Singer, songwriter, pianist
After hearing rock pioneer Fats Domino in a 1985 concert in his native Louisiana, Ben Sandmel declared in down beat that “a classic rock originator can still be heard in peak form.” Sandmel praised Domino for his “indifference to current trends,” and related that “Domino sticks to his own vintage sound and repertoire. The instrumentation and arrangements are totally unchanged—no young, disco rhythm sections, for instance.” In short, Domino successfully pleases audiences with the same rhythm-and-blues-based music he helped bring to the public’s attention with his 1950 hit, “The Fat Man.” Credited with playing rock and roll years before the phrase was invented, Domino’s non-threatening performance style—called “childlike” and “almost asexual” by Sandmel—helped popularize the new music with mainstream audiences of both blacks and whites. Writing most of his own material, Domino consistently held high positions in either the rhythm and blues or the popular charts for twelve years, keeping his audience singing and dancing with hits like “Blueberry Hill,” “Ain’t That a Shame,” and “Whole Lotta Lovin’.”
Born Antoine Domino in 1928, in New Orleans, Louisiana, to a family that would eventually include nine children, he became interested in playing the piano in his youth. He taught himself most of the popular piano styles of his time, including ragtime, blues, and boogie-woogie. Later, during his public career, Domino became known for blending these styles to arrive at some of the basic rock rhythms still used by contemporary performers in the field. But Domino almost missed his chance to effect such influence. Working in a bedspring factory as a young man, one of his hands was injured by a heavy spring, requiring several stitches and making it doubtful that he would be able to use it again. As Gene Busnar reported in his It’s Rock ‘n’ Roll, however, “through exercise and determination, [Domino] reacquired almost full use of the hand and was able to continue with his piano playing.”
In 1949, Domino was playing piano at New Orleans’ Hideaway Club for three dollars a week. Lew Chudd, head of the independent Imperial record company in Los Angeles, was seeking new talent to get his label on the charts when he saw Domino play. Chudd signed the young artist, and with Imperial’s Dave Bartholomew, Domino penned the song that became his first rhythm and blues hit and established him as “Fats” from then on—“The Fat Man.” Noting the appropriateness of the lyrics to Domino’s 5-foot-5-inch, 224-pound frame, Ed Ward remarked in Rock of Ages: The Rolling Stone History of Rock and Roll: “What better song to introduce the young singer than the one he opened with, the one that said, ‘They call, they call me the Fat Man/Because I weigh two hundred pounds.’” As Ward reported, “’Fat Man’ took off, winning Imperial some prominence in the
Real name, Antoine Domino; born February 26, 1928, in New Orleans, La.; married, wife’s name, Rosemary; children: Antoinette, Antoine III, Andrea, Andre, Anatole, Anola, Adonica, Antonio. Religion: Roman Catholic.
Worked on an ice truck and in a bedspring factory to support himself early in music career; played with various musicians at numerous venues, including the Hideaway Club in New Orleans, 1949; signed recording contract with Imperial Records, 1950; concert performer, 1950—.
Awards: More than 20 gold records; inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1986; recipient of Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, 1987.
Addresses: Residence —New Orleans, LA. Office —c/o Steve Cooper Willard Alexander Agency, 9229 Sunset Blvd., 4th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
rhythm-and-blues world and, more important, on its charts.”
Domino continued to provide Chudd and Imperial with cajun-accented rhythm and blues hits through the next five years, such as “Rockin’ Chair,” “Goin’ Home,” and “You Done Me Wrong,” but he did not cross over into the popular charts until he released his 1955 “Ain’t That a Shame.” With his 1956 string of successes, comprised of “I’m in Love Again,” a unique version of “My Blue Heaven,” “Blue Monday,” and his rendition of an old Louis Armstrong recording, “Blueberry Hill,” Domino became a standard attraction in traveling rock and roll shows. As Busnar explained, “Most of Fats’ songs were less raw and sexually explicit than most other blues-based singers. He was, therefore, more acceptable to the pop audience. Domino was the only successful rhythm and blues singer to have consistent popularity in the pop charts without greatly changing his style.” But if his singing and stage personality is mild, “his keyboard work is right there,” as Sandmel put it. Domino was also one of the first black performers to be featured in popular music shows, starring with other rock and roll greats like Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers.
