appearances and performances had been few and fleeting in recent years, he did make the odd foray out on stage every now and again, even finding time to appear in a cameo playing himself in the US TV show Treme, whose story was based on the efforts of local residents to rebuild their homes, and their lives, after Katrina struck.
Even if Fats Domino’s career had only lasted five years, he’d packed enough into that time already to feature on anyone worth their salt’s ‘All-Time Greats’ list. As it turns out, he had a long and storied one instead. He will be missed. Forever. Forever.