Dominos "The Fat Man" called 1st rock and roll record

Browse Song Catalog: BMI

Antoine Domino


Five million sellers before 1955 and 35 Top 40s

Antoine Domino Jr., who brought a richness all its own to the music known as rock and roll, was born in New Orleans on February 26, 1928, and ever since, through his first 70 years, he has remained a member of the Crescent City's musical elite.

One of eight children in the Domino clan, Fats, as he came to be called, followed the musical lead of his father, a violinist and an uncle, a horn player. At a very young age, he showed an interest in an old upright piano that a cousin had left with the family for safe-keeping, and soon he was playing it well enough to become a very young keyboardist in local honky tonks. As a teenager he took a factory job but continued playing piano whenever he had the chance. He was a regular at The Hideaway, a local music spot, where he was noticed by a trumpeter named Dave Bartholomew, who offered him an opportunity to sit in with his band one evening. Domino jumped at the chance. Soon, the new Domino-Bartholomew songwriting partnership was born and would prove to be one of the most successful from the earliest years of the Rock N’ Roll era.

Together, they created a new sound with new musical accents and produced some extremely memorable rock and roll hit songs as well. Their first collaboration was on the song "The Fat Man" in 1949, followed by several other distinctive and memorable collaborations including: "Ain't That a Shame," "All by Myself," "Bo Weevil," "Going to the River," "I'm Walkin”," "I'm in Love Again," "My Girl Josephine," "Walking to New Orleans" and "Whole Lotta Loving." "The Fat Man" was recorded in a post war blues style known then as "jump blues." Typical jump bands featured a strong rhythm section of piano, bass and drums with a singer or saxophonist, and sometimes both, up front.

The piano, interestingly, became almost a percussion voice in a style similar to that of Cuban bands in vogue at the time. Domino's musical signature, however, drew less on Latin flavors and more from a cross-section of different elements familiar in New Orleans. His music borrowed from the rich musical backdrop of the city-cajun blues and zydeco, the creole accent in the vocal style and the overriding French influence, still a dominant force in the music culture of the region. Fats Domino was the foremost exponent of the resultant rocking blend of the truly distinctive styles of the midfifties.

Recording man, Lew Chudd, was brought to the club, The Hideaway, by Dave Bartholomew to see Fats Domino and immediately signed him to his label, Imperial Records. There were many rhythm and blues hits, but in 1955, the white market also began to catch on to the phenomenon that was Fats Domino. The first major crossover recording was "Ain't That a Shame," which later also opened the doors to a movie career, with appearances in "The Girl Can't Help It" and "Jamboree." The movie successes sparked one-nighters throughout the nation, a virtually unending series of them, including engagements with other rock and roll heroes like Danny and the Juniors and Jerry Lee Lewis at the vaunted New York Paramount Theater in Times Square.

During this later period in his burgeoning career, Fats Domino continued his songwriting, this time on his own, without benefit of collaborator. Among the important and lasting output of this period were "I Want to Walk You Home," "Please Don't Leave Me," "Three Nights a Week," "Be My Guest" and "Goin' Home."

Domino remains a principal musical spokesman for a distinctive adjunct of the rock and roll literature, with jumping songs and recordings emblematic of the great culture of New Orleans.

Honored with National Medal of the Arts in 1998




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Material and Memorabilia:

All material provided in the Fats Domino exhibit is courtesy of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.