American pianist and singer-songwriter Antoine “Fats” Domino Jr. Sadly died October 24, 2017 at his home in Harvey, Louisiana aged 89, following a long illness. He was born February 26, 1928 and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Domino family was of French Creole background. Louisiana Creole French was his first language. Antoine was born at home with the assistance of his grandmother, a midwife. Domino learned to play the piano from his brother-in-law, the jazz guitarist Harrison Verrett while studying shipping management at his local community college.Even after his success, he continued to live in his old neighborhood. His large home was roomy enough for his 13 children, but he still preferred to sleep in a hammock outside. In 1947, Billy Diamond, a New Orleans bandleader, accepted an invitation to hear the young pianist perform at a backyard barbecue. Domino played well enough that Diamond asked him to join his band, the Solid Senders, at the Hideaway Club, in New Orleans. Diamond nicknamed him “Fats”, because Domino reminded him of the renowned pianists Fats Waller and Fats Pichon.
In 1949 Domino attracted national attention with his first recording, “The Fat Man” an early rock-and-roll record featuring a rolling piano and Domino vocalizing “wah-wah” over a strong backbeat which sold one million copies by 1953 and is widely considered the first rock-and-roll record to achieve this feat. Domino released a series of hit songs with the producer Dave Bartholomew, the saxophonists Herbert Hardesty and Alvin “Red” Tyler, the bassist Frank Fields, and the drummers Earl Palmer and Smokey Johnson. The saxophonists Reggie Houston, Lee Allen, and Fred Kemp, Domino’s trusted bandleader also contributed Domino crossed into the pop mainstream in 1955 with “Ain’t That a Shame”. Domino’s debut album, Carry On Rockin, was also released containing several of his hits and was reissued as Rock and Rollin’ with Fats Domino in 1956. His 1956 recording of “Blueberry Hill”, becane his biggest hit Having previously been recorded by Gene Autry, Louis Armstrong and others), reaching number 2 in the Top 40 and number 1 on the R&B chart for 11 weeks.
Domino had further hit singles between 1956 and 1959, including “When My Dreamboat Comes Home”, “I’m Walkin'”Valley of Tears”, “It’s You I Love”, “Whole Lotta Loving”, “I Want to Walk You Home” and “Be My Guest” Domino also appeared in two films released in 1956: Shake, Rattle & Rock! and The Girl Can’t Help It. In 1957, his hit recording of “The Big Beat” was featured on Dick Clark’s television program, American Bandstand. In 1956, a riot broke out at Domino’s show in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The police resorted to using tear gas to break up the unruly crowd. Domino jumped out a window to avoid the melee; he and two members of his band were slightly injured. During 1962. Domino had a steady series of hits including “Walking’ to New Orleans” co-written by Bobby Charles, and “My Girl Josephine”. Producer Felton Jarvis changed the Domino sound somewhat, notably by adding the backing of a countrypolitan-style vocal chorus to most of his new recordings. Domino released the song “Red Sails in the Sunset”in 1963. However In 1964 the British Invasion had changed the tastes of the record-buying public, and Domino’s chart run was over. Despite this Domino continued to record steadily until about 1970, releasing a live album and two singles plus acover of the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna”.Domino appeared in the Monkees’ television special 33⅓ Revolutions per Monkee in 1969. He continued to be popular as a performer for several decades. He made a cameo appearance in the movie Any Which Way You Can, filmed in 1979 and released in 1980, resulting in a Country chart hit, “Whiskey Heaven”.
In 1986 he was one of the first musicians to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.In the 1980s, Domino decided he would no longer leave New Orleans, having a comfortable income from royalties and a dislike of touring and claiming he could not get any food that he liked anywhere else. He turned down An invitation to perform at the White House. Domino lived in a mansion in a predominantly working-class neighborhood in the Lower Ninth Ward, where he was a familiar sight in his bright pink Cadillac. He made yearly appearances at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and other local events. He was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987. His last tour was in Europe in 1995. In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded him the National Medal of Arts. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him number 25 on its list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”. Domino’s large persona, dancehall piano playing, and tales of love and home made him Elvis Presley’s top rival. By the end of his career, Domino was credited with selling more records than any other 1950s musician except Presley.
As Hurricane Katrina approached New Orleans in August 2005, Domino chose to stay at home with his family, partly because his wife, Rosemary, was in poor health. His house was in an area that was heavily flooded. Consequently Someone thought Domino was dead and spray-painted a message on his home, “RIP Fats. You will be missed”, then the talent agent Al Embry announced that he had not heard from Domino since before the hurricane struck. Later that day, CNN reported that Domino had been rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter. Until then, even family members had not heard from him since before the storm. Embry confirmed that Domino and his family had been rescued. The family was then taken to a shelter in Baton Rouge, after which they were picked up by JaMarcus Russell, the starting quarterback of the Louisiana State University football team, and the boyfriend of Domino’s granddaughter. By January 2006, work to repair Domino’s home and office had begun In the meantime, the Domino family resided in Harvey, Louisiana.President George W. Bush made a personal visit and replaced the National Medal of Arts that President Bill Clinton had previously awarded Domino. The gold records were replaced by the RIAA and Capitol Records, which owned the Imperial Records catalogue. Domino was due to perform at the 2006 Jazz & Heritage Festival. However, he was too ill to perform when scheduled and was only able to offer the audience an on-stage greeting. He released an album, Alive and Kickin’, in early 2006 to benefit Tipitina’s Foundation, which supports local musicians.
In 2007, Domino was honored with OffBeat magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Best of the Beat Awards, held at the House of Blues in New Orleans. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin declared the day “Fats Domino Day in New Orleans”. An all-star musical tribute followed with an introduction by the legendary producer Cosimo Matassa. The Lil’ Band o’ Gold rhythm section, Warren Storm, Kenny Bill Stinson, David Egan and C. C. Adcock, anchored the band, and each contributed lead vocals, swamp pop legend Warren Storm leading off with “Let the Four Winds Blow” and “The Prisoner Song”, which he proudly introduced by saying, “Fats Domino recorded this in 1958 … and so did I.” The horn section included Lil’ Band o’ Gold’s Dickie Landry, the Iguanas’ Derek Huston, and long-time Domino horn men Roger Lewis, Elliot “Stackman” Callier and Herb Hardesty. They were joined by Jon Cleary (who also played guitar in the rhythm section), Al “Carnival Time” Johnson, Irma Thomas, George Porter Jr. (who provided a funky arrangement for “You Keep on Knocking”), Art Neville, Dr. John and Allen Toussaint, who wrote and debuted a song in tribute of Domino for the occasion.
Domino returned to stage on May 19, 2007, at Tipitina’s at New Orleans and Domino was also inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. He has also been inducted into the Delta Music Museum Hall of Fame in Ferriday. In 2009, Domino made an unexpected appearance in the audience for the Domino Effect, a concert featuring Little Richard and other artists, aimed at raising funds to help rebuild schools and playgrounds damaged by Hurricane Katrina. In October 2012, Domino was featured in season three of the television series Treme, playing himself. In 2016, Domino was inducted into the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame. The ceremony was held in Detroit, Michigan; others that were inducted along with Domino were Dionne Warwick, Cathy Hughes, Smokey Robinson, Prince, and the Supremes.