Fats Domino, one of the ten inaugural inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and an early architect of rock music, has died at his daughter’s suburban New Orleans home at the age of 89.
Domino was born Antoine Domino, Jr. on February 26, 1928 in New Orleans, a place he would call home for his entire life. He took up piano playing while attending a local community college, learning from his brother-in-law, Harrison Verrett, and, in the summer of 1947, was seen by New Orleans bandleader Billy Diamond while playing at a backyard barbecue.
He joined Diamond’s band and, two year’s later, made his first record “The Fat Man”, for Imperial Records. Recorded at Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Studio, the song was written by Domino and Dave Bartholomew who would go on to become Fats’ professional partner for much of his career.
Originally the b-side of “Detroit City Blues” the record was flipped by DJs, making it a national hit and going to number 2 on the R&B Singles chart. He followed with a series of singles that included “Every Night About This Time” (1950 / #5 R&B) and Rockin’ Chair (1951 / #9 R&B) before he crossed over for the first time onto the Pop music charts with Goin’ Home (1952 / #30 Pop / #1 R&B).
Throughout the early-50’s, it was very rare for an R&B record to cross over to pop but he did it again in 1953 with “Going to the River” (#24 Pop / #2 R&B) but the really big breakthrough came in 1955 when “Ain’t That a Shame” broke into the top 10 on the pop chart.
It was the first of eleven top ten pop hits between 1955 and 1960 to go along with 40 top tens on the R&B Singles.
In 1963, Domino moved to ABC-Paramount and began recording with producer Felton Jarvis and arranger Bill Justis who tried to make his sound more mature but chart success didn’t follow. He changed to Mercury in 1965 followed by a reunion with Bartholomew on his Broadmoor label and, finally, Reprise.
Fats continued as a popular live artist over the years and, in 1986, was honored along with Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Elvis Presley as the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
It was also this time that Domino decided he was tired of the road and would no longer be leaving his native New Orleans although her regularly played at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
In August 2005, Fats decided to remain in his home with his wife, Rosemary, who was in poor health, instead of evacuating for Hurricane Katrina. In the days after the storm, it was often reported that he had been killed. On September 1, Coast Guard helicopters rescued Domino and his family from his home which was almost completely under water. He lost almost everything in the flooding including most of his gold records and other career memorabilia.
A foundation was started to restore his home, which was eventually completed. He only made occasional appearances over the rest of his life and appeared as himself in a third season episode of the HBO series Treme.
Fats Domino’s top ten records:
The Fat Man (1950 / #2 R&B)
Every Night About This Time (1950 / #5 R&B)
Rockin’ Chair (1951 / #9 R&B)
Goin’ Home (1952 / #30 Pop / #1 R&B)
Poor Poor Me (1952 / #10 R&B)
How Long (1952 / #9 R&B)
Going to the River (1953 / #24 Pop / #2 R&B)
Please Don’t Leave Me (1953 / #3 R&B)
Rose Mary (1953 / #10 R&B)
Something’s Wrong (1953 / #6 R&B)
You Done Me Wrong (1954 / #10 R&B)
Don’t You Know (1955 / #7 R&B)
Ain’t That a Shame (1955 / #10 Pop / #1 R&B)
All By Myself (1955 / #1 R&B)
Poor Me (1955 / #1 R&B)
I Can’t Go On (1955 / #6 R&B)
Bo Weevil (1956 / #35 Pop / #5 R&B)
Don’t Blame It On Me (1956 / #9 R&B)
I’m In Love Again (1956 / #3 Pop / #1 R&B)
My Blue Heaven (1956 / #19 Pop / #5 R&B)
When My Dreamboat Comes Home (1956 / #14 Pop / #2 R&B)
So Long (1956 / #44 Pop / #5 R&B)
Blueberry Hill (1956 / #2 Pop / #1 R&B)
Honney Chile (1956 / #2 R&B)
Blue Monday (1956 / #5 Pop / #1 R&B)
I’m Walkin’ (1957 / #4 Pop / #1 R&B)
Valley of Tears (1957 / #8 Pop / #2 R&B)
It’s You I Love (1957 / #6 Pop / #2 R&B)
Wait and See (1957 / #23 Pop / #7 R&B)
Yes My Darling (1958 / #55 Pop / #10 R&B)
Little Mary (1958 / #48 Pop / #4 R&B)
Whole Lotta Loving (1958 / #6 Pop / #2 R&B)
I’m Ready (1959 / #16 Pop / #7 R&B)
I Want to Walk You Home (1959 / #8 Pop / #1 R&B)
Be My Guest (1959 / #8 Pop / #2 R&B)
Walking to New Orleans (1960 / #6 Pop / #2 R&B)
Three Nights a Week (1960 / #15 Pop / #8 R&B)
My Girl Josephine (1960 / #14 Pop / #7 R&B)
What a Price (1961 / #22 Pop / #7 R&B)
Let the Four Winds Blow (1961 / #15 Pop / #2 R&B)