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The Fat Man

Good to be King

By King Harris

“There he is,” declared Elvis Presley at one of his later concerts. “There’s the real king of rock and roll.”

Elvis was pointing to a distinguished gentleman in the audience, acknowledging the presence of Antoine Dominique Domino, Jr, otherwise known as Fats, whose boogie-woogie New Orleans piano and Creole vocal style had dominated the pop and R&B charts throughout the 50’s and 60’s.

Elvis was right. Fats wasn’t just a balladeer; he was indeed a true rocker. Dig this from 1959:

“Well, I’m ready I’m willin’ and I’m able to rock and roll all night
I’m ready I’m willin’ and I’m able to rock and roll all night
Come on pretty, baby
We gonna rock we gonna roll until the broad daylight

Because I’m ready um-um-hm and I’m able um-um-hm
I’m willin’ and I’m able so, you better come and go with me

We gonna rock n’ roll ‘till tomorrow ‘bout three.
Talkin’ on the phone is not my speed
Don’t send me no letter ‘cause I can’t read
Don’t be long ‘cause I be gone
We gonna’ rock n’ roll all night long.”

Two of the best lines in rock: talkin’ on the phone is not my speed, don’t send me no letter because I can’t read. Whenever I played the juke box, the last thing I wanted to do was read.

Fats, who got his moniker from his bandleader, started playing piano at a young age in a style fashioned after other New Orleans’ keyboard greats like Professor Longhair and Albert Ammons.

His first hit was in 1950; it was more than a million seller.

“They call, they call me the fat man ‘cause I weight two hundred pounds
All the girls they love me, ‘cause I know my way around
I was standin’, I was standin’ on the corner of Rampart and Canal
I was watchin’, watchin’ watchin’ all these creole gals.

It’s difficult to believe that that record filled with horns, bass and drums could be produced in such a tiny recording studio (Cosimo Matassas’ to be exact) that shaped nearly all the hits coming out of New Orleans for the next 20 years.

Fats used the same band and studio for his first Top-40 hit:

“You made, me cry, when you said, good-bye, ain’t that a shame?
My tears fell like rain, ain’t that a shame?
You’re the one to blame.

You broke, my heart, when you said, we’ll part,
Ain’t that a shame?
My tears fell like rain
Ain’t that a shame?
You’re the one to blame.

Farewell, good-bye, although I’ll cry
Ain’t that a shame?
My tears fell like rain
Ain’t that a shame? You’re the one to blame.”

Fat’s version reached No. 10. Pat Boone’s cover hit No. 1. It was only a matter of time before teens of any color went after the real deal. Which they did after hearing the standard Blueberry Hill in the Domino style:

“I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill
On Blueberry Hill, when I found you.

The moon stood still
On Blueberry Hill
And lingered until my dreams came true.

The wind in the willow
Played love’s sweet melody
But all of those vows you made were never to be

Though we’re apart, you’re part of me still
Ror you were my thrill
On Blueberry Hill.”

One of my Fats favorites is the bouncy, “I’m Walking::

“I’m walking, yes indeed, I’m talking ‘bout you and me
I’m hoping, that you’ll come back to me
I’m lonely, as I can be, I’m waiting for you company
I’m hoping, that you’ll come back to me

What you gonna do when the well runs dry?
You’re gonna run away and hide
I’m gonna run right by your side
For you pretty baby I’d even die

I’m walking, yes indeed, I’m talking ‘bout you and me
I’m hoping, that you’ll come back to me.”

Fats Domino’s chart appearances waned in the early 60s, but the Beatles’ Lady Madonna in 1968 paved the way for a new Fat’s platter, which covered the Beatle’s hit on a new album called “Fats Is Back.”

He survived Hurricane Katrina, losing everything in that storm, and participated in fund-raising efforts for victims. Fats Domino died Oct. 24 at 89. Ain’t that a shame…

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