Domino was hot on the rhythm and blues and pop charts through the early sixties, scoring with hits like “Whole Lotta Lovin’,” “I’m Ready,” “Be My Guest,” “Walking to New Orleans,” and “Let the Four Winds Blow.” But, like that of many other American rock pioneers of the 1950s, Domino’s popularity declined with the introduction of British and psychedelic rock in the 1960s. He left Imperial for ABC in 1963, and had a moderate hit with “Red Sails in the Sunset,” but did not reach the charts again except for a modest success with his version of the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna” in 1968. He finally stopped recording, he told Hans J. Massaquoi in Ebony, because companies wanted him to update his style. “I refused to change,” Domino explained. “I had to stick to my own style that I’ve always used or it just wouldn’t be ME.”
Meanwhile, in the 1960s Domino began to concentrate his performance efforts in Las Vegas. Playing under contract at the Flamingo Casino there, however, he began to pass the time between shows in the gambling room, starting with the slot machines and soon advancing to the crap tables. As Massaquoi reported, during a ten year period Domino lost approximately two million dollars gambling, losing as much as one hundred and thirty thousand dollars in one night. He began to realize he had a problem, and through will power was able to taper off until, he told Massaquoi, he was cured of the expensive habit in 1972.
With the nostalgia craze for the 1950s that swept the United States in the late 1970s, Domino experienced a resurgence in popularity. Though he spends more time near his New Orleans home with his wife, Rosemary, and their eight children, he still performs in rock revival shows throughout the country. As Sandmel concluded, “As pure entertainment, Domino’s deceptively simple gems [are] beyond improvement.”
Composer of numerous songs, including “Let the Four Winds Blow,” “Walking to New Orleans,” “Ain’t That a Shame,” “Blue Monday,” “The Fat Man,” “I Want to Walk You Home,” I’m Gonna Be a Wheel Someday,” “I’m Walkin’,” and “Whole Lotta Loving.”
Single releases; for Imperial, except as noted
“The Fat Man,” 1950.
“Korea Blues,” 1950.
“Every Night About This Time,” 1950.
“Rockin’ Chair,” 1951.
“Goin’ Home,” 1952.
“How Long,” 1952.
“Goin’ to the River,” 1953.
“Please Don’t Leave Me,” 1953.
“Rose Mary,” 1953.
“Something’s Wrong,” 1953.
“You Done Me Wrong,” 1954.
“Don’t You Know,” 1955.
“Ain’t That a Shame,” 1955.
“All by Myself,” 1955.
“Poor Me,” 1955.
“Bo Weevil/Don’t Blame It on Me,” 1956.
“I’m in Love Again/My Blue Heaven,” 1956.
“When My Dreamboat Comes Home/So Long,” 1956.
“Blueberry Hill,” 1956.
“Blue Monday,” 1956.
“What’s the Reason I’m Not Pleasing You?” 1957.
“I’m Walkin’,” 1957.
“Valley of Tears,” 1957.
“It’s You I Love,” 1957.
“When I See You,” 1957.
“What Will I Tell My Heart,” 1957.
“I Still Love You,” 1957.
“Wait and See,” 1957.
“The Big Beat,” 1957.
“I Want You to Know,” 1957.
“Yes, My Darling,” 1958.
“Sick and Tired/No No,” 1958.
“Little Mary,” 1958.
“Young School Girl,” 1958.
“Whole Lotta Lovin’,” 1958.
“Telling Lies,” 1959.
“When the Saints Go Marching In,” 1959.
“I’m Ready,” 1959.
“I Want to Walk You Home,” 1959.
“I’m Gonna Be a Wheel Some Day,” 1959.
“Be My Guest,” 1959.
“I’ve Been Around,” 1959.
