Antoine Dominique "Fats" Domino
Fats Domino "Walkin' Back to New Orleans" this summer
Some time in the summer of 2007, Fats Domino will return to his rebuilt New Orleans home. In effect, Fats will be "Walking to New Orleans".
The Boogie Woogie Boy of "Blueberry Hill" fame was driven out of his beloved home in New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward, an area utterly devastated by the floods of Hurricane Katrina.
Although volunteers including university students are restoring the house, Domino's memorabilia, collected over a lifetime, are gone with the wind.
Tuned in to the radio in August of 2005, Fats who heard that Katrina was headed his way chose to stay at home with his family, due to his wife's poor health.
No force known to man was going to make him risk the health of his soul mate, Rosemary, mother of his eight children.
At last count, Fats, Rosemary and their grandchildren were huddled as a family, stoically waiting out the storm.
News reports in Katrina's immediate aftermath indicated that Domino was dead. Indeed, someone spray-painted this message on his home: "RIP, Fats. You will be missed".
Then on September 1, Domino's agent Al Embry announced that he had not heard from the world famous musician since before Katrina hit.
Things were looking bleak and fans were beginning to talk about it being the end of yet another era.
Later the same day came the happy news on CNN that a U.S.A. helicopter had rescued Domino. His daughter, gospel singer Karen Domino White, identified her famous Dad being picked off the roof of a house in a newspaper photo shown on her television screen.
As things turned out, the Domino family had been taken to a Baton Rouge shelter. It was there that one of the many after-Katrina miracles took place. JaMarcus Russell, the starting quarterback of the Louisiana State University football team--who happens to be Fats' granddaughter's boyfriend--found the family there and took them home. Russell let all the Dominos stay in his bachelor apartment, where they pitched up on couches and floor.
If going home for the Dominos seems a long time in coming, it's because it was. The work to gut and repair Domino's Lower 9th home and office began in January of 2006.
Seeing the once proud mansion as Katrina's rubble would be enough to silence the music of any human heart.
But Fats and family members will make this summer their homecoming of a lifetime.
The best-selling African-American singer of the 1950s and 1960s, Antoine Dominique "Fats" Domino was born February 26, 1928.
The "Fats" nickname that stuck to him from the beginning was intended to describe his voice and not his weight.
National attention came Fats' way back in 1949 with "The Fat Man", said by some to be the first-ever rock and roll record.
"The record, a reworking of "Junker's Blues" by Champion Jack Dupree, was a massive hit, selling over a million copies and peaking at # 2 on the Billboard R&B Charts. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). "It has been estimated that Domino has sold in excess of 110 million records."
"Domino then released a series of hit songs with producer and co-writer Dave Bartholomew, saxophonist, Alvin "Red" Tyler and drummer Earl Palmer. Other notable and long-standing musicians in Domino's band were saxophonist Reggie Houston, Lee Allen and Fred Kemp, who was also Domino's trusted bandleader. Domino finally crossed into the pop mainstream with "Ain't That a Shame" (1955), which hit the Top Ten, although Pat Boone characteristically hit #1 with a milder cover of the song that received wider radio airplay in a segregated era. Domino would eventually release 37 top 40 singles, including "Whole Lotta Loving", "Blue Monday".
"His 1956 up-tempo version of the old song "Blueberry Hill", reached #2 in the Top 40, was #1 on the R&B charts for 11 weeks, and was his biggest hit. The song had earlier been recorded by Gene Autry and Louis Armstrong among many others."
Younger generations may not know that Fats was a movie star in his own right. Fats appeared in two films released back in 1956: "Shake, Rattle & Rock! and "The Girl Can't Help It", considered by many to be the best film ever made on Rock and Roll.
"Walkin' to New Orleans", the 1960 hit written by Bobby Charles, was prophetic given the impact Bad Lady Luck Katrina was to lay on Fats' life in 2005.
Like the other performers of his era, Fats was knocked off the charts in the mid-1960s when the British invasion dominated the tastes of the record-buying public.
Despite its arrival, Fats continued to record steadily until about 1970 and sporadically after that.
In the 1980s, Fats, comfortable through royalties and reinforcing his longtime dislike for touring, announced he was staying put in New Orleans.
Even an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and an invitation to perform at the White House couldn't lure him away from his hometown.
Since then his figure is a familiar sight on the streets of his ‚─˛hood, where he sometimes still tools around town in his signature, bright pink Cadillac.
Fats still knocks 'em dead at yearly appearances at the New Orleans & Heritage Festival and at other strictly local events.
The lovable boogie-woogie boy of Blueberry Hill fame came a long way from the days of tickling the ivories in a smoke filled basement. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #25 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
In the dreams of untold millions, Fats Domino will be "Walkin' to New Orleans" forever.
Fats Domino was honored by the Recording Industry Association of America August 13 with its American Music Legend—only second artist to be given the honor (the first was Johnny Cash). Fats was also given 20 new gold records to replace the ones he lost in Hurricane Katrina in a ceremony held in a nightclub in New Orleans’ French Quarter.