Fats Domino: Ain’t That a Shame

Commercially, he outsold all of his contemporaries except Elvis.

“Before Elvis, Jerry Lee and Chuck Berry, there was Fats.” That’s what Greg Harris, Rock Hall President and CEO, said of Fats Domino, born Antoine Domino Jr. “His sweet voice, rolling boogie-woogie piano, and delightful charisma made him a top-selling artist, a worldwide rock star and an inaugural member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.”

I think the Pitchfork headline is true: “A Rock’n’Roll Pioneer Too Often Overlooked.” He didn’t run hot, like Little Richard or the artists Harris mentioned. Fats was cool, in control.

Fats Domino may not have been the most flamboyant rock and roller of the Fifties, but he was certainly the figure most rooted in the worlds of blues, rhythm & blues and the various strains of jazz that gave rise to rock and roll.”

Commercially, he outsold all of his contemporaries except Elvis. The Guardian noted that he “shaped the course of popular music over and over again.” In fact, “You could argue for the rest of your life about what constitutes the first rock’n’roll record… But Fats Domino’s 1949 single The Fat Man has a stronger claim than most.

The first time I ever heard Lady Madonna, I was not 100% sure it was by the Beatles. Indeed, Paul McCartney made it clear that he was trying to do Fats Domino. And Fats covered the song, which I have on some compilation album of black artists performing tracks by the Beatles. “Ain’t That a Shame was the first song John Lennon learned to play.”

Some declared Fats Domino dead during Katrina. He lived to laugh about it. “His grand piano was destroyed. Many of his two dozen gold records were carried away by floodwaters, NOLA.com reported. But he was okay.”

Listen to Fats Domino (piano, vocals; born February 26, 1928, died October 25, 2017):

Blueberry Hill on Austin City Limits

Ain’t That a Shame

I’m Walkin’

Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

2 thoughts on “Fats Domino: Ain’t That a Shame”

  1. The Fats track that always gets to me is “Walkin’ to New Orleans,” simply because that’s what he has to do to get there. It’s a common theme in R&B: if there’s no other way, you walk.

    See, for instance, Edwin Starr’s “Twenty-Five Miles.” Or Wilbert Harrison’s “Kansas City,” in which he contemplates making the trip by plane or by train, “but if I have to walk, I’m goin’ just the same.” You might wonder if maybe he has to walk because they wouldn’t let a black man on board; you don’t hear white acts saying things like that. (Except Elvis, in “Kentucky Rain,” but to almost every rule, Elvis was the exception.)

  2. I knew and loved Fats’ best-known music, but I have to admit that when he died I was surprised because I thought he already had—not in Katrina, I just assumed he’d died years ago. In his case, it’s because I thought he was born earlier than he actually was, but also because I’d lost all track of him a very long time ago. That’s true for a lot of artists, actually.

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