Music legend and icon Fats Domino died at his home in Harvey, Louisiana, across the Mississippi River from New Orleans Tuesday at age 89. He was born on Feb. 26, 1928, the youngest of eight children in a family with Creole roots. He grew up in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, where he spent most of his life.
Domino was so admired by Elvis Presley, that when Elvis appeared before the cameras at a 1969 Las Vegas press conference in regard to returning to perform live on stage after years of making movies, he brought his hero along.
“When a reporter referred to Elvis as the ‘King of Rock ’n’ Roll’ at the press conference following his 1969 Las Vegas opening, he rejected the title, as he always did, calling attention to the presence in the room of his friend Fats Domino, ‘one of my influences from way back,’” noted Craig Philo, a music researcher and historian from Sheppey, in Kent, U.K. “He often paid homage to Fats recognizing no one could sing those songs like he did.”
In a June 2004 interview, Domino said he “first met Elvis Presley in Las Vegas. When I was playing at the Flamingo Hotel I went to his room and played for him. He used to call me ‘Mr. Blueberry Hill.’ I remember him telling me, ‘You know, Fats, I’m opening up tomorrow but when I first came here I flopped.’ I guess the first time he didn’t do good at all. But after he got back there it was all gold, ’cause I was working there too, and every night it was sold out. Boy, he could sing. He could sing spirituals, country and western, everything he sang I liked. Elvis Presley did a lot before he passed. He made movies, he was traveling, everything. I don’t see how he did it; you’d have to stay up day and night.”
Domino was noted by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as the “pianist, singer and songwriter (who) ultimately sold more records (65 million) than any Fifties-era rocker except Elvis Presley. Between 1950 and 1963, he made Billboard’s pop chart 63 times and its R&B chart 59 times. Incredible as it may seem, Fats Domino scored more hit records than Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Buddy Holly put together. His best-known songs include “Ain’t That a Shame,” “Blueberry Hill” and “I’m Walkin’.”
ELVIS on FATS DOMINO
Elvis appreciated Antoine Domino’s influences to American music. Domino never forgot Presley’s kindness and contributions. In 1986, Fats remembered Elvis during the inaugural Rock and Roll of Fame Induction. Elvis and Fats were honored along with Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, James Brown, Little Richard, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke and the Everly Brothers.
In Nov. 2010, Fats and his long-time collaborator Dave Bartholomew, were acknowledge by the Hall of Fame for their contribution to the music. Elvis often commented that Fats and Dave were making Rock n’ Roll music before the term was ever coined. Dave’s son, Don Bartholomew was recently quoted as saying that Domino’s music and singing influenced Presley.
“The way Fats sang was all original; there was Cajun there, a kind of French accent to it,” Bartholomew said. “It’s hard to copy, but if you listen to some of Elvis’s records, where words are kind of shortened — that’s from Fats, I think.”
Domino’s contributions to rock ’n’ roll includes such other songs as “Walkin’ to New Orleans,” “All By Myself,” “Bo Weevil,” “Don’t Blame It On Me,” “Every Night About This Time,” “Let The Four Winds Blow,” “Going To The River,” “My Girl Josephine,” “I’m In Love Again,” “Please Don’t Leave Me,” “Poor Me,” “So Long,” “Something’s Wrong,” and “Whole Lotta Loving.”