“Country Boy,” 1960.
“If You Need Me,” 1960.
“Tell Me That You Love Me,” 1960.
“Before I Grow Too Old,” 1960.
“Walking to New Orleans,” 1960.
“Don’t Come Knockin’,” 1960.
“Three Nights a Week,” 1960.
“Put Your Arms Around Me, Honey,” 1960.
“My Girl Josephine,” 1960.
“Natural Born Lover,” 1961.
“Ain’t That Just Like a Woman,” 1961.
“What a Price,” 1961.
“Shu Rah,” 1961.
“Fall in Love on Monday,” 1961.
“It Keeps Rainin’,” 1961.
“Let the Four Winds Blow,” 1961.
“Rockin’ Bicycle,” 1961.
“I Hear You Knockin’,” 1961.
“You Win Again,” 1962.
“Ida Jane,” 1962.
“My Real Name,” 1962.
“Dance With Mr. Domino,” 1962.
“Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?” 1962.
“There Goes (My Heart Again),” 1963.
“Red Sails in the Sunset,” ABC, 1963.
“Lady Madonna,” Reprise, 1968.
Busnar, Gene, It’s Rock ‘n’ Roll, Messner, 1979.
Ward, Ed, Geoffrey Stokes, and Ken Tucker, Rock of Ages: The Rolling Stone History of Rock and Roll, Summit Books, 1986.
down beat, March, 1985.
Ebony, May, 1974.
Domino, Fats 1928–
Fats Domino 1928–
Vocalist, pianist, composer
A genial and prolific musician, Fats Domino was the most commercially successful of a long line of New Orleans rhythm-and-blues pianists and vocal performers. Coming to prominence at the dawn of rock and roll in the middle 1950s, Domino is often named as one of that music’s originators and classic figures. He was a gifted and entirely self-taught composer who parlayed his multiple talents into a long period of popularity with music fans of all races, and he stands perhaps as the most enthusiastic exponent of the Crescent City’s great musical tradition.
Fats Domino was born Antoine Domino on February 26, 1928 in New Orleans, one of nine children. His father played the violin, and a relative, Harrison Verrett, was a well-known New Orleans guitarist who would later become a fixture of Fats’s band. Verrett taught him to play the piano at the age of nine by means of instructional marks written on a piano’s keys, and within a few years Domino immersed himself in music, quitting school at age 14 to work by day and play piano in the city’s bars and small clubs by night. His career was almost cut short by a hand injury sustained in a bedspring-factory accident, but he recovered. At some time during his early career, his five-foot-five-inch, two-hundred-pound frame gave rise to the nickname “Fats.”
Domino cut his teeth as a performer in the midst of rich pianistic and vocal traditions; he likely heard and performed with such legends as Professor Longhair and Amos Milburn as a young man. He mastered a variety of piano styles, developed an infectious vocal style that avoided the hard-edged intensity of some of his bluesier contemporaries, and began to write songs. By 1949 he had a regular slot at a club called the Hideaway, where the influential New Orleans trumpeter, bandleader, and composer Dave Bartholomew heard Domino play a blues of his own creation called “The Fat Man”: the lyric opened with the lines, “They call me the Fat Man, Cause I weigh two hundred pounds.” Bartholomew had connections with the fast-growing independent West Coast record label Imperial, and the two musicians recorded Bartholomew’s arrangement of “The Fat Man” in 1950. By 1953 it was claimed to have sold one million copies.
Imperial was one of the many upstart labels that after
At a Glance…
Born Antoine Domino February 26, 1928, in New Orleans; married Rosemary; children: Antoinette, Antoine III, Andrea, Andre, Anatole, Anola, Adonica, Antonio. Religion: Roman Catholic.
