Antoine ‘Fats’ Domino, one of the true legends of rock ‘n’ roll and an influence on generations of musicians including The Beatles, has died in New Orleans, aged 89. Domino’s daughter announced his passing on local TV and an official from New Orleans coroner’s office later confirmed the death, putting the time at 3.30am on Tuesday October 24.
Domino had a string of million selling hits in the ’50’s and ’60s steered by band leader/songwriter Dave Bartholomew, and was one of the first inductees into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. Songs such as ‘Ain’t That A Shame, ‘Blue Monday,’ ‘Blueberry Hill,’ ‘My Girl Josephine’ and ‘Walking To New Orleans’ helped Domino sell more than 65 million records. Domino was said to have helped break down racial barriers in the South during the 1950s as his concerts were said to be notable because of the number of white fans who attended.
Paul McCartney recorded the song ‘Lady Madonna’ in Domino’s style and also recorded Domino’s ‘Sweet Coquette’ on his Run Devil Run album. Domino returned the favour by recording ‘Lady Madonna’ and enjoying a Top 100 hit with it in 1968. McCartney also recorded Domino’s 1956 hit ‘I’m In Love Again’ and his version of ‘Ain’t That A Shame’ was on Tripping The Live Fantastic. John Lennon recorded ‘Ain’t That A Shame’ for his 1975 album Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Australian group The Loved One had a hit with Domino’s ‘Blueberry Hill’ in 1967; the song was also recorded by Elvis Presley who called Domino ‘The King of rock ‘n’ roll.’ A popular Zeppelin bootleg of their September 4, 1970 show at the Los Angeles Forum was titled Live on Blueberry Hill, after the song that closed the set.
The 2007 tribute album Goin’ Home – A Tribute to Fats Domino featured an array of high profile musicians including Robert Plant, Elton John, Tom Petty and Neil Young (‘Walking to New Orleans’).
Tributes have already come in on social media. Harry Connick Jr posted: RIP fats domino… you helped pave the way for new orleans piano players… see you on top of that blueberry hill in the sky. Actor Samuel L.Jackson write: I found My Thrill on ” Blueberry Hill”! RIP Fats Domino
Domino was born in New Orleans on 26 Feb 1928, the son of a violinist. The family acquired an old upright piano when Domino was 10 and he taught himself to play songs he had heard on the radio and his brother-in-law, Harrison Verrett, a jazz piano player, helped him by writing the notes on the keys.
Domino was given his nickname by bandleader Bill Diamond for whom he was playing piano in honky-tonks as a teenager. He said the youngster’s technique reminded him of two other great piano players, Fats Waller and Fats Pichon.
Domino left school at the age of 14 to work in a bedspring factory by day, and play in bars by night. He was soon accompanying such New Orleans luminaries as Professor Longhair and Amos Milburn.
In the mid-1940s, he joined trumpeter Dave Bartholomew’s band, and the two co-wrote Domino’s first hit ‘The Fat Man’. They remained a hit-making combination for more than two decades into the mid-1960s.
Domino had survived Hurricane Katrina in 2005 , being plucked from his home in the floodwaters in 2005, but remained in his beloved New Orleans. For decades, fans could find his home on Caffin Avenue in the Ninth Ward due to the large initials F.A.D painted on the roof. His attachment to his home town was most evident in 1998 when President Bill Clinton invited him to the White House to give him the National Medal of Arts. Domino declined to leave and Allen Toussaint accepted the award for him.
Domino performed on the HBO series Treme and a video of him on the keyboard is part of the American Masters documentary. His last concert was a 32-minute set at Tipitina’s in May 2007. He had been slated to play the first post-Katrina Jazz Fest in 2006 but made an appearance on the main stage to explain that he was not well enough to perform. his final Jazz Fest performance was a year later in 2007 when he performed just 5 songs.
Domino’s wife, Rosemary Domino, died in 2008; his survivors include two sons, Anatole and Antonio Domino; three daughters, Antoinette Smith, Anola Hartzog, Adonica Domino and Andrea Brimmer; numerous grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.