All of us here at B&V were sad to learn the news about the passing of Fats Domino today at the age of 89 years old. For me, Fats Domino was one of those “Mount Rushmore” type of Founding Father’s of rock and roll, along with Elvis and Chuck Berry (I’d include Johnny Cash with that group, but then I’d get the argument he was country… it all comes from the same place folks). With his brilliant boogie-woogie piano, Fats certainly invented the “roll” part of rock and roll. His music was not only a foundational part of rock ‘n’ roll, but was also the root from which sprang all the pop (i.e. non-Jazz) music from New Orleans ever since. Fats led to Allen Toussaint who led directly to Harry Connick, Jr… Oh to be in the Crescent City tonight…
Fats’ single, “The Fat Man,” is believed to be the first rock ‘n roll single to ever sell 1 million copies. It has been argued it was the first song to be described as “rock ‘n’ roll.” Listening to that song I can understand why it’d be described as rock and as roll…that piano, baby! What I liked about Fats, is through his string of hits in the late 50’s and early 60’s his sound never altered (much like the Stones). He knew what he did well and he kept doing it. Such a great list of songs, “I’m Walkin’,” “Walkin’ To New Orleans,” “Blue Monday,” “Ain’t That A Shame,” and of course “Blue Berry Hill.” All of which are fundamental rock songs that should be taught in grade schools.
When I was a kid, I wasn’t much into music. Music, at the time, was my brother’s thing and well, anything he was in to, naturally I gravitated away from. We had this old record player in our shared room. It only played singles, or as they used to be known, 45s. My dad has this old rack of 45s he’d collected in his youth. My parents weren’t much into music when I was growing up and dad basically handed those singles over to my brother who treated them like the Lost Arc. He was right to do so, I just wasn’t smart enough to know better. Anyway, I can remember my brother playing all those songs… there was Johnny Cash, Dion, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, there was even a few Beatles singles. And there was Fats. Listening while my brother played the crap out of those old 45s was what slowly drew into the musical web I find myself tangled in today. I need to thank my brother and Fats for that…
One of the first posts I wrote for BourbonAndVinyl was about a tribute album for Fats that had come out to raise money for Katrina (Satellite Radio, Katrina and Goin’ Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino). I had been riding in my car and I heard Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers doing Fats’ “I’m Walkin’.” I got home and immediately began doing research to find that tune, it was that great. And sadly, it’s another stark reminder for me how tragic it was to lose Tom Petty at the tender age of 66, but I digress. Anyway, I found out that after Katrina hit his hometown of New Orleans it was thought that Fats had perished. He refused to leave his home because his wife couldn’t travel. Fortunately it was discovered Fats was alive and well… in the wake of all that destruction Fats turned the incorrect and early news of his demise into a tribute record to raise money for New Orleans. I don’t know anybody who could have pulled the kind of talent that Fats did for this tribute album… Not one, but two Beatles, Paul McCartney and a remix of an earlier John Lennon cover were included. Besides Tom Petty, Fats was able to recruit Robert Plant, Elton John, B.B. King, Lucinda Williams, Norah Jones, Randy Newman, Lenny Kravitz, Neil Young… the list goes on and on. It was a pretty special album and it all hung together so well because everybody stayed true to that great Fats sound.
Make no mistake folks, a true pioneer into what we call rock has slipped this mortal coil… RIP Fats! Tonight I’ll be sampling from his greatest hits, ‘Goin’ Home: A Tribute To Fats Domino’ and a nice bottle of Templeton rye… I don’t usually drink on school nights, but for Fats, I’ll make an exception.
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