Career: Pianist, singer, and songwriter. Worked in a bedspring factory to support himself as a young man; nightclub entertainer, New Orleans, late 1940s; joined forces with trumpeter and bandleader Dave Bartholomew, 1949; signed with Imperial Records, 1950; released single “The Fat Man,” 1950; broke through to wide rock and roll audience with “Ain’t That a Shame,” 1955; series of top-selling single and album releases, 1955–63; extensive concert career through 1980s, including many apperances in Las Vegas; European tours, 1970s and 1980s; released holiday album Christmas is a Special Day, 1993.
Awards: More than 20 gold records; inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1986; Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, 1987; Rhythm & Blues Foundation Pioneer Award, 1995; National Medal for the Arts, 1998.
Addresses: Record label —Tug Boat International, 2514 Build America Blvd., Hampton, VA 23666; Booking agent—Tape Entertainment, Inc., 1161 NW 76th Ave., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33322.
World War II experienced rapid growth, seizing market share from the “majors” by searching out and recording local rhythm-and-blues and country talent, primarily in the South and Southwest. Domino followed up “The Fat Man” with a string of other rhythm-and-blues hits, including “Rockin’ Chair,” “Please Don’t Leave Me,” and “Goin’ Home,” which reached number one on rhythm-and-blues charts in 1952. When the rock and roll phenomenon exploded in 1955 with the introduction of Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry to a mass audience, Imperial was ready with its own star. Domino’s easygoing style blunted the antagonism that some black performers experienced, and his sparkling piano work competed successfully with, and still differentiated itself from, that of keyboard wizard Jerry Lee Lewis.
It was no surprise that Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame” went to the number 16 position on the pop charts in 1955. The record’s pop chart position actually understated its popularity and influence, for Domino’s recording was eclipsed by white vocalist Pat Boone’s “cover” version of the song; quickly dispatching white performers to cover rising rhythm-and-blues hits was a favorite technique employed by white record executives intent on containing growing African American influence in the 1950s. Domino and Bartholomew at least shared composer’s royalties for sales and airplay of Boone’s record.
“I’m in Love Again” and “Blueberry Hill” (a 1930s Gene Autry movie-cowboy hit earlier covered by Domino’s New Orleans compatriot Louis Armstrong) did even better on the pop charts the following year, reaching the pop Top Ten. For the next seven years Domino enjoyed a long string of hits that reached high chart levels. Many of them—I’m Walkin’,” “Walkin’ to New Orleans,” and “I Want to Walk You Home” among them—are among rock and roll’s canon of classics, part of the repertoire of many a cover band.
“Ain’t That a Shame” offers a good example of the style that made Domino so popular. Based on rhythmic figures simple enough to be instantly memorable, yet subtle in the way that only the Caribbean-leaning musicians of New Orleans could make them, the song showcased Domino’s pleasant Louisiana drawl. Its refrain (“Ain’t that a shame—my tears fell like rain…”) offered a hint of rueful humor and a romantic theme that avoided the raw sexuality present in the lyrics of some of Domino’s contemporaries. Bartholomew’s arrangement displayed the tight horn section of Domino’s talented band to maximum advantage.
The creative partnership of Domino and Bartholomew deserves notice in the realm of composition as well, for the pair wrote virtually all of Domino’s major hits. They had a fixed working method, described by Domino and quoted by Irwin Stambler, author of the Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock & Soul: “When I get an idea for a song, I sit down at that piano [in his special music room in his home] and sing it into the tape. Then I’ve got it so I can talk with Dave about it. Dave works on all my recordings and on my band arrangements and we’re together a lot of the time.” Domino never learned to read music, and into the 1980s Bartholomew was still closely involved in his career.
Domino’s string of hits was brought to an end by the influx of British rock music that began with the Beatles in 1963 and 1964, and by the innovations of American black musicians who responded to the “British Invasion” with creative new styles in such centers as Detroit and Memphis. He returned briefly to the public eye with a cover of the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna” in 1968, but otherwise contented himself with indefatigable touring; his performances were notable for the way they kept to Domino’s original style and sound, offering listeners a glimpse of his New Orleans-based music in its purest form. He became a successful fixture of Nevada’s casinos, toured Europe (where he had always enjoyed immense popularity) several times in the late 1970s and 1980s, and in 1993 released a holiday album, Christmas Is a Special Day. He claimed that he was not making a comeback, since he had never stopped performing.
