Fats Domino was key to rock n’ roll
Blues legend released the popular musical genre’s first-ever album, writes Christina Horsten
AS A PIONEER of rock ‘n’ roll, blues legend Antoine “Fats” Domino Jr came far from his humble beginnings in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Despite travelling the world and seeing his home wrecked by Hurricane Katrina, he never wanted to leave.
A completely destroyed piano standing in the middle of New Orleans serves as a permanent reminder of what was probably the worst day in the life of Fats Domino.
The instrument, which was wrecked by wind and water during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, is part of a permanent exhibition in the Louisiana State Museum.
The rock ‘n’ roll pioneer reluctantly abandoned his ochre yellow house in the city’s Lower Ninth Ward to flooding in the 2005 natural disaster, as well as many of his possessions – including pianos, gold and platinum albums and pieces of memorabilia collected over his decades-long career.
The legendary New Orleans singer and pianist, whose real name was Antoine Domino Jr, was reported missing for days before he was rescued from the roof of his home by a helicopter as the floodwaters inched higher and higher.
Domino never wanted to leave the Lower Ninth Ward, but was forced to take refuge with his daughter in the city’s Harvey suburb. It was here that he died at the age of 89 and was found by family, the local coroner confirmed.
The singer known for hits like Blueberry Hill and Ain’t That A Shame and My Blue Heaven will be missed by friends, family and multiple generations of musicians who count him as an inspiration.
“He paved the way for so many. I remember listening to his music as a little boy,” US rapper LL Cool J wrote on Twitter.
One of nine children born to a creole family, Domino learned piano from a brother-in-law.
At the age of 14 he left school and worked in a factory so that he could perform in clubs at night.
His breakthrough came at the age of 20 with his debut album The Fat Man, which became an instant best-seller in 1949.
Today it is considered one of the first rock ‘n’ roll albums ever produced, published even before the term rock ‘n’ roll was coined and before singers such as Elvis Presley and Bill Haley made the music popular.
Domino is credited with putting his native New Orleans on the musical map, racking up more record sales that any 1950s rocker except for Elvis, according to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
But as the Rolling Stones and the Beatles came on to the scene, Domino’s star began to fade.
As his chart success dwindled, he reinvented himself by taking to the road and touring the world.
In 1986, he became one of the first musicians to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, alongside icons including Elvis, Chuck Berry, James Brown and Ray Charles.
Soon afterwards he was also recognised by the Blues Hall of Fame, which made him the recipient of a rare double honour.
He raised eight children with his wife Rosemary, who died in 2008.
The musician had a simple recipe for success.
“As far as I know, the music makes people happy,” he said in a television interview. “I know it makes me happy.” – dpa
Musicians Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino and James Brown when they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.