Fats Domino was there at the beginning, a rock-and-roll pioneer on a par with Chuck Berry and Little Richard. Indeed, his recording “The Fat Man” was the first in the genre to move a million units. Arguably the true king, between 1955 and 1960 he had 11 Top-10 hits with overall sales surpassed only by Elvis Presley on what was far from a level field, Presley benefiting from the skewed media coverage and marketing practices of the time.
At length, over the course of his career, which lasted into the 2000s, Fats had 35 releases in Billboard’s Top 40, five gold records, and sold upwards of 65 million discs and tapes.
More than merely popular, tracks associated with the iconic artist are timeless classics, among them, “I’m Walkin’,” “Lotta Loving,” “Walkin’ to New Orleans,” “I Want to Walk You Home,” “Ain’t That a Shame” and “Blueberry Hill,” which, despite being previously cut by Louis Armstrong, Gene Autry and others, is known as a Fats Domino song. It reached number two in the Top 40 and, for nearly three months, number one on the R&B chart, selling over five million copies worldwide.
During his hey-day, Domino had a steady series of hits from the 1950s through early 1962 and appeared in the films Shake, Rattle & Rock! and The Girl Can’t Help It. By the end of 1964, the fabled British Invasion had changed the tastes of the record-buying public, pushing a number of original R&B and rock-and-roll artists, including Fats Domino, into relative obscurity.
Still, he kept returning to the studio, and finally to star status with a hit cover of the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna.” In 1986 he was one of the first musicians to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2007, Paul McCartney, Norah Jones, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and Elton John were among the artists who recorded “Goin’ Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino.”
He was married to Rosemary Domino from 1947 until her death in 2008 and was the father of eight children. He never moved from the neighborhood he grew up in, New Orleans’ lower Ninth Ward, until after Hurricane Katrina, when he relocated to the suburb of Harvey. It was there that Antoine Dominique “Fats” Domino Jr., born February 26, 1928, passed away on October 24 of natural causes.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Minneapolis, MN 55403.