AKA Antoine Dominique Domino, Jr.
Birthplace: New Orleans, LA
Location of death: Harvey, LA
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Providence Memorial Park, Metairie, LA
Race or Ethnicity: Black
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Singer/Songwriter, Pianist
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Ain't That A Shame
The most visible black performer of the 1950s and one of the originators of what would become rock and roll, Antoine "Fats" Domino began to develop his musical skills at a very early age, learning to play the piano from his brother-in-law Harrison Verrett on an age-worn upright owned by his parents. Many of the members of his French-speaking, New Orleans-based family were involved in music, and by the time he was 10 it was clear that Fats was headed that direction himself; at the age of 14 -- having dropped out of school and taken a factory day-job to support himself -- he was already working professionally on the thriving local club circuit. The young performer quickly attracted a sizable following with his blend of blues and boogie, and by 1949 was an established, popular attraction at the Hideaway Club, where he was leading his own band three nights a week.
The turning point for Domino's career came about in that year and at that club, when he was introduced to established trumpeter/performer Dave Bartholomew. Bartholomew had been enlisted as a talent scout by the Los Angeles-based Imperial Records label, and was well aware of Domino's growing popularity; after taking label owner Lew Chudd to see one of the Hideaway Club performances, a contract with the label was quickly arranged. Recording sessions were undertaken in December, during which eight tracks were completed -- amongst them Domino's signature tune The Fat Man, the traditional creole "good luck" song Hey La Bas, Hide Away Blues and the Bartholomew composition Boogie Woogie Baby. The release of Fat Man in 1950 was met with enthusiastic sales, pushing it up to the #2 slot in the R&B charts. Over the next couple years, songs like Every Night About This Time (1950), Goin' Home (which reached #1 in 1952) and Going To The River (also 1953) maintained his popularity and chart presence.
During this period, Domino and Bartholomew maintained a productive songwriting partnership, with Bartholomew also handling production duties for their sessions. In 1955 this partnership reached its peak, placing Domino back at the top of the R&B charts while also giving him a rare break into the mainstream pop top 10 with the song Ain't That a Shame (a song subsequently covered by honky crooner Pat Boone, who took it to #1). The duo continued to churn out hit songs throughout the rest of the decade, several of which were updated versions of old classics that have since eclipsed the original performances: My Blue Heaven (a big band favorite from the 1930's), When My Dreamboat Comes Home (previously recorded by Bing Crosby), and Blueberry Hill (originally performed by Gene Autry, but formerly a hit for both Louis Armstrong and Glenn Miller). Domino's charismatic stage presence was then captured for posterity in 1957 when he appeared in the rock and roll showcase/Jayne Mansfield jiggle-a-thon The Girl Can't Help It.
By the start of the 1960s, Fats Domino's golden era as a recording artist had ended. After his contract with Imperial expired in 1962, he was lured to ABC-Paramount by the offer of an extravagant sum of money, but his chart success evaporated almost immediately: the producers at ABC shipped the singer to Nashville and gave his songs the lavish, string-drenched treatment that was typical of the "Nashville sound" at the time, effectively alienating his rock and roll following while failing to find a new audience. A few songs still managed to creep into the top 40 during the early 60s (such as his version of Red Sails In The Sunset, 1963), but by the onslaught of the British Invasion at the end of '63, Domino's prominence in the recording industry had declined. Ironically, his final entry into the charts would be a 1968 cover of The Beatles' Lady Madonna -- a song with which Paul McCartney had made a conscious attempt to imitate Domino's distinctive style.
Regardless of the fate of his recording career, Fats Domino continued to be a popular live attraction across the decades that followed, and he is widely recognized as a pioneer in the field of popular music. In 1986 he was picked as one of the first 10 inductees for the inaugural year of the Rock and Roll hall of Fame, and the following year he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 30th annual Grammy ceremony. New studio releases essentially ceased to appear after the 1960s, and the most recent exception has been a collection of Christmas songs (including a couple original compositions) issued in 1993 under the title Christmas Gumbo; however, numerous live collections have been regularly issued through a wide variety of corporate and independent labels. In 2005, Domino received a brief flurry of publicity when his fate in the wake of Hurricane Katrina remained uncertain for several days: the singer and his wife had both refused to evacuate their New Orleans home before the storm hit, but it was eventually discovered that both had been rescued by helicopter after the area was overrun by the ensuing flood.
Father: Antoine Domino, Sr. (d.)
Wife: Rose Mary Hall (m. 1948, d. 2008, four sons, four daughters)
Son: Antoine Domino III
Daughter: Antoinette Domino Smith
Daughter: Karen Domino White (vocalist, born out of wedlock)
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 1986
Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, 1987
National Medal of Arts Nov-1998
Hollywood Walk of Fame 6616 Hollywood Blvd (recordings)
Risk Factors: Obesity
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Twist (19-Sep-1992) · Himself
Let the Good Times Roll (25-May-1973) · Himself
The Big Beat (Feb-1958) · Himself
Jamboree (1957) · Himself
The Girl Can't Help It (1-Dec-1956) · Himself
Shake, Rattle & Rock! (Nov-1956) · Himself
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