Lori Lieberman is best known for her song “Killing Me Softly” written during her Troubadour days in Los Angeles when she saw the legendary Don McLean in concert. Lori Lieberman was born in California, but raised in Switzerland. She was influenced by Francoise Hardy, Tom Rush, Cat Stevens and other American singer-songwriters. Lori Lieberman went on to attend University in Boston and signed her very first record deal with Capitol Records. Lori Lieberman toured the United States with artists like Randy Newman, Billy Joel, Leonard Cohen, John B. Sebastian and Rick Nelson. Her most recent and fourteenth album is entitled “Bend Like Steel.” The CD features songs Lieberman wrote along with songs others wrote like Paul Simon’s “Cecilia.” Lori Lieberman is a part of the great American songwriting tradition. It is a pleasure to welcome her on The Paul Leslie Hour and to take a look at her music.
Susanne Rostock is a filmmaker who has been defined as an aural and visual poet. Susanne Rostock wrote and directed the documentary film SING YOUR SONG, which tells the untold story of singer, actor and activist Harry Belafonte.
We are proud to welcome a guitarist, singer-songwriter and session musician from Southern California. Brian Ray may be most known for his work as the lead and rhythm guitarist and sometime bassist for Paul McCartney, but he has also released two solo albums. “Mondo Magneto” was released in 2006 and most recently in 2010, he has released his sophomore album “This Way Up.”
Gina Belafonte was born and raised in New York City. Her background is in entertainment and activism, something she shares with her father Harry Belafonte. Harry Belafonte is known around the world for popularizing songs like Day-O, Jamaica Farewell, Jump in the Line, Matilda and many others as well as his acting and activism.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s our pleasure to welcome our special guest, Gina Belafonte. Thank you so much for joining us.
My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
The film is Sing Your Song and you’re the producer of it. Tell us about how the idea for this film originated.
I had, uh, certain questions of my own in terms of my father’s participation in the civil rights movement as I witnessed him having events and the absence from my earlier years. My daughter was turning seven and my brother was about to have his first child, and I also thought that they would never have an opportunity to know the depth of his participation. So that culminated in me asking him if he would embark upon a journey to document his life. After I saw a documentary on the life of Gregory Peck that was done by his daughter, who was a friend of mine that I was inspired by, I asked him. And I think, for him, he was beginning to lose certain friends of his to old age and felt that their stories would potentially die with them if there wasn’t someone who was mentioning them and documenting them a bit. He wanted to do that in our film and so we embarked on the journey together about seven years ago.
Is there a part in the film Sing Your Song that is a favorite part of the film?
That’s an interesting question. There’s many parts of the film that I love. I love the whole film (laughs) so much, of course but I love the early footage of his shows that he produced. I find them to be very forward-thinking and interesting, culturally, for the American television repertoire which we don’t really have nowadays on television. Such interesting shows like the ones that he produced that I think were inspiring for shows like Laugh In and other comedy shows or other variety shows. I think a moment that was most chilling or surprising to me was when he interviewed Martin Luther King on The Tonight Show and asked him if he feared for his life. That was a very strong moment for me. But all of it, I love all of it. You know, I’m a big fan of my dad’s so watching him perform is a great honor for me, especially because he doesn’t do it anymore. So to be able to see some of that old footage is quite wonderful.
Was there anything in the film through the process of creating it that was a surprise to you, that you didn’t know?
I knew that my father gave money to the movement all the time and often. I didn’t know the proximity to him going down to Mississippi to give that money so soon after Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney had been murdered. I also, strangely enough, didn’t realize even though it’s obviously documented – I had no recollection that Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination was so soon after Martin Luther King’s so that was kind of an interesting observation. We had close to 800 hours and there’s probably a good 700-and-some of the hours that I’m not in the film so there were surprises all along the journey in making it, and so no one thing stands out so much to me at this moment because every time I watch I find something new. Even though I made it and I watched edit after edit after edit after edit, I get new revelations every time I see it.
What has been the reaction from people who have seen this film, Sing Your Song?
