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Fats Domino: Birthday Doc

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It's hard today to fully appreciate the innovation and influence of Fats Domino. Back in the spring of 1952, Domino already had three hits on the R&B chart and was about to have his first No. 1 with Going Home. Up until Fats, R&B in the post-war years was largely a “jump blues" affair, powered by the success of Lionel Hampton and Louis Jordan and followed up by at the end of the 1940s by “wild man" saxophonists like “Big Jay" McNeely, Red Prysock and Joe Houston. In essence, Fats combined blues shouting with a unique strolling boogie-woogie piano style and cherubic joy at the keyboard. His gentle personality, rollicking music and soft, insistent vocals worked its way under your skin.

Tomorrow night, on Fats' 88th birthday, PBS will broadcast American Masters: Fats Domino and the Birth of Rock 'n' Roll from 10 to 11 p.m. on the East Coast (check local listings). Be sure to tape it. For more information, go here. [Photo above of Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew, Franck-Bertacci Collection] 

I still remember traveling to New Orleans in 2011 to interview Fats for the Wall Street Journal. At one point I asked him to use the back of my hand as a keyboard and tap the signature triplets he played for so many decade on the piano. I wanted to feel what that beat felt like. Needless to say, the tempo and his touch were electrifying. To read my WSJ interview, go here.

Here's a promo for the documentary...



Here are some of my favorite clips:

Here's Ain't That a Shame from the film Shake, Rattle & Rock! (1956), with Earl Palmer on drums.



Here's Fats on David Letterman in 1988 singing I'm in Love Again...

 

Here's Fats on Live From Austin, TX singing Blue Monday...

 

Here's Fats on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1956 singing Blueberry Hill...

    Here's Fats in the film Jamboree (1957) singing Just Wait and See...

    And here's 44 minutes of Fats in Paris in 1962 (that's Dave Bartholomew on trumpet)...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.

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