Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Fats Domino (b. 1928) - Blueberry Hill
Antoine Dominique "Fats" Domino (b. February 26, 1928, New Orleans, LA) is an American R&B and rock-and-roll pianist and singer-songwriter.
Domino first attracted national attention with "The Fat Man" in 1949 on Imperial Records. This song is an early rock and roll record, featuring a rolling piano and Domino doing "wah-wah" vocalizing over a strong back beat. It sold over a million copies and is widely regarded as the first rock and roll record to do so.
Fats Domino released a series of hit songs with producer and co-writer Dave Bartholomew, saxophonists Herbert Hardesty and Alvin "Red" Tyler and drummer Earl Palmer. Other notable and long-standing musicians in Domino's band were saxophonists Reggie Houston, Lee Allen, and Fred Kemp, Domino's trusted bandleader. Domino finally crossed into the pop mainstream with "Ain't That a Shame" (1955), which hit the Top Ten, though Pat Boone characteristically hit #1 with a milder cover of the song that received wider radio airplay in a racially-segregated era. Domino would eventually score 37 Top 40 singles.
Domino's first album, Carry on Rockin', was released under the Imperial imprint, #9009, in November 1955 and subsequently reissued as Rock and Rollin' with Fats Domino in 1956.
Combining a number of his hits along with some tracks which had not yet been released as singles, the album went on under its alternate title to reach #17 on the "Pop Albums" chart.
His 1956 up-tempo version of the 1940 Vincent Rose, Al Lewis & Larry Stock song, "Blueberry Hill" reached #2 in the Top 40, was #1 on the R&B charts for 11 weeks, and was his biggest hit.
"Blueberry Hill" sold more than 5 million copies worldwide in 1956-57. The song had earlier been recorded by Gene Autry, and Louis Armstrong among many others. He had further hit singles between 1956 and 1959, including "When My Dreamboat Comes Home" (Pop #14), "I'm Walkin'" (Pop #4), "Valley of Tears" (Pop #8), "It's You I Love" (Pop #6), "Whole Lotta Loving" (Pop #6), "I Want to Walk You Home" (Pop #8), and "Be My Guest" (Pop #8).
Domino appeared in two films released in 1956: Shake, Rattle & Rock! and The Girl Can't Help It.
On December 18, 1957, Domino's hit "The Big Beat" was featured on Dick Clark's American Bandstand.
On November 2, 1956, a riot broke out at Fats Domino's show in Fayetteville, NC, with police resorting to tear gas to break up the unruly crowd. Fats jumped out of a window to avoid the melee; he and two other band members were slightly injured.Fayettevile, NC 11-02-1956
Domino continued to have a steady series of hits for Imperial through early 1962, including "Walkin' to New Orleans" (1960) (Pop #6), co-written by Bobby Charles, and "My Girl Josephine" (Pop #14) from the same year. After Imperial Records was sold to outside interests in early 1963, Domino left the label: "I stuck with them until they sold out", he claimed in 1979.
In all, Domino recorded over 60 singles for the label, placing 40 songs in the top 10 on the R&B charts, and scoring 11 top 10 singles on the pop charts. Twenty-two of Domino's Imperial singles were double-sided hits.
Domino moved to ABC-Paramount Records in 1963. The label dictated that he would record in Nashville rather than New Orleans. He was assigned a new producer (Felton Jarvis) and a new arranger (Bill Justis); Domino's long-term collaboration with producer/arranger/frequent co-writer Dave Bartholomew, who oversaw virtually all of his Imperial hits, was seemingly at an end.
Jarvis and Justis changed the Domino sound somewhat, notably by adding the backing of a countrypolitan-style vocal chorus to most of his new recordings. Perhaps as a result of this tinkering with an established formula, Domino's chart career was drastically curtailed. He released 11 singles for ABC-Paramount, but only had one top 40 entry with Red Sails In The Sunset (1963). By the end of 1964 the British Invasion had changed the tastes of the record-buying public, and Domino's chart run was over.
Despite the lack of chart success, Domino continued to record steadily until about 1970, leaving ABC-Paramount in mid-1965 and recording for a variety of other labels: Mercury, Dave Bartholomew's small Broadmoor label (reuniting with Bartholomew along the way), and Reprise. He also continued as a popular live act for several decades.
In the 1980s, Domino decided he would no longer leave New Orleans, having a comfortable income from royalties and a dislike for touring, and claiming he could not get any food that he liked any place else. His induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and an invitation to perform at the White House failed to persuade Domino to make an exception to this policy.
Fats Domino was persuaded to perform out of town periodically for Dianna Chenevert, agent, founder and president of New Orleans based Omni Attractions, during the 1980s and early 1990s. Most of these engagements were in and around New Orleans, but also included a concert in Texas at West End Market Place in downtown Dallas on October 24, 1986.
On October 12, 1983 USA Today reported that Domino was included in Chenevert's "Southern Stars" promotional poster for the agency (along with historically preserving childhood photographs of other famous living musicians from New Orleans and Louisiana on it).
Fats provided a photograph of his first recording session, which was the only one he had left from his childhood. Domino autographed these posters, whose recipients included USA Today's Gannett president Al Newharth, and Peter Morton founder of the Hard Rock Cafe. Times-Picayune columnist Betty Guillaud noted on September 30, 1987 that Domino also provided Chenevert with an autographed pair of his shoes (and signed a black grand piano lid) for the Hard Rock location in New Orleans.
Domino lived in a mansion in a predominantly working-class Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood, where he was a familiar sight in his bright pink Cadillac automobile. He makes yearly appearances at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and other local events. Domino was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987. In 1998, President Clinton awarded him the National Medal of Arts.
He was acknowledged as an important influence on the music of the 1960's and 1970's by some of the top artists of that era. Paul McCartney reportedly wrote the Beatles song Lady Madonna in an emulation of Domino's style, combining it with a nod to Humphrey Lyttelton's 1956 hit Bad Penny Blues, a record which Joe Meek had engineered.
Domino did manage to return to the Hot 100 charts one final time in 1968 -- with his own recording of Lady Madonna. That recording, as well as covers of two other Beatles songs, appeared on his Reprise LP Fats Is Back, produced by Richard Perry and recorded by a band which included New Orleans piano player James Booker; Domino played piano only on one track, I'm Ready.
Both John Lennon and Paul McCartney later recorded Fats Domino songs. Domino's rhythm, accentuating the offbeat as in the song Be My Guest, was an influence on ska music.
Blueberry Hill is a popular song published in 1940. The music was written by Vincent Rose, the lyrics by Al Lewis and Larry Stock. It was recorded six times in 1940. Victor released the recording by the Sammy Kaye Orchestra with vocals by Tommy Ryan on May 31, 1940 (catalog #26643, with the flip side "Maybe"; matrix #51050). Gene Krupa's version was issued on the Okeh label (#5672) on June 3. Other 1940 recordings were by: Glenn Miller on Bluebird (10768), Kay Kyser, Russ Morgan, Gene Autry (also in the 1941 film The Singing Hill), Connee Boswell, and Jimmy Dorsey.
The largest 1940 hit was Glenn Miller.
Louis Armstrong's 1949 recording charted in the Billboard Top 40. It was an international hit in 1956 for Fats Domino, and has become a rock and roll standard. It reached number two, for three weeks on the Billboard Top 40 charts, becoming his biggest pop hit, and spent eight non-consecutive weeks at number one on the R&B Best Sellers chart.
[8928 Bock / 8928 Domino]