Antoine “Fats” Domino Jr.
(February 26, 1928 – October 24, 2017) was an American pianist and singer-songwriter. One of the pioneers of rock and roll music, Domino sold more than 65 million records.
Domino was signed to the Imperial Records label in 1949 by owner Lew Chudd. During his career, Domino had 35 records in the U.S. Billboard Top 40, and five of his pre-1955 records sold more than a million copies, being certified gold. Between 1955 and 1960, he had eleven Top 10 hits.
His 1949 release “The Fat Man”, a toned down version of a song about drug addicts called “Junker Blues”, is widely regarded as the first million-selling Rock ‘n Roll record. Fats Domino singles were released in both 78 R.P.M. (Revolutions Per Minute) and 45 R.P.M. formats. Above is the 78 version.
This “In House” gold record is from the estate of Lew Chudd and auctioned off in the early 2000’s. Apparently Chudd had Gold records made for Fats’ singles but not until the late 1950’s. Note the different label on the 45. This was used by Imperial records starting in 1958.
Domino crossed into the pop mainstream with “Ain’t That a Shame” (mislabeled as “Ain’t It a Shame”) which reached the Top Ten. This was the first of his records to appear in the Top-10 on the Billboard pop singles chart (on July 16, 1955), with the debut at number 14.
His 1956 recording of “Blueberry Hill”, a 1940 song by Vincent Rose, Al Lewis and Larry Stock (which had previously been recorded by Gene Autry, Louis Armstrong and others), reached number 2 on the Billboard Juke Box chart for two weeks and was number 1 on the R&B chart for 11 weeks. It was his biggest hit, selling more than 5 million copies worldwide in 1956 and 1957. Some 32 years later, the song would enter the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Domino had further hit singles between 1956 and 1959, including “When My Dreamboat Comes Home” (Pop number 14), “I’m Walkin’” (Pop number 4), “Valley of Tears” (Pop number 8), “It’s You I Love” (Pop number 6), “Whole Lotta Lovin’” (Pop number 6), “I Want to Walk You Home” (Pop number 8), and “Be My Guest” (Pop number 8).
Imperial Records was sold in early 1963, and Domino left the label. “I stuck with them until they sold out,” he said in 1979. In all, he recorded over 60 singles for Imperial, placing 40 songs in the top 10 on the R&B chart and 11 in the top 10 on the Pop chart, twenty-seven of which were double-sided hits.
He continued to be popular as a performer for several decades. He made a cameo appearance in Clint Eastwood’s movie Any Which Way You Can, filmed in 1979 and released in 1980, singing the country song “Whiskey Heaven”, which later became a minor hit. His life and career were showcased in Joe Lauro’s 2015 documentary The Big Beat: Fats Domino and the Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Both John Lennon and Paul McCartney recorded Domino songs. According to some reports, McCartney wrote the Beatles song “Lady Madonna” in emulation of Domino’s style, combining it with a nod to Humphrey Lyttelton’s 1956 hit “Bad Penny Blues”. Domino also recorded the song in 1968.Domino returned to the “Hot 100” chart for the last time in 1968, with his recording of “Lady Madonna”. That recording, as well as covers of two other songs by the Beatles, appeared on his Reprise album Fats Is Back, produced by Richard Perry.
Domino was present in the audience of 2,200 people at Elvis Presley’s first concert at the Las Vegas Hilton on July 31, 1969. At a press conference after the show, when a journalist referred to Presley as “The King”, Presley gestured toward Domino, who was taking in the scene. “No,” Presley said, “that’s the real king of rock and roll.”
About a photograph made of him and Elvis together, Mr. Domino said: “Elvis told me he flopped the first time he came to Las Vegas. I loved his music. He could sing anything … I’m glad we took this picture.”
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 automobile. He made yearly appearances at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and other local events. He was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987.
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. By January 2006, work to gut and repair Domino’s home and office had begun.
His gold records were replaced by the RIAA and Capitol Records, which owned the Imperial Records catalogue. They even found copies of 78 R.P.M. records of his hits from 1949-1955 to put in the plaques. The original awards Lew Chudd had made had 45’s. in the plaques.
On August 21, 2016, Domino was inducted into the National Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame. The ceremony was held in Detroit, Michigan. The other inductees were Dionne Warwick, Cathy Hughes, Smokey Robinson, Prince, and the Supremes. He had received the Rhythm & Blues Foundation’s Ray Charles Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995. His song “The Fat Man” entered the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2015.
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