by TRN Staff Writers
For the second day in a row, the world is mourning the loss of an entertainment icon. On Tuesday, the world bid a sad farewell to a star of the stage and screen–Robert Guillaume who died from cancer. On the heels of that loss, later in the same day, more heartbreak with the death of rock n’ roll pioneer and R&B legend Fats Domino.
The New Orleans native died in his home state of Louisiana late Tuesday of natural causes. In his musical career, Domino had 35 songs to hit the Top 40 on Bilboard and eleven songs to hit the top ten.
Domino rose to fame in the early 50’s and recorded what some call the first rock n’ roll record to top a million copies sold with his “The Fat Man”. But his life of performing started years before while Domino was just a boy. At age 14 Domino was already playing piano at area bars. By 1949, the kid whose talent on the keyboard made him a local legend caught the attention of Imperial Records execs who signed Domino to the label. Though it was his brilliance on the keyboard that opened the door for him, music execs soon realized that Domino’s voice was a treasure as well.
Domino’s versatile background in Jazz, Rock n’ Roll and R&B made him one of the most sought after entertainers of his time. By 1955, Domino was earning as much as $10k a week with a sound that reached across racial divides. His “Ain’t That a Shame” crossed over into the pop genre and his sound became mainstream. Other hits like “I’m Walkin’, “Valley of Tears” and “Walking to New Orleans” kept Domino on the top of music charts and lead to his being the second highest record seller in the 50’s behind Elvis Presley.
Domino’s biggest hit”Blueberry Hill” reached No. 2 on Billboard and stayed there for almost three months. His popularity on the charts opened the door to a couple of appearances on the big screen in two films including 1956’s “Shake, Rattle & Rock!” For well over a decade, Domino ruled the airwaves and the top of the charts, but in the early 60s all of that changed. His record label sold out and Domino moved to ABC-Paramount Records. The new label tried to change Domino’s sound. His music wasn’t the only change, recording in Nashville instead of his home of Louisiana as well as new producers stripped away Domino’s unique sound. Even though he kept making records, only one managed to crack the top 40, but the lack of new hits didn’t curb the singer’s popularity and remained in demand to perform on TV and in concerts.
Even though his latter years produced fewer hits, Domino’s legacy had already been established. He was one of the first musicians inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and he was the recipient of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
When Hurricane Katrina hit his home of New Orleans in 2005, Domino refused to force his wife Rosemary who was in poor health to leave. His neighborhood was hit hard by flooding and he and his wife eventually had to be rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter. The couple survived, but the singer said, “We’ve lost everything“. The singer discovered that some things could be replaced—then President George W. Bush made a personal visit to see the singer to hand deliver a replacement of his National Medal of Arts that had been washed away in the floods.
Domino was described as a quiet, humbled man who once said that his joy was using music to bring joy to others. His sound has influenced generations of singers and musicians in all genres of music. Even though Domino the man is no longer with us, his spirit will continue to resound in the voices of singers and the keys of pianists.
We hear at TRN wish to extend our most sincere sympathies to the family, friends and fans of Antoine ‘Fats” Domino. May he rest in peace.