On tour in England with fellow legends James Brown and Chuck Berry in 1995, Domino was hospitalized for exhaustion and infection, and there were signs that his health was beginning to decline. But honors began to flow his way, most notably a Rhythm & Blues Foundation Pioneer Award in 1995 and a National Medal for the Arts bestowed by President Bill Clinton in 1998. That year, Domino told the Baton Rouge (Louisiana) Advocate that he was at work on an album of new material. He seemed to be living up to the epitaph that writer Peter Guralnick, quoting New Orleans studio owner and Domino associate Cosimo Matassa, had proposed in The New Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll: “Domino, he was creative.” His creativity has permanently enriched the popular music traditions of his city and his nation.
Fats Domino—Rock and Rollin’, Imperial, 1956.
This Is Fats Domino, Imperial, 1956.
Here Stands Fats Domino, Imperial, 1957.
Fabulous Mr. D, Imperial, 1958.
Let’s Play Fats Domino, Imperial, 1959.
Fats Domino Sings, Imperial, 1960.
I Miss You So, Imperial, 1961.
Twistin’ the Stomp, Imperial, 1962.
Fats Is Back, Reprise, 1968.
Legendary Masters Series, United Artists, 1972.
They Call Me the Fat Man: The Legendary Imperial Recordings, EMI, 1990.
Christmas Is a Special Day, EMI, 1993
Contemporary Musicians, Volume 2, Gale, 1990.
Guralnick, Peter, “Fats Domino,” in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, Random House, 1992.
Hitchcock, H. Wiley, and Stanley Sadie, eds., The New Grove Dictionary of American Music, Macmillan, 1986.
Romanowski, Patricia, and Holly George-Warren, eds., The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Fireside, 1995.
Stambler, Irwin, The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock & Soul, rev. ed., St. Martin’s, 1989.
Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA), October 29, 1998, p. B4.
Billboard, January 28, 1995, p. 14.
Jet, April 3, 1995, p. 34.
Playboy, January 1992, p. 17.
Time, May 29, 1995, p. 17.
—James M. Manheim
Fats Domino (born 1928) brought a unique blend of sounds to the rhythm and blues scene in the 1950s and 60s that appealed to a wide audience. His rendition of "The Fat Man," recorded in December of 1949, is considered by many to be the first rock-and-roll song ever. Domino continues to perform in his own nightclub in New Orleans, the city of his birth.
Born Antoine Domino Jr. on February 26, 1928 in New Orleans, he grew up in a large, musical family of nine children. He began his love affair with the piano at a very young age. Domino taught himself to play with help from his brother-in-law, Harrison Verrett, a local musician and well-regarded guitarist. He loved all the popular styles of music: boogie, ragtime, and blues. Domino left school in order to focus all of his energies on music.
Shortly after leaving school, Domino found a job at a local bedspring factory. He worked at the factory during the day and played music by night in local nightclubs. A mishap on his day job came very close to costing him his future in music. One of his hands was severely injured by a heavy spring, an injury that required multiple stitches. For a while, it was uncertain whether Domino would ever recover use of the hand for the piano. However, with sufficient exercise he was able to regain most of his previous use of that hand.
Discovered at Hideaway Club
One of Domino's nighttime jobs was at a New Orleans club called the Hideaway, where he earned three dollars a week. By the age of 19 he had become a fixture there, along with prominent New Orleans pianists such as Professor Longhair and Amos Milburn. Like them, Domino was inspired by the rich musical styles of New Orleans. It was here that he got his first big break. Lew Chudd, head of Los Angeles-based Imperial Records, was touring the city in search of promising new artists when he happened to catch Domino's act. Duly impressed, he quickly signed the young musician to a recording contract and paired him up with Dave Bartholomew of Imperial to write the song that became his signature number and established him forever as "Fats" in the mind of his fans. "The Fat Man," that drew heavily from a song entitled "Junkers Blues," was recorded in December 1949 in the J and M Studios of Cosimo Matassa, along with seven other tracks. The song became Domino's first big rhythm and blues hit and is considered by many music industry observers to be the first genuine rock and roll song ever recorded. Fred Ward, writing in Rock of Ages: The Rolling Stone History of Rock and Roll, said of Domino's first big hit: "What better song to introduce the young singer than the one he opened with… ." The record took off, Ward reported, "winning Imperial some prominence in the rhythm-and-blues world and, more important, on its charts.
