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Fats Domino – February 26, 1928 – October 24, 2017

One of the true pioneers of R&R. Fats was New Orleans, lived there, and was symbolic of the emergence of Southern R&B. Remember seeing him perform after Katrina, as he lived in the same house in NOLA. He was heartbroken. He was an institution in the City, and I hope they give him a real NOLA Homecoming!

Fats Domino, Architect Of Rock And Roll, Dead At 89

Fats in 1967

Fats Domino, one of the architects of rock ‘n’ roll, died yesterday at 89 years old at his daughter’s suburban New Orleans home. Haydee Ellis, a family friend, confirmed the news to NPR. Mark Bone, chief investigator for the Jefferson Parish Coroner’s office, tells NPR Domino died of natural causes.

In the 1940s, Antoine Domino, Jr. was working at a mattress factory in New Orleans and playing piano at night. Both his waistline and his fanbase were expanding. That’s when a bandleader began calling him “Fats.” From there, it was a cakewalk to his first million-selling record — “The Fat Man.” It was Domino’s first release for Imperial Records, which signed him right off the bandstand.

Producer, songwriter, arranger and bandleader Dave Bartholomew was there. He described the scene in a 1981 interview now housed at the Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University. “Fats was rocking the joint,” Bartholomew said. “And he was sweating and playing, he’d put his whole heart and soul in what he was going, and the people was crazy about him — so that was it. We made our first record, ‘The Fat Man,’ and we never turned around.”

Between 1950 and 1963, Fats Domino hit the R&B charts a reported 59 times, and the pop charts a rollicking 63 times. He outsold Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly — combined. Only Elvis Presley moved more records during that stretch, but Presley cited Domino as the early master.

So how did a black man with a fourth-grade education in the Jim-Crow South, the child of Haitian Creole plantation workers and the grandson of a slave, sell more than 65 million records?

Domino could “wah-wah-waaaaah” and “woo-hooo!” like nobody else in the whole wide world — and he made piano triplets ubiquitous in rock ‘n’ roll. “Blueberry Hill,” for example, was not Domino’s own song — it was first published in 1940 and had already been recorded by the likes Glenn Miller, Gene Autry and Louis Armstrong — but Domino’s version in 1956, complete with those right-hand triplets, was unforgettable.

Jon Cleary is a piano player who has devoted most of his life to the New Orleans sound. “The triplets thing,” he says, “that was one of the building blocks of New Orleans R&B. And that’s really the famous Fats Domino groove. Everybody knows that.”

And then there was Dave Bartholomew. He and engineer Cosimo Matassa perfected a rhythm-heavy sound in Matassa’s studio that was the envy of rock ‘n’ roll. “Blueberry Hill” may have been Domino’s biggest hit, but Bartholomew wrote Domino’s favorite: “Blue Monday.”

“Blue Monday” had other levels of meaning in Domino’s career. In the 1950s, the birth of rock ‘n’ roll was hard labor. Social critics called the music vulgar. Jim Crow laws segregated Domino’s audiences, sometimes with only a rope. And the combination of racial tension and teenage hormones at concerts proved violent: bottle throwing, tear gas, stabbings and arrests.

Fats Domino’s biographer, Rick Coleman, says that there was a real disjunction between that era and the work that Domino was producing. “It was not an easy time period, even though the music was beautiful and joyful,” he observes. “It was a hard birth.”

By 1960, Domino’s audience was overwhelmingly white. In South Carolina, the Ku Klux Klan gave his band directions — by the light of a burning cross. The late saxophone player Herbert Hardesty was driving the Domino bus on that occasion.

“So I had to make it tight,” Hardesty recounted. “In about five minutes, I came to Ku Klux Klan. They said, ‘Well, where’s Fats Domino?’ I said, ‘He’s not here.’ They said, ‘What are you guys doing?’ I said, ‘I’m lost, I’m trying to get back to the highway.’ And they were very nice — the Ku Klux Klan treated us very nice!”

The British Invasion sent nearly every American performer tumbling down the charts. And yet longtime confidante Haydee Ellis says that Domino wouldn’t change a note. “He said, ‘When I play,” she explains, “‘I want the people to hear exactly what they’re used to hearing on the record.’ And eventually, that was one of the things that made him reluctant to play, let’s say. He was afraid that he would, you know, mess up a word or whatever.”

Domino toured for many years, but eventually settled into life at his compound in the Lower Ninth Ward, cooking loads of hog’s headcheese for his many friends. Then came Hurricane Katrina — and everybody thought Fats was dead.

“When Katrina came,” Ellis gasps, “Oh, Lord! Fats would say he wanted to leave, but he said, ‘What kind of man would I be if I left my family? They don’t want to leave.'”

The family survived. Domino lived out the post-Katrina years in a suburb of New Orleans with one of his eight children. But his house still stands on Caffin Avenue, in the Lower Ninth Ward, and has been restored in recent years. It’s a reminder of the greatness that the neighborhood once produced, of the golden age of New Orleans music — and of what a fat man can do.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2017 in Music, From Way Back When to Now

 

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Fats Domino’s Piano, Like NOLA After Katrina -Still Has a Ways to Come Back

Worked on the post-Katrina recovery efforts in NOLA and Mississippi. The flooding not only killed the houses and infrastructure, but threatened to kill the spirit of a city whose residents were used to adversity.The story 10 years after is one of gradual rebuilding, but how do you knit the spirit of the town’s communities back together when so many are gone? The even bigger question though in my mind – is if we can’t even get it right in America, right in our own back yard…How exactly can we get it right anywhere else?

