Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Ain't it a shame - Fats Domino has left this Valley of Tears

I must have first heard a Fats Domino record when I was five or so, which means The Big Beat has kept me rocking in my seat (and on my feet, when nobody's looking) for the best part of 60 years...

I paid homage to the great man in August - Fats Domino: ten rays of aural sunshine from a true rock 'n' roll giant - but, luckily, he left us with many more delightfully sunny, life-affirming classics to remember him by, including, of course, "Blueberry Hill", the most famous of them all:

Then there was the bouncy "All by Myself" (1955):

And the wistful, gentle chug of "I Want to Walk You Home", a UK No.1 in 1959:

"I Hear You Knocking" (1961), which was first recorded by Smiley Lewis, another great New Orleans piano-man:

And, from 1962, "Dance with Mr. Domino" (aka "The Domino Twist"), which I'd forgotten all about:

There was the lovely "It Keeps Rainin'" another Top 20 UK hit in 1961:

And yet another 1961 hit, the jaunty "Let the Four Winds Blow", which reached No.2 here, where the Fat Man was always cherished:

For some odd reason, I distinctly remember sitting in a café in Bergen early one morning with my mother and brother, waiting to board the ferry to England, and hearing "Red Sails in the Sunset" (1963) on the jukebox: 

In 1985, Fats teamed up with Cajun fiddler Doug Kershaw to record a great version of Rockin' Sidney's "My Toot Toot":

I'll end with the beautiful 1957 song, "Valley of Tears", which Fats wrote with his long-time producer and bandleader, Dave Bartholomew:  

Rest in Peace, Antoine "Fats" Domino, because, by God, you've earned the right to. You've made  my world a happier place every time I've heard your inimitable voice and the distinctive cling-cling-cling of your piano - thank you so much.

No, dammit, I can't resist the urge to post - yet again - my all-time favourite Fats Domino number, the happiest noise ever committed to vinyl. I'd be very surprised if Fats wasn't greeted at the Pearly Gates with a big smile and the invitation to "Be My Guest":


  1. Wonderful post about a wonderful man.
    His use of orchestral accompaniment in I'm Walking To New Orleans complete with soaring strings is superb.
    Blue Monday kept me going through all my dead end jobs in palookaville

    1. I bought an Oldies but Goodies re-release of "Blue Monday" in New York in 1970. Still got it. Took me 40 years to discover (thanks to the internet) that the word I'd heard, variously, as "street" or "stair" is actually "stand" - that the word before the second "Tuesday" is "hard", and that Antoine is beat to his "socks". I used to find it particularly comforting when suffering from hangovers.

  2. I can still remember the first time I heard the saxophone break in the middle of Be My Guest. It's a tremendous melody all of its own in a great song, which I imagine is why the producer gave it 16 bars and the fade-out at the end. Wonderful stuff.

    On a trivial note, I didn't find out until yesterday that the name Chubby Checker was apparently derived from Fats Domino. I am not sure whether Fats would have felt flattered or aggrieved at the tribute from the man who gave us his cover version of The Twist. Probably a more popular moniker than Semi-Obese Draughts.

    1. I think his record company changed it to Dumpy Draughts - but it still didn't work, so they tried Tubby Tiddleywinks for a while. By the time they switched to Blubbery Backgammon, the singer (real name: Lance Thrust) was confined to a specially-reinforced wheelchair, so, to be fair, it was probably going to need more than a change of name to do the trick.

      The tenor and baritone sax parts on Be My Guest were played by Clarence Ford and Buddy Hagans, and they did a great job. But my favourite Domino sax player was Herb Hardesty, who was with him for almost 60 years. Hardesty died last year at the age of 91 (what was it with Fats Domino and his musicians - some kind of N'Awlins voodoo thing?). Anyway, Hardesty did my own favourite sax solos - Ain't It a Shame, I'm Walkin', Country Boy (a whopping 38") and, the best of the lot, Blue Monday, where he forsook his tenor sax to take over from Lee ("Walkin' with Mr. Lee") Allen on the baritone sax to produce 19" of musical perfection.

      Dave Bartholomew turns '97 in December. This is getting spooky.

  3. "Hello and welcome to Jazz Club. Nice!" Sorry, I could not help myself.

    Can you explain why some of the great black figures from the worlds of jazz and rock start to wear stylish yachting caps in their old age. Apart from Count Basie and Chuck Berry the great Fats Domino always sported a wonderful piece of nautical head-gear.

    A fitting tribute.

  4. To continue SDG's Jazz Club theme, presumably Mr.Gronmark bought "Blue Monday" in Bleecker Street?
    I found some gems there in the 1980's.
    One suspects all those shops selling an astonishing array of vinyl back then have virtually disappeared. Such is life.

  5. Cock Inn Regular1 November 2017 at 10:59

    The Scottish author, Iain Banks, had a view about yachting caps and he mentioned it in one of his novels : "I have a yacht - Ye ought tae see it. It's at the canal , ye can all see it".

    Fats Domino came from a then continuous Black cultural milieu that had earlier produced such prodigious musical talents as Blind Blake :