Chudd's Imperial recording label, which focused on unknown rhythm and blues talent from the Deep South, had experienced rapid growth in the years following the end of World War II. Bartholomew, a prominent trumpet player and composer, became Domino's producer and bandleader for most of the 1950s and 60s and co-wrote virtually all of the performer's best-known hits. Bartholomew, who remained closely involved with Domino well into the 1980s, was a trained musician who perfectly complemented Domino's unschooled but brilliant musical instincts. Domino never learned to read music. He once described to Irwin Stambler, author of The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock, and Soul, how he and Bartholomew collaborated on their now-famous songs: "When I get an idea for a song, I sit down at that piano [in his special music room in his home] and sing it into the tape. Then I've got it so I can talk with Dave about it. Dave works on all my recordings and on my band arrangements, and we're together a lot of the time."
Several hits followed "The Fat Man." These included "Rockin' Chair," "You Done me Wrong," "Please Don't Leave Me," and the 1952 hit, "Goin Home." The latter reached number one on the rhythm and blues charts in 1952. Domino dominated the R and B charts with these and other releases from 1952 to 1959. In 1954 Domino impressed audiences at the Moondog Jubilee of Stars Under the Stars, promoted by famed disk jockey Alan Freed, at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, New York. Other entertainers performing at Moondog Jubilee included Muddy Waters, Little Walter, the Orioles, and the Clovers.
Took Rock and Roll by Storm
Domino took the rock and roll scene by storm in 1955 when he released "Ain't That a Shame," a song that had been previously popularized by cowboy movie star, Gene Autry. His success with the recording of this song was somewhat overshadowed by Pat Boone's "cover" version of the same song. Although Domino's version hit number one on the R and B charts, it made it only to number ten on the pop charts for this reason. White record producers in the 1950s were quick to pick up on the popularity of rhythm and blues for its white singers. However, Domino and collaborator Bartholomew shared in the royalties of Boone's recording. It was with this hit that Domino crossed over from R and B to the pops charts.
Other Domino songs that rose to the top of the R and B charts in 1955 included "All by Myself" and "Poor Me." That same year, Imperial Records cut his first long-playing (LP) album. Entitled "Rock and Rollin' With Fats Domino," the album was released on March 1, 1956. Among his big hits in 1956 were "I'm in Love Again," "My Blue Heaven," "Blue Monday," and "Blueberry Hill," Domino's version of a song first made popular by Louis Armstrong. In July of 1956, "I'm in Love Again" hit the top of the R and B charts and climbed to number three on the pop charts. At year's end, "Blueberry Hill" topped out at number two on the pop charts, having already occupied the top spot on the R and B charts for 11 straight weeks. Domino's success in the mid-1950s made him a fixture in most of the period's touring rock and roll shows. In early 1957, Domino got top billing in the three-month "Biggest Show of Stars for '57," a tour that also featured such popular rock and R and B performers as Chuck Berry, Laverne Baker, Clyde McPhatter, and the Moonglows. Gene Busnar, author of It's Rock'n' Roll, explained Domino's success on the pop charts this way: "Most of Fats' songs were less raw and sexually explicit than most other blues-based singers. He was, therefore, more acceptable to the pop audience."
Debut in Films
Hoping to expand his horizons, Domino looked to Hollywood. He first appeared with Big Joe Turner in Shake, Rattle, and Roll, singing three of his big hits. In 1957 he appeared in The Girl Can't Help It, a rock and roll movie that is still considered by many to be the best ever made. The film featured Domino singing his big hit, "Blue Monday." Other motion pictures in which Domino appeared included Jamboree and The Big Beat.