The reaction has been overwhelmingly consistent internationally, which has been a real wonderful gift for us and what we had hoped that people would walk away from the film with, which is – the question, in fact, that my father asks at the end of it which is ‘What do you do now?’ And also, I think that it inspires an inner activism within us all, and a desire to contribute more and give back more to our communities in different ways that we can. I think also, everyone has requested us to make sure that we find a way in which we can get the film out to as many people as possible and especially to the youth of today, to young people so they get an opportunity to see it. And for it travel to schools and to create teaching curriculums around it. So that is something that we’re looking into and putting a concerted effort into trying to create. But it’s been a very positive, positive, positive reaction and that’s great. And many people have been requesting that we find ways in which to show it to the people who are occupying Wall Street. I was just in Canada with the film, in Vancouver where they’re beginning to occupy Vancouver and they were also requesting ways in which that we could bring the film to people who are just sort of sitting out in protest, in the open air.
Tell us about The Gathering for Justice.
The Gathering for Justice was inspired by my father after witnessing horrific footage of a five-year old young child in Florida, but a child of color, who was being arrested by five white police officers from her school under the condition of her being unruly, I think, was her charge. And my father was very disturbed by this footage. And so he created a gathering of elders of the civil rights movement and of high-profile in government to ask the question how have we come to this – that the first line of defense for a school is the police and not a social worker or a nurse, or the patience to wait for the parent to actually be able and have the opportunity to arrive? And after he had the meeting of the elders and saw that many of them were really quite tired, he thought a gathering of youth would be most appropriate. With some help from the Burns Institute and some folks from the Institute of Policy Studies, we gathered youth organizers in Epps, Alabama and we had representation from, in general, the black community, the Latino community, Asian community, white community and indigenous community. And at this gathering we formed a group called The Gathering for Justice. It was often questioned to my father, it was asked “What’s the agenda?’ and he put that back to us and said that the agenda for us was, really, to find the agenda. We don’t all know each other and we have to talk amongst each other to see what each other’s needs are and how we can support each other in moving forward around the specific issue of youth incarceration and gang intervention. We formed the organization and that was seven years ago. We had quite a lot of mobilization and a presence in different places but we traveled from community to community and the thing that bonded most of us, aside from the issue of incarceration and gang intervention, was poverty. And so most of the communities that we’ve gone into have been poor communities, and all different racial communities and cultural communities. But we’ve sat in council with one another and we’ve created bridges between the elders and theyouth around the issue of incarceration, and youth incarceration in particular. And we’ve traveled to prisons and we’ve traveled to neighborhoods. And we do non-violent direct action trainings as well as help organizations on the ground in whatever mobilizations they’re trying to create. We give them support and organizing strategies to model.
My final question. For anybody who listens to this interview, wherever they are and whenever they hear it, what would you like to say to all of the listeners?
I would like to say that I hope they have an opportunity to see Sing Your Song, the film. I hope they have an opportunity to read the book, My Song, that my father just finished writing. I hope they listen to a lot of really good music to keep smiles on their faces and in their hearts. And I hope they take a good hard look at themselves in the mirror, when they feel that they can, and make some strong decisions about how they feel they can give back to their communities and what their personal capacity is. And to do it – because unless we help each other, the world’s going to be fraught with violence. We need to support one another in creating healthy communities.
Miss Belafonte, thank you very much for this interview.
Thank you so much for having me.
It’s a pleasure.
Impressive as that may be, this interview focuses mostly on Rusty Anderson’s incredible gifts as a songwriter and creator of his own studio albums. Rusty Anderson’s first studio album Undressing Underwater was released to critical acclaim. This interview took place shortly after the release of his second album Born on Earth.
Rusty Anderson’s songs are unique and at times unusual, but always very interesting and a pleasure to listen to. This interview covers a lot of ground and we hope you enjoy Anderson’s unique perspectives.
Our special guest is Rusty Anderson. In addition to being the lead guitarist for Paul McCartney, he’s also a singer-songwriter and recording artist. I’m going to share this quote from Rusty Anderson and then we’re going to bring him out for our exclusive interview.
“When I was a kid, I was like seven or eight, I had dreams that the Beatles would come to my door with their guitars and stuff and say ‘Hi! You wanna play?’ And I’m like ‘Yeah!’ And I’d wake up and be sad because it was only a dream. And then we’re in the studio recording and towards the end of that Paul says ‘Hey man, I had a dream about you last night.’ ”
It is with great pleasure we welcome guitarist, singer-songwriter Rusty Anderson. In addition to being the lead guitarist with Sir Paul McCartney, he’s also a recording artist. He joins us to talk about his new album, Born on Earth. So first of all, thanks so much for joining us here.
How are you, Paul?
I’m doing great. How about yourself?
I’m good, man.
I think most stories are best from the beginning so tell us a little bit about your early life.
