Articles Comments

» BREAKING NEWS, Featured » FATS DOMINO: A HUGE TALENT WHO INSPIRED THE BEATLES AND SKA!

FATS DOMINO: A HUGE TALENT WHO INSPIRED THE BEATLES AND SKA!

You could argue for the rest of your life about what constitutes the first rock’n’roll record and, indeed, on the internet, there are people prepared to do that. An exhaustive 82-track 2011 compilation comes up with candidates for the title, with varying degrees of plausibility, and with tunes dating back to 1915.

Fats Domino

Fats Domino

Blues, a 1940 track originally recorded by Champion Jack Dupree, there’s almost nothing to it. A pounding, unchanging backbeat and an insistent bass pulse; Domino on piano, playing in a style noticeably more aggressively than that of his peers; saxes and guitar buried so deep in the mix that you barely even spot them until the song’s finale; some falsetto scat singing and three verses that replace Junkers’ Blues’ references to cocaine, reefers and heroin with lyrics that laud both Domino’s bulk and his irresistible sexual abilities: “I weigh two hundred pounds, all the girls love me, because I know my way around.” It sold a million copies and transformed Domino overnight from the pianist in Billy Diamond’s Solid Senders, a locally popular New Orleans band, into a star.

In later years, Elvis Presley proclaimed him “the real king of rock’n’roll”, but in truth, Domino was an exemplar of boogie-woogie, a style that had been big since the 1920s – some musical historians claim its roots stretch back into the 19th century – that he had been taught by his brother-in-law, a jazz musician. Nevertheless, The Fat Man’s stripped-back potency had something of the future about it: it fitted so well with rock’n’roll that it turned up six years after it was recorded on Domino’s debut album, Carry on Rockin’ With Fats Domino.

fats

By then, Elvis Presley had signed to a major label and Little Richard’s Tutti Fruttiwas in the charts. Clearly sensing which way the wind was blowing, and the fact that he might have unwittingly predicted its change of course, Domino skilfully transitioned into a rock’n’roller. His debut album was swiftly retitled Rock and Rollin’ With Fats Domino, he appeared in the exploitation movies The Girl Can’t Help It and Shake Rattle and Rock, and released a peerless run of singles, all deeply rooted in the jazz and R&B of New Orleans, but sufficiently in tune with new musical developments to make not only the R&B charts but the US Hot 100, too – a not-inconsiderable feat for a black artist in 50s America. Those singles included Ain’t That a Shame, I’m Walkin’, Blue Monday, I’m in Love Again, and Blueberry Hill, the latter a cover of a 40s jazz standard previously recorded by Glenn Miller that became Domino’s signature song.

fats-domino

Domino was not a wild musical insurrectionist in the style of Little Richard or Jerry Lee Lewis – when a riot broke out at a gig in Fayetteville, North Carolina, he climbed out of a window to get away. But his influence proved vast, not least on the Beatles. Ain’t That a Shame was the first song John Lennon learned to play, Paul McCartney’s Lady Madonna was created in Domino’s image, the band visited Domino to pay homage and were impressed by his love of what would later be called bling – boggling at a jewel-encrusted watch on his wrist.

Ironically, by the time the Beatles appeared, Domino’s star had fallen. He had continued to have hits after the initial wave of rock’n’roll wave had crashed – Walking to New Orleans and My Girl Josephine among them. However, by 1963, he had fallen in with a record label that disastrously sought to sweeten his sound, making him record in Nashville, and adding elements of the slick, commercial “countrypolitan” style to his releases. His recording career never really recovered, although his sound toughened up again by the decade’s close, taking on influences from contemporary soul, making the point about his influence explicit by recording a version of Lady Madonna, as well as another fantastic Beatles cover, The White Album’s Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except For Me and My Monkey. By the 80s, he declined to leave New Orleans at all. Never a fan of touring, he claimed he hated the food everywhere but his hometown.

Written by

Filed under: BREAKING NEWS, Featured

%d bloggers like this: