By Bradley Blackwelder, Music Director
Antoine “Fats” Domino, the New Orleans born rock ‘n’ roll pioneer whose music broke racial barriers and influenced countless artists, died on Oct. 24 at the age of 89.
He died from natural causes at his home in Harvey, La., according to Mark Bone, chief investigator with the Jefferson Parish Medical Examiners office in Louisiana.
Alongside his longtime producer and partner, Dave Bartholomew, Domino released his first tune “The Fat Man,” often considered the first rock ‘n’ roll song, in 1949 to positive reception. After that, they recorded a series of songs from 1950 to the early 1960s that quickly raised Domino and his hometown of New Orleans to national prominence. During this time, Domino produced more than three dozen top 40 hits, 11 top 10 hits and 23 gold singles. Among them was “Blueberry Hill,” “I’m Walking” and “Ain’t It a Shame.”
Courtesy of MrRaymem
Domino’s music also had a considerable impact on racial segregation at musical performances and in popular culture. When his work caught on with white audiences, his listeners became progressively more racially integrated.
Through the 1950s, he had numerous crossover hits from the R&B charts, at the time seen as the black charts, to the pop charts which were considered for white artists and audiences. None of his hits ever charted at #1 on the pop charts, meanwhile; white artists such as Pat Boone managed to achieve #1 chart status by playing Fats Domino covers.
As a musician, Domino was almost entirely self-taught and the style that made him popular was derivative of the music he grew up around in New Orleans such as rhythm and blues, ragtime and boogie-woogie. His distinct style was further characterized by his use of triplets, adapted from a tune by Little Willie Littlefield named “It’s Midnight No Place to Go.” Immediately, Domino popularized this technique and it soon became of staple of early rock ‘n’ music.
His influence was widespread among artists, and some of his most popular imitators include Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ricky Nelson and Elvis Presley, the only artist from 1955 to 1960 to surpass Domino in record sales. In 1969 when a reporter referred to Elvis Presley as the king, Presley interrupted him and pointed to Domino, who was present, and said, “There’s the real king of rock ‘n’ roll.”
Courtesy of Sameskylennon