Fats Domino, the US musician best known for hit songs Blueberry Hill and Ain‘t That A Shame, who was described by Elvis Presley as “the real king of rock ‘n’ roll,” has died in his New Orleans home at the age of 89.
His 1949 debut single “The Fat Man,” which sold a million copies, is widely credited as the world’s first rock and roll record. It was based on Junker’s Blues, originally recorded by Champion Jack Dupree nine years earlier.
However, Domino made the track his own by replacing Dupree’s references to cocaine, reefers and heroin with lyrics lauding instead his own bulk and sexual prowess: “I weigh 200 pounds, all the girls love me, because I know my way around.”
Drawing heavily on boogie-woogie, a style that had by then been prominent since the 1920s, Domino - given his nickname "Fats" as a teenager by bandleader Bill Diamond while playing piano in honky-tonks - was immediately catapulted to stardom.
As rock and roll gathered momentum - Presley had just signed to a major label and Tutti Frutti, by Little Richard, was fast climbing the charts - Domino seized the day and retitled his debut album, originally called “Carry on Rockin’ With Fats Domino,” as “Rock and Rollin’ With Fats Domino.”
It was a prescient move: Domino outsold every rock and roll artist bar Presley himself during the 1950s, and his music is considered to this day one of the most profound influences on the artists who followed in the 1960s and 1970s, including The Beatles.
But despite his hedonistic claims on vinyl, Domino was far from being the wild insurrectionist depicted in his own lyrics. As noted by The Guardian, when a riot broke out during a gig in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the musician squeezed out of a window and promptly fled.
Other fates proved harder to escape. By 1963, a record label that forced Domino to alter his sound by adding slick ‘countrypolitan’ style elements at a Nashville studio ended up inflicting irreparable damage on his recording career.
Although his sound later regained some of its original grit, Domino never really recovered from the debacle. By the 1980s he declined to leave his Louisiana at all, claiming he hated the food everywhere but in his native New Orleans.
But the man born Antoine Domino Jr on 26 Feb. 1928 to French-Creole parents, one of whom was a violinist, did not slip into obscurity. In 1986, he became one of the very first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has since sold more than 65 million records.
Fellow New Orleans native Harry Connick Jr was among the many celebrities who paid tribute to the passing legend, tweeting: “RIP fats domino... you helped pave the way for new orleans piano players... see you on top of that blueberry hill in the sky.”
Domino’s death was confirmed by an official from the New Orleans coroner's office, having earlier been announced by the musician’s daughter via a local television station.