I guess, musically, I sort of flipped out on the Beatles when I was five ‘cause my older sister was playing Beatle records. Coincidentally, right around that time, my – I’m the youngest in my family – and my oldest brother, Mike, died of a kidney thing. And I was five and he was 19, and I think it messed with the family. And I think my parents sort of numbed out and no one really talked about it, and I just went into music land and started exploring all sorts of different artists. And I got a guitar when I was eight – finally. It was, um, an electric guitar and amp – a little cheap pawn-shop thing, that I was just really into it. And I think I just sort of really hyper-focused on the guitar, you know, ever since (laughs). So I’ve been doing the same thing since I was five, basically.
Can you give us your recollections of the first public music performance you ever had?
I was maybe nine years old, uh, we did like two gigs at the school, different classrooms, playing with my little band and, uh, the drummer, my friend Ronnie and, uh, another guy, I think it was Ken, playing fake bass on the guitar. That was the first gig I can recall but that was, uh, quite a while ago (laughs).
Well, tell us about the band, Eulogy.
Eulogy was, uh, the first actual band that stayed together that I was in because I was always forming bands and it was sort of a prerequisite to being my friend if you played an instrument and we could be in a band because I was a little bit OCD, I guess, about it. So yeah, Eulogy was together maybe five or six years and, yeah, it had a lot of great experiences. We played, you know, all over Orange County. We played like 85 high schools in one year, I think, and then, you know, really got into playing, through like, uh, this – it was through a radio station in Orange County, and then we played, uh, you know, a bunch of clubs in Hollywood and started doing gigs, you know, opening up for like, you know, The Police or Van Halen and things like that. Yeah, it was a fun band. Good music.
Tell us a little bit about your influences on the guitar and also as a songwriter.
You know, I have my guitar favorites like I really always loved Mick Ronson, just for his melodic sense and his arrangement sense, and his tone was so special. And I loved Jimi Hendrix and Ritchie Blackmore and Jimmy Page. I think, musically, I really, really have always loved Debussy and Rachmaninov and Gershwin. Sort of my three favorite classical composers and they sort of got into jazz a little bit, the early forms. I mean, they definitely have influenced jazz and they’re just beyond, you know, another world. I definitely had a lot of influences, I guess as all musicians do. Songwriting wise, you know how it is, everybody’s busy these days rolling through so many different styles of music. I mean, everybody I ask they say ‘Oh, I like a bit of everything.’ Very strange world in that respect. Yeah, there’s so many genres. I mean, I’m influenced songwriting-wise from everyone from Bob Dylan to David Bowie. You know, I love a lot of new the music – MGMT and The White Stripes and Band of Horses and The Shins and Death Cab for Cutie and, you know, on and on. There’s somebody I love, Captain Beefheart, and I love Cream and I love Todd Rundgren, and so many influences. I think ultimately, when I’m writing a song, I just have some ideas. Usually, I’ll come up with a lyrical thing. Maybe I’ll jot it down. Like, for instance, there’s a song on the record called Julia Roberts which was a dream. I wrote it down when I woke up because I thought it was really odd ‘cause I, you know – she popped into my head for no reason, and then I forgot about it. And later, I returned and saw the lyrics and thought, oh that would be cool to turn into a song. So I, actually I co-wrote that with a friend of mine named Jord Lawhead and we, uh, turned that into a musical, finished song. It happens a lot of different ways.
There’s another song on the new album called Funky Birthday Cake and I was hoping you could tell all the listeners about that song.
Well that song – actually, it’s funny ‘cause you brought up Eulogy – my friend, Myles, when he was a singer in Eulogy and we were, you know, maybe 13 or something and we had just started hanging out, and having fun and making music, and we wrote that song together when we were 13 or 14 or something. When I was working with Peter Smith who co-produced some of the songs on my record, who also plays drums in my band live – I had a demo of that song and he heard it and he said ‘Yeah, we should record this.” and I said ‘OK.’ It was just sort of an impulsive thing and it ended up on the record.
I was hoping you could tell all the listeners out there a little bit about meeting David Kahne.