In terms of the Fat man’s pianos, one black, one white – one working fully, one not restore-able…Seems like a reflection of the whole city 10 years after.

The Piano That Can’t Play a Tune

If you could see Fats Domino’s piano today—white and gleaming on a pedestal at the Louisiana State Museum in the Old U.S. Mint in New Orleans’ French Quarter—you might think he had been kind enough to donate one of his signature grands to the museum for its music collection. That is, if you were unaware of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago, including Domino’s home on Caffin Street in the largely obliterated neighborhood known as the “Lower Nine,” where the white Steinway once held pride of place in Domino’s living room.

Submerged in nine feet of water from a massive breach in the nearby Industrial Canal, it sat for weeks in the fetid lake that covered 80 percent of New Orleans after Katrina. Curators from the Louisiana State Museum raised $35,000 to have it reassembled and restored, and it now sits beneath a spotlight in an exhibit room as if waiting for Domino himself to sit down and play it. At the dedication ceremony in 2013, Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardanne said, “His beautiful grand piano, fully restored, will serve as the perfect symbol for Louisiana’s resilient nature and ever-evolving musical heritage.”

Well, no and yes. Despite the painstaking restoration, the white grand piano is unplayable. It is this last fact that makes the story of this instrument such a powerful metaphor for New Orleans since Katrina. It is a tale about persistence in the face of government neglect, cataclysmic disaster, and the painful incompleteness of reconstruction. More particularly, it is a lesson about the importance of preserving the material remains of the city’s past even as it focuses on the future.

These objects—some partly restored, some not—are all the more important in light of the city’s record of demolition of many significant musical landmarks, despite the recent efforts of preservation groups to turn the tide. Louis Armstrong’s birthplace, for example, was torn down in the 1960s to build a city jail. Other jazz landmarks are in grave disrepair.

The history of New Orleans music had an additional vulnerability before Katrina: The homes of the city’s musicians and writers held much of the city’s musical heritage. Letters, handwritten scores, photographs, cocktail napkins, matchbooks, and musical instruments were under the beds and in the attics of working musicians and their descendants. Most of Michael White’s enormous collection of artifacts from early jazz musicians—some 50 clarinets, reams of sheet music, reeds and mouthpieces, and taped interviews with musicians—is gone. White’s house near the London Avenue Canal in Lakeview took in water up to the roof. The only things salvaged by volunteers were some of his clarinets. “They looked like bodies,” White told me. “And the ones that were in cases looked like bodies in coffins. They weren’t really about me, they symbolized New Orleans history and culture and the present state of the culture.”

Tending to the artifacts the storm left behind, as White did, can feel restorative. And it is not the same as choosing property over people, something that does not bode well in New Orleans. “The black working class in New Orleans,” the historian George Lipsitz wrote in Katrina’s aftermath, “has long refused to concede that white property is more important than black humanity.” After the storm, neighborhood traditions like the parading of Mardi Gras Indians persisted, despite and because of the challenges of rebuilding those communities. But the preservation of cultural artifacts after Katrina, such as Domino’s piano, was something of a different job.

As show-stopping as Domino’s white Steinway grand is, it is the opposite of the first piano he played, acquired by his family in the 1930s. That piano, Domino told his biographer, was “so beat up that you could see the rusted metal through the ivory, it had been played so hard.” According to the authors of Up From the Cradle of Jazz: “The Ninth Ward blues built off of pianos and horns.” There was an old upright in just about every small music club in the Lower Ninth Ward. The white piano, on the other hand, was not even Domino’s regular instrument. Instead, it was the one that greeted visitors to the house on Caffin Street and was a favored backdrop for family photographs. The glorious grand piano testified to his rise from a part-time musician and factory worker to one of the founding fathers of rock ‘n’ roll.

Domino’s upbringing in the Lower Ninth Ward, surrounded by his Creole relatives, inflected his music. His father was descended from French-speaking African Americans who lived as enslaved and then freedpeople in Louisiana’s sugar parishes. Like many Louisiana Creoles, black and white, they had roots in Haiti. When the Dominos arrived in the Lower Nine, the neighborhood was still mostly rural, with unpaved streets, farm animals, and scarce electricity and indoor plumbing. In a recent radio show devoted to Domino, writer Ben Sandmelobserved the artist’s “Caribbean vocal style” in songs like “My Blue Heaven.” “It’s almost like he’s an English as a second language speaker. It’s a very thick regional accent,” Sandmel said. “If you listen to oral histories of people [from the Lower Nine] who recorded around that time there are a lot of thick accents and a lot of French-isms in the speech.” …The rest here

 

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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin Pays Homage to Fats Domino

If you don’t think American R&B Music has gone around the world – check out this performance by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin –

Good job, but don’t quit your day job, Mr. Prime Minister!!

Putin Croons in English for Hollywood Stars

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2010 in News

 

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