Fats Domino biography
Fats Domino was born February 26, 1928, in New Orleans, Louisiana. He began performing in clubs in his teens and in 1949 was discovered by Dave Bartholomew, who became Domino's exclusive arranger. His first recording, “The Fat Man” (1950), was one of a series of rhythm-and-blues hits that sold 500,000 to 1,000,000 copies. Fats Domino was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
Rise to Fame
Singer; Musician. Born in New Orleans on February 26, 1928, Antoine "Fats" Domino was one of nine siblings in a musical family. He spoke Creole before he spoke English. When he was seven, his brother-in-law Harrison Verret taught him to play the piano and introduced him to the New Orleans music scene; by age 10, Domino was already performing as a singer and pianist. At 14, he dropped out of high school and started working odd jobs, including working in a factory and hauling ice, while playing music for pennies in the evenings to get exposure. In 1946, Domino started playing piano for the well-known New Orleans bass player and band leader Billy Diamond, who gave Domino the nickname "Fats." Domino's rare musical talents quickly made him a sensation, and by 1949 he was drawing substantial crowds on his own.
In 1949, Fats Domino met collaborator Dave Bartholomew and signed to Imperial Records, where he would stay until 1963. Domino's first record was The Fat Man, based on his nickname, a song co-written with Bartholomew. It became the first rock and roll record ever to sell over a million copies, peaking at No. 2 on the R&B charts. Domino and Bartholomew continued to churn out R&B hits and Top 100 records for years. Domino's distinctive style of piano playing, accompanied by simple saxophone riffs, drum afterbeats, and his mellow baritone voice, made him stand out in the sea of 1950s R&B singers.
Fats Domino found mainstream success in 1955 with his song "Ain't It A Shame," which was covered by Pat Boone, who recorded it as "Ain't That A Shame"; Boone's version hit No. 1 on the pop charts, while Domino's original reached No. 10. The hit record increased Domino's visibility and record sales. (It also happened to be the very first song John Lennon ever learned to play on guitar.) In 1956, Domino had five Top 40 hits, including his cover of Glenn Miller's "Blueberry Hill," which hit No. 2 on the pop charts, Domino's top charting record ever. He cemented this popularity with appearances in two 1956 films, Shake, Rattle & Rock and The Girl Can't Help It; his hit "The Big Beat" was featured on Dick Clark's television show American Bandstand in 1957.
Domino described his songwriting process as taking inspiration from everyday events: "Something that happened to someone, that's how I write all my songs. I used to listen to people talk every day, things would happen in real life. I used to go around different places, hear people talk. Sometimes I wasn't expecting to hear nothin', and my mind was very much on my music. Next thing I'd hear, I would either write it down or remember it good." Domino believed the success of his music came from the rhythm: "You got to keep a good beat.
The rhythm we play is from Dixieland — New Orleans."
After recording an impressive 37 different Top 40 hits for the label, Fats Domino left Imperial Records in 1963 — later claiming "I stuck with them until they sold out" — and joined ABC-Paramount Records, this time without his longtime sidekick Dave Bartholomew. Whether due to the change in sound or because of changing popular tastes, Domino found his music less commercially popular than before. By the time American pop music was revolutionized by the 1964 British Invasion, Domino's reign at the top of the charts had reached its end. He left ABC-Paramount in 1965 and returned to New Orleans to collaborate once again with Dave Bartholomew. The pair recorded steadily until 1970, but only charted with one more single: "Lady Madonna," a cover of a Beatles song that, ironically, had been inspired by Domino's own musical style.
After 1970, Fats Domino rarely left New Orleans, living comfortably with his wife Rosemary and eight children off the royalties from his earlier recordings. He occasionally performed at local concerts, but generally shunned publicity of all kinds. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, but refused to attend the ceremony; likewise, he turned down an invitation to perform at the White House, though he accepted the National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton in 1998.
Despite being urged to leave New Orleans prior to Hurricane Katrina striking New Orleans in 2005, Domino preferred to stay home with his wife, who was in poor health at the time. When the hurricane hit, Domino's house was badly flooded and the legendary musician lost virtually all of his possessions. Many feared that he was dead, but the Coast Guard rescued Domino and his family on September 1, three days into the city's crisis. Domino quickly put the rumors of his demise to rest, releasing the album Alive and Kickin' in 2006. A portion of the recording's sales went to New Orleans' Tipitina's Foundation, which helps local musicians in need.
Katrina had also devastated Domino personally. To raise money for repairs to Domino's home, friends and rock stars alike recorded a charity tribute album, Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino. The likes of Paul McCartney, Robert Plant and Elton John lent their support to the early rock pioneer.
After Katrina, Fats Domino made some public appearances around his home city of New Orleans. One of his concerts was recorded for a PBS documentary, Fats Domino: Walkin' Back to New Orleans, which aired in 2007. A greatest hits album was also released in 2007, allowing a whole new generation to fall for Fats Domino all over again.
In recent years, however, Domino has largely stayed out of the spotlight. He attended a 2009 benefit concert to watch such other musical legends as Little Richard and B.B. King perform, but he stayed off the stage. Now in his eighties, Domino will always be remembered as one of rock's early stars. He also helped break down color barriers, getting white stations to play his songs and playing to racially diverse audiences.