The Legendary Fats Domino
The legendary Fats Domino is one of the icons of 1950s music. He became very popular through his single “Ain’t That A Shame” which became a Top 10 hit. Affectionately called “Fats” or “The Fat Man”, his legacy stems from his affable persona, his “boogie-woogie” piano playing, his distinctive musical and vocal style as well as his successful partnership with collaborator Dave Bartholomew.
He was born and grew up in New Orleans, which has been known as a music haven (and particularly the birthplace of jazz). Antoine Dominique Domino Jr. was surrounded by a musical family, his father being a well-known violinist, and his uncle (incorrectly addressed as his brother-in-law) a jazz guitarist. It is no surprise that he was interested to learn music at an early age.
Although a shy person, his musical talents began to emerge and to take notice. After working at honky-tonk bars around black and French quarters in New Orleans, he was finally given a chance to be a bandleader at a local club.
He went on to the next professional foray of his music career by signing up with Imperial Records in 1949. His first single is “The Fat Man”, which was actually destined to be a B-side. His “wah-wah” vocalization is the most distinctive characteristic of the song, which would become his trademark. By 1953 “The Fat Man” sold one million copies, and it is considered by many music experts as one of the first rock-n-roll records.
In 1955, his breakthrough single, “Ain’t That A Shame”, transformed Fats as a mainstream pop star. It made to the Top Ten, and its popularity reached to a wider audience (Pat Boone’s milder version of this song even peaked at #1 on the charts).
He followed this with many other string of hits like “I’m Walkin”, “It’s You I Love”, and “Whole Lotta Loving”, among others. His notably uptempo cover of “Blueberry Hill” (#2 in the Top 40, 1956), became one of Fats’ multi-million best sellers.
Fats eventually raked in 37 Top 40 singles, and to date has sold a hundred-odd million records. He was one of the very prolific recording artists of the 50s, aside from Elvis Presley.
Despite that, compared to the lifestyle of his other peers – which are dynamic, flamboyant and controversial — Fats’ offstage and personal life is comparatively mild that often overrides his true impact on the music industry. Still, his contribution and influence shouldn’t and cannot be sneezed at. Otherwise, ain’t that a shame?
The Beatles. Gene Taylor, Harry Connick Jr., and Neil Young are just a few-mentioned artists who follow Fats’ music. It is interesting to note that Fats did a cover of The Beatles’ “Lady Madonna”, which Paul McCartney reportedly wrote as a homage to Fats’ musical and vocal style.
His contribution to the music industry is endowed with his induction to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1986, among many other recognitions he has received. President Bill Clinton awarded him the National Medal of Arts.
Fats Domino and his family survived hurricane Katrina that hit his hometown in New Orleans, and now he’s trying to rebuild his way of life just like in the old days. He continues to give out an effect of an easy-going, unassuming, and quiet legend who remains one of the vital presence in the modern music world. He was the force of the jukebox, and is still considered one of the “roots” of rock and roll and popular music.
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