Antoine “Fats” Domino is a pianist, singer and songwriter from New Orleans, Louisiana. He comes from a musical family; his father was a well-known violinist, and by age seven Domino started to learn the piano. In 1947, he was good enough to attract the attention of local bandleader Billy Diamond, and earned the nickname “Fats” for his similarity to Thomas “Fats” Waller. His recording career began in 1949, and his first single “The Fat Man” was a hit song, reaching #2 on the Billboard R&B Chart and selling one million copies by 1953. Thus began a fruitful partnership between Domino and bandleader Dave Bartholomew; between 1949 and 1962 they created twenty three million selling records for Imperial Records. Along with Little Richard and Chuck Berry, Domino was among the black rhythm and blues pioneers who first crossed over into mainstream pop culture. His thirty seven Top 40 hits made Fats Domino the most successful black artist of the fifties. Both Domino and Bartholomew are in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.
Domino stayed close to home throughout his life. He is a French Creole, and lived his entire life in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. He stopped touring in the eighties, weary of travel and the food consumed outside New Orleans. He maintained a residence in the working class Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, and was rescued from his rooftop after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In 2008, his wife Rosemary passed away; they raised eight children and were married for over sixty years.
Antoine “Fats” Domino (b. 1928), piano, singer, songwriter
Dave Bartholomew (b. 1920), bandleader, composer, arranger
Herbert Hardesty (b. 1925), saxophone, trumpet
Alvin “Red” Tyler (1925-1998), saxophone
Lee Allen (1927-1994), saxophone
Earl Palmer (1924-2008), drums
One thing that most people miss, which he did on some of his biggest records, like “Blueberry Hill”: He could do piano rolls with both hands. A couple of guys, like Allen Toussaint, could do Fats to a T, but not the rolls. He was like Thelonious Monk that way. You can always tell when it’s Monk and when it’s somebody trying to play like Monk.
When they recorded “Blueberry Hill” in 1956, I’m sure none of the players knew the bridge to that song: “The wind in the willow played love’s sweet melody/But all of the vows you made were never to be.” Fats didn’t know the chords, and the guys in the band made up a beautiful riff. He played the wrong chords, but they really fit him, and they grooved. Whenever he did somebody else’s great song, he just changed the chords to suit himself. Sometimes it wasn’t even what the rest of the band was playing. But it worked.
I give a lot of credit to Dave Bartholomew, Fats’ producer and songwriting partner. He had the sense to go with the best-feeling take when they were recording. People would have missed something great about Fats if they had just heard the more “correct” takes – the ones without that extra off-the-wall thing that Fats would bring.
— Rolling Stone Magazine
Boogie woogie piano was a key component of many early rock and roll songs. Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, and to a lesser extent, Little Richard, drove dance rhythms with two primary left hand patterns: the boogie woogie and the triplet. “Blueberry Hill” is the quintessential example of using triplets in rock and roll music.
I first heard Fats Domino on a used oldies compilation I bought a long time ago, Dick Clark: 20 Years of Rock ‘n Roll. “I’m Walkin'” was the fifth song on an amazing first side that included “Rock Around The Clock” and “Blue Suede Shoes”. I must have been about eighteen years old, and these songs were new and very exciting for me. I played that record dozens, maybe hundreds of times, and I still own it, the cover shredded beyond repair.
Domino is revered by fellow musicians. There’s something very likeable about him. The sentiments are simple, but the music rocks and rolls easy and powerfully. He exudes sweetness and charisma while singing his sly songs about love and sex.
Fats Domino Song Notes:
1. The iTunes Store is a bit limited for Fats Domino music. Serious devotees will need to search other music websites to find his complete catalog. However, all of his important hit songs, plus most of his songs from the sixties and seventies, are available. The compilation called The Fats Domino Jukebox: 20 Greatest Hits has good audio quality.
2. The (Alt) versions are “I’m Walkin'” and “Blueberry Hill” are slower, raw takes of these famous hit songs, which were then speeded up slightly before national release. These interesting alternates can be found on The Fat Man – 25 Classic Performances. “I’m Walkin'” sounds very soulful at original speed, while “Blueberry Hill” sounds sort of lifeless.
3. I like both the monaural and stereo versions of “Sick And Tired”. The monaural version can be found on The Fat Man – 25 Classic Performances. The stereo version can be found on an obscure compilation called The Hot Hits of 1958.
Fats Domino Songs:
Blue Monday, Fats Domino ✭✭✭✭
I’m Walkin’ (Alt), Fats Domino ✭✭✭✭
Blueberry Hill, Fats Domino ✭✭✭
Let The Four Winds Blow, Fats Domino ✭✭✭
I Hear You Knocking, Fats Domino ✭✭✭
I’m Walkin’, Fats Domino ✭✭✭
Walking To New Orleans, Fats Domino ✭✭✭
I’m Gonna Be A Wheel Someday, Fats Domino ✭✭✭
Blueberry Hill (Alt), Fats Domino ✭✭
I Want To Walk You Home, Fats Domino ✭✭
I’m In Love Again, Fats Domino ✭✭
Whole Lotta Loving, Fats Domino ✭✭
The Fat Man, Fats Domino ✭✭
Ain’t That A Shame, Fats Domino ✭✭
My Girl Josephine, Fats Domino ✭
Dance With Mr. Domino, Fats Domino ✭
Jambalaya (On The Bayou), Fats Domino ✭
Goin’ Home, Fats Domino ✭
Sick And Tired, Fats Domino ✭
Sick And Tired (Mono), Fats Domino ✭
I’m Ready, Fats Domino ✭
Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey, Fats Domino ✭
Domino, Van Morrison ✭✭✭
Domino (Live), Van Morrison ✭✭
Domino (Live), Van Morrison ✭
Let The Four Winds Blow, Roy Brown ✭✭✭
Jambalaya (On the Bayou), Hank Williams ✭✭
I’m Gonna Be A Wheel Someday, Bobby Mitchell ✭✭✭
I Hear You Knocking, Smiley Lewis ✭✭✭
I Hear You Knocking, Dave Edmunds ✭✭✭
Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey, The Beatles ✭✭
Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey (Alt), The Beatles ✭✭