Fats Domino – The Fat Man

2nd December 2021 · 1940s, 1949, Music, Rock'n'Roll, Uncategorised

Fats Domino’s debut single rocks and rolls, and that’s enough to make it another of the building blocks of rock’n’roll.

It’s gone down in music history as the first rock’n’roll song to sell more than a million copies but he didn’t think it was anything he hadn’t been doing for years.

Antoine Domino Jr, the youngest of eight children in a French-Creole family in New Orleans, started playing piano in the bars of the Crescent City at the age of 14.

In 1947 he was heard playing at a barbecue by bandleader Billy Diamond and hired for his group The Solid Senders (presumably the inspiration for Wilko Johnson’s band name).

It was Billy who nicknamed him Fats – not just for his size, but in tribute to Fats Waller – and the big guy with the relaxed boogie-woogie piano style soon earned a solo contract with Imperial Records.

Written and released in 1949, this was his first single, adapted with producer Dave Bartholomew from an older 1920s tune about drug addicts called Junker Blues.

It was a slow burning hit, slowly selling more than a million copies over the next two years and launching the career of the shy young pianist with the warm voice.

It would be a few more years before Fats crossed over into mainstream success with Ain’t That A Shame sparking a run of 35 hits in an eight-year period from 1955 to 1963 – among them standards like Blueberry Hill and Walking To New Orleans.

But this is surely his signature song.

Fats survived Hurricane Katrina in 2005, having been rescued after he insisted on staying home to look after his family, and died in 2017 at the fine age of 89.

I never got to see him perform, though I saw his memorable guest appearance in David Simon’s brilliant TV series Treme.