Domino, Fats (actually, Antoine)

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Domino, Fats (actually, Antoine)

Domino, Fats (actually, Antoine), b. New Orleans, Feb. 26, 1928. The second (to Elvis) most successful of the 1950s rock ’ri rollers, selling more than 65 million records, Fats Domino made the transition from R&B to rock ’n’ roll with his pleasant, upbeat songs and gentle, engaging piano style. An established R&B artist when he broke through into the pop field with “Ain’t That a Shame” in 1955, Fats Domino would become the most famous musician from New Orleans since Louis Armstrong. Far less frantic and threatening than many of his contemporaries, Domino co-wrote virtually all of his hits with bandleader Dave Bartholomew, who, along with tenor saxophonists Herb Hardesty and Alvin “Red” Tyler and drummer Earl Palmer, helped produce his characteristic sound. Fats Domino helped focus attention on the music of New Orleans and inspired other Southern black singers such as Little Richard and Lloyd Price.

’Fats” Domino learned piano as a child, debuting professionally around the age of ten. By 14 he had dropped out of school to perform in local nightclubs, including The Hideaway Club, where he was discovered by bandleader David Bartholomew in 1949. Joining Bartholomew’s band, Domino signed with Lew Chudd’s Imperial label. He began a string of ten years of smash hits recorded with cowriter-arranger-producer Bartholomew and tenor saxophonist Herb Hardesty in 1950 with ’The Fat Man.” Domino formed his own touring band in the early 1950s and produced smash R&B hits with “Every Night about This Time,” “Coin’ Home,” “Coin’ to the River,” “Please Don’t Leave Me,” “Something’s Wrong,” and “Don’t You Know.”

Fats Domino broke through into the pop market in the spring of 1955 with “Ain’t That a Shame.” He appeared in the early rock ’n’ roll movies Shake, Rattle and Roll and The Girl Can’t Help It from 1956 and Jamboree and The Big Beat from 1957. In addition to the standard “Blue Monday” and Bobby Charles’s “Walking to New Orleans,” Domino scored smash pop and R&B hits with “I’m in Love Again,” “I’m Walkin’,” “It’s You I Love,” “Whole Lotta Loving,” “I Want to Walk You Home,” and “Be My Guest” through 1960. Major pop hits of the era included the standard “My Blue Heaven,” “Valley of Tears,” “I’m Ready,” “I’m Gonna Be a Wheel Someday,” and “My Girl Josephine,” an early example of reggae rhythm.

Beginning in 1961 Fats Domino began performing frequently in Las Vegas, managing major hits on Imperial with “What a Price,” “It Keeps Rainin’,” “Let the Four Winds Blow,” and “What a Party,” and the Hank Williams classics “Jambalaya” and “You Win Again,” through 1962. In 1963 he signed with ABC-Paramount Records, recording in Nashville, and subsequently switched to Mercury in 1965. He toured Great Britain in 1967 and moved to Reprise Records for his final pop hit with The Beatles’ “Lady Madonna” in 1968. Domino appeared in the rock ’n’ roll revival film Let the Good Times Roll in 1973 and toured six months out of every year until the mid 1970s, after which he performed primarily in Las Vegas. He achieved a modest country hit with “Whiskey Heaven” from the movie Any Which Way You Can in 1980 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in its inaugural year, 1986. In 1993, Fats Domino recorded his first new album in over 20 years, Christmas Is a Special Day, and, in 1996, EMI issued the tribute album That’s Fats, which featured covers of Domino’s songs by Ricky Nelson, The Band, Dr. John, Cheap Trick, and others.


Rock and Rolliri with Fats Domino (1956); Rock and Rollin’ (1956); Here Stands Fats Domino (1957); This Is Fats (1957); The Fabulous Mr. D (1958); Fats Domino Swings/12,000,000 Records (1959); Let’s Play Fats Domino (1959); Sings Million Record Hits (1960); A Lot ofDominos (1961); I Miss You So (1961); Let the Four Winds Blow (1961); What a Party (1961); Twistin’ the Stomp (1962); Million Sellers by Fats (1962); Just Domino (1962); Here Comes Fats Domino (1963); Walking to New Orleans (1963); Let’s Dance with Domino (1963); Here He Comes Again (1963); Fats on Fire (1964); Getaway with Fats Domino (1965); ’65 (1965); Fats Is Back (1968); Fats (1971); Legendary Masters (1972); SuperpakCookin with Fats (1973); Live in Montreaux (recorded 1973; 1974; 1987); Very Best (1974); Play It Again, Fats—The Very Best (1974); Best (1987); My Blue Heaven: The Best of Fats Domino-, They Call Me the Fat Man: The Legendary Imperial Recordings (1991); The Fat Man: 25 Classic Performances (1996).

—Brock Helander