Other Domino songs that fared well on the pop charts included "I'm Walkin'," which made it to number four in April of 1957; "I Want to Walk You Home," climbing to number eight the week of September 14, 1959; and "Walking to New Orleans," which made it into the top ten on the pop charts in mid-1960. "Walking to New Orleans," which climbed to number two on the R and B charts, was the last of Domino's songs to hit the top ten on the pop charts.
In April of 1963, Domino left the Imperial label after nearly 14 years to sign with ABC-Paramount. For ABC-Paramount, he had a modest hit with "Red Sails in the Sunset." He switched labels fairly often in the 1960s, recording also on the Mercury and Reprise labels. In 1968 Domino released his version of "Lady Madonna" on the Reprise label. Written by Paul McCartney for the Beatles in a style reminiscent of Domino's, the song was given the full New Orleans treatment in Domino's cover version. It was the last of Domino's songs to make it onto Billboard's Top 100 Pop Singles chart. When recording industry executives began pressuring Domino to update his style in order to appeal to changing musical tastes, he quit recording altogether. Interviewed by Hans J. Massaquoi of Ebony, Domino explained, "I refused to change. I had to stick to my own style that I've always used, or it just wouldn't be me."
Focused on Personal Appearances
With his recording career at least temporarily terminated, Domino began concentrating most of his energies on public appearances, focusing in particular on Las Vegas. He signed a long-term contract with the Flamingo Hotel and Casino but soon got himself into trouble gambling during his off-hours. He got started on the slots but soon graduated to playing craps. According to Massaquoi of Ebony, Domino gambled away about two million dollars over a ten-year period. It took the performer a while to admit that he had a serious problem with gambling. However, he eventually took steps to wean himself away from the craps tables, a goal Domino claimed to have reached by 1972.
On January 23, 1986, Domino was formally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at its first induction dinner, held in New York City. Presenting Domino with a plaque marking his selection for this honor was popular singer/pianist Billy Joel. It seemed altogether fitting that Domino was among the first to be enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, considering that he had sold more records—some 65 million—than any other Fifties-era rocker except Elvis Presley. The following year, Domino received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 1991, EMI-owner of the Imperial label's music catalog released a boxed set of Domino's greatest hits. Domino returned to the recording studio two years later—the first time he'd done so in a quarter-century. The recording session produced an album entitled Christmas is a Special Day, released on the EMI/Right Stuff label on November 1, 1993. Interviewed during the recording session, Domino looked back on his long and rewarding career, saying: "People don't know what they've done for me. They always tell me, 'Oh, Fats, thanks for so many years of good music.' And I'll be thankin' them before they're finished thankin' me!"
In March of 1995, the Rhythm and Blues Foundation of Washington, D.C., honored Domino. As one of the recipients of the foundation's annual Pioneer Awards, he was given the Ray Charles Lifetime Achievement Award. This foundation honors those who create "an art form that is a fountainhead for contemporary popular music and a lifeblood of American culture." Other recipients of these awards included the Moonglows, the Marvelettes, Inez and Charlie Foxx, and Cissy Houston. That same year Domino toured Great Britain with fellow rock artists James Brown and Chuck Berry. However, the trip was cut short when the 67-year-old Domino was hospitalized for an infection and exhaustion.
Domino and his wife, Rosemary, continue to live in New Orleans, the city of the singer's birth. They have raised eight children—Antoinette, Antoine III, Andrea, Andre, Anatole, Anola, Adonica, and Antonio. Domino still performs occasionally at his club in the city's French Quarter.
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Ward, Ed, Geoffrey Stokes, and Ken Tucker. Rock of Ages: The Rolling Stone History of Rock and Roll, Summit Books, 1986.
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"Fats Domino: Performer," Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, http://www.rockhall.com/hof/inductee.asp?id=91 (November 4, 2001). □