I was in a band called The Living Daylights and, uh, we had a single. It got over to David Kahne, he really liked the band, he was working at a major label – I think, uh, Columbia or something at the time – and we didn’t end up signing with him but he was a producer that worked on a lot of major, different acts at the label. So I started working with him in the studio playing guitar and, uh, that was the beginning of a long relationship because then, eventually, he started working with Paul for Driving Rain. They had talked and he said ‘Hey man, I’m going to be, uh, doing this record in a few months – so this was, like, maybe two months before Driving Rain happened which was, I guess, 2001 – and he said ‘Yeah, I think, uh, we’ll be needing some guitar work’ and I said ‘Well, man, cut me in. I’ll be really exited to do that.’ And then I sort of didn’t tell anyone about it – I didn’t want to do the Hollywood jinx – and then, sure enough, two months later I was in the studio with Paul and David and, uh, you know, that was, uh, the beginning of, of working with Paul.
You had an album before this one called Undressing Underwater. My two favorite songs on that album are Catbox Beach and Everybody Deserves an A in This Country.
That was my first solo record. Catbox Beach, which Stew Copeland played drums on incidentally. We were in a band together called Animal Logic a few years ago. That song started off – the concept was a classical sort of song rocked up – and then, I’m thinking to myself ‘this sounds suspiciously like a surf song.’ I kinda got that vibe. So I named it Catbox Beach and when Stew played on it, I thought it would be really a shame not to have his amazing reggae feel so we sort of put a reggae bit in there, which I thought was cool because I had never really heard a surf song-reggae song combo before. So that definitely had to stick.
[Recording concludes] From Rusty Anderson’s debut album, Undressing Underwater, that was Catbox Beach.
Everybody Deserves an A in This Country was a song that, I guess, I was hanging out with some friends and suddenly enough we had this plan to take mushrooms and record music. Not that I’m a big drug person or anything, but that day that’s what we did. I don’t know if you’ve tried to do anything (laughs) when you take mushrooms – it’s pretty, it’s pretty tough, especially singing. So we didn’t get a whole lot of music done that day but the, sort of the birth of the concept of Everybody Deserves an A was, to be frank, motivated by brain mindset.
Well, it managed to score a really cool song, as far as I’m concerned.
You’ve done a lot of things in your musical career. You’ve done session works for people like Little Richard, Neil Diamond, Carole King. You have two records, you perform on your own and, of course, you also perform with Sir Paul McCartney. When you look at your musical history, is there something that you’re most proud of?
I’m really glad to be making a living playing music. I feel very, very lucky. Especially – I just finished reading that book Grapes of Wrath, and I feel extra, extra lucky because in these crazy days you never know what you get. I mean, it’s been amazing working with Paul for the last eight-plus years. I’ve seen all sorts of things, you know, gone all over the world. And, you know, musically I just try to make music I’m proud of and I can stand behind, and trying to just contribute to making melodies or some lyrical idea or something that maybe will inspire somebody. Basically, to communicate. I think that’s what it’s about for everybody, you know? They say that, uh, the most important thing for people is to communicate with others and to feel understood and I would definitely concur with that.
When someone listens to a recording you performed on or they see you in concert, either by yourself or with someone else, what is it that you hope that the audience gets out of the experience of the music?
Oh man, you know, people get what they get. I mean, it’s exciting to get responses back from people, to hear the different things that people interpret from music, whether it’s playing with Paul – out there doing shows or doing, you know, the records with Paul – or doing my own live shows. You know, I just got the record Born on Earth out so I’m starting to get a few responses and it’s been incredibly positive. And it was the same with, uh, Undressing Underwater. And people have their interpretations, you know, their favorite songs. Everybody’s got their favorite song that they relate to. I think that the cool thing about music is that it’s untouchable and, therefore, it makes it very, uh, very individual. The impressions people get from the music is very individual. I guess with any art, you know, you’re going to get a million different opinions whether your dealing with, uh, contemporary art or classic art or whatever.
You’re listening to our interview with Rusty Anderson, who’s here joining us to talk about his new album, Born on Earth. I was hoping you could everyone out there about the title track.
It’s, basically, sort of about the infinitesimal chance that we would be alive in this crazy era of technology bum and the way the world has changed so much and, you know, we could have been alive a few million years ago or now, or – it’s a crazy time I would say, and I think you’d probably concur. And the songs are sort of a reflection of that and I think – it’s an epic sort of piece. I would just say you have to listen to it to kind of understand what I’m talking about, maybe (laughs).
What song, from the songs that you recorded that you wrote, means the most to you?
Where Would We Go? Private Moon Flower. They’re sort of, uh, personal songs. You know, the new record – I think every song has some personal aspect and it has some global aspect to them. And so I felt like the title Born on Earth sort of fit the record and the song. And, in fact, I was up in Alaska hanging out a few years ago. Some friends of mine were getting married. Actually, I was kayaking out on the edge of this, um, sort of bay of the ocean and in the grass there was this mannequin sitting there, sort of out of the blue. And I took a picture of it because I thought it was so odd and then I ended up using that for the record cover. And it sort of summed up, to me, the sort of incongruency of life these days – the randomness of it.
Having recorded your own music and gotten the chance to play music all over the world, you could honestly say that music has done some things for you that most people will never get a chance to experience. Having said that, are there any dreams that you have that you have not yet experienced, that you’re working on making happen?
That’s a very good question. I think there’s certainly a part of me that feels drawn towards getting more involved in, uh, philanthropic types of things, um, you know, charities. There’s so many good causes these days to be involved with, whether it’s, uh you know, helping people out in Africa – I feel very strongly about that. I also feel strongly about the environment and global warming, and I’m sort of trying to find a good place for my energies in that realm. Certainly, I think I’ll always be making music and creating new, uh, themes, whatever medium it’s in. whether it’s, you know, new CDs or, you know mp3s or whatever the new media is at the moment. Certainly, playing more gigs with Paul, and it’s a good ride that I’m on and I just want to keep it expanding and communicate with more and more people. That’s pretty much it.
Through the eyes of Rusty Anderson, when you’re on stage performing in front of just thousands and thousands of people, where everyone’s looking at you, and there’s definitely this energy and this positivity coming from everyone – tell us, through your eyes, what is that experience like?
You know, it’s a weird loop. You can’t think about it too much. I mean I sort of just vibe off the audience – you know, look for friendly faces and people that are into it. And I guess, in a certain way, I feel more at home on stage than I do anywhere else just ‘cause I’ve been doing it a long time. And it’s – it’s always, like, an engaging challenge to try to really connect in that zen way, you know playing guitar and singing and being up there and grooving with everybody and, uh – it’s a pretty astounding feeling. I think the biggest gig we did was, uh, in Rome for 500,000 people. In a way, the smaller the audience the harder, the more intimidating it can be, like playing for one person is almost the most intimidating thing there is, as opposed to playing for huge audiences. On the other hand, playing that gig in Rome, there was 500,000 people and it was this super-buzz – like you felt this extra kick of energy – thrill – I can’t explain it but, you know like, we were doing I think Let It Be and there’s a bunch of people holding up lighters. And it was at night and this was in front of the Coliseum, and you look down the Apian Way and it was like a river of fireflies going off the edge of the planet, and it was – you couldn’t even see the end of it. It was pretty, uh, heavy and, and sort of monumental. It’s like you can’t really remember it either. It’s sort of like eating chocolate or something – it’s an experience that you can’t have unless you are engaged in the middle of it and then you can remember what it’s like.
Working our way back to your album, could you tell us about some of the musicians who played on that album?
The latest one is primarily Peter, the drummer, and I and the other guys on my band played on some of the tunes, too, and did a lot of background vocals. I wanted to keep it a little bit more – on that level – more sort of band-centric. There was another guy, Bunk Gardner, a good friend of mine who played in The Mothers of Invention, who was a huge influence on me when I was, uh, a kid growing up. And I always loved their music. That was Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention. And I liked that sort of incarnation the best because it had this really organic, out-of-control kind of feeling, And, uh, Bunk plays woodwinds and sax and flute, and I think he played sax and, uh, bass clarinet on Funky Birthday Cake. That was a lot of fun. The last record, Paul McCartney played on a track and Stew Copeland played on a track, and it was a little more kind of, um, fun, bringing all these outside musicians in. Like I said, this one was more sort of about the band. Oh, another friend of mine, Gabby Marino, sang background vocals on a few songs, and I think that’s about it.
Tell us about the song, Timed Exposure, on the album Born on Earth.
Timed Exposure – I’m not sure exactly what the song is about to tell you the truth. It just came about organically and I think the music came first. It seemed to somehow, uh, connect the global, sort of macro perspective on the world and what we all go through – that personal experience. One verse is written from, I think from a fortune cookie –combination fortune cookie and personal ads that are in the newspaper.
Oh, interesting (laughs).
Yeah. So, you know, different things will inspire lyrics.
Can you tell the listeners out there how they can find out more about not only the new album but also more about you?
Well, there’s RustyAnderson.com. There is my MySpace. I started doing this Twitter thing so look for that. I’m doing Guitar Center in-store CD signings.
This broadcast is going out all over the world. My final question for you, Mr. Rusty Anderson: What would you like to say to all those people that are listening in?
Oh, just say ‘hello and, uh, happy to e-meet you or vibe with you’(laughs). Hope to see you at some show soon. I’m always into connecting with people.
Rusty, thank you so much for doing this interview. It means a lot.
You’re welcome, Paul. It was my pleasure.
John Goodwin is an incredible singer-songwriter who has recorded his most recent album “Goodwin.” John Goodwin has recorded six albums, the newest record features a new direction with solo acoustic performances and duets with Jessica Andrews, Michael McDonald and Jeff Bridges. John Goodwin is also a visual artist–a painter and photographer. His songs have been featured in several major motion pictures including Crazy Heart, Surf’s Up, The Amateurs, and Tideland.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure we welcome our third time guest, Mr. John Goodwin, thanks so much for agreeing to do another interview with us.
Happy to be here with you, Paul.
My pleasure. You’re joining us here to talk about your new album entitled ‘Goodwin,’ anyone that listened to the last time you were on, you were playing some of your acoustic songs and you had this album out called ‘Nashville,’ and it seems to me, for my ears anyways that it’s a further evolution as an artist. What prompted you to kind of make this change in your music to a more acoustic?
A lot of my CDs have involved other musicians andthe songs sounded like they were played with a band and I just really challenged myself and wanted to see if I could do anything I liked, sitting and playing, singing without a band, so I just went ahead and did it and started to like what I heard. That’s what I do when I write a song and I’m always enjoying that so I figured like, why not just go in the studio and do it.
What aspect of making music excites you the most?
The emotional rush I think, you know, I think anybody that picks up a guitar and starts singing and playing something they are inspired by or want to play gets off on the whole experience, it’s your hands, like, playing a guitar, it’s your voice and the coordination between, you know, your voice and your hands, and you know, the end result and, you know, your mind’s working and, you know, you’re expressing yourself and it’s a real, a real emotional rush, just to sing and play.
Do you find that as you are creating music, do you find that you get more, or less interested in seeking out new music made by other artists?
I’m always listening to other artists and new albums, constantly checking out what’s coming out, you know, I’m looking for that ‘thing’ that really excites me, you know, my interest in other artists has not diminished at all, probably increased a lot as I continue, you know, writing and recording.
The interesting thing about the different albums that you’ve released over the years is the different styles of music that you’ve played, ‘Part Of Me Will Never Grow Up,’ is kind of like, a Reggae song, you have a couple of songs like, ‘A Place In My Heart’ that is definitely Country, and lots of Rock n Roll, I want to ask you, what musical period or styles do you find yourself the most drawn to? I know you like everything, but is there something that resonates most with you?
I think it’s more like, what I consider to be a great song in a particular time in my history as a person, you know, I’ve been deeply, deeply into Rock ‘n Roll, deeply into R & B, deeply into Country a long time ago, when country was a little more genuine and sincere, you know, I started a couple of years like, really being into Metal when it was like Black Sabbath and you know, real, like seminal kind of Metal sounds and Reggae I got way into. So every music that’s really touched my life, all done so equally has brought out those things in me.
I wanted to talk about a couple of the songs on your latest album, ‘Goodwin’, I think my favorite song on the album is ‘Butter MintSweet.’
Something like twenty years ago, I just started writing on my guitar this little classical piece and like, that’s the end of the first section, you know, you want to play another section, there’s no lyric to it, it’s just, it was just you know, all guitar and I just developed this little song which had no lyrics and I really liked it and I forgot about it for years and then I found it again and just started writing lyrics to it, so this has been a work in progress.
You actually recorded it as a duet, as far as your discography, this was the first album that you have with duets.
Absolutely, it is and I wish I’d done more of it, because I really like singing with friends of mine and I’m going to do a lot more of it too.
Two other songs on the album that are duets, in one of them, you remarked earlier that you were especially proud of it, it was a duet with Michael McDonald ‘When The World Was A Child.’
I was in a coffee house or something like that and kind of, crowded place and I saw this Mother walked in with her little child, little infant, you know, but walking and the child was holding the Mother’s hand and it just seemed to me, like you know, once upon a time the world was an innocent child, you know and just look at it, everything, you know, like new eyes and stuff like that, so that was the inspiration to start writing the song and once I got started I don’t think I could stop until it was finished.
Is there a song on the new album ‘Goodwin’ that you are especially proud of, a favorite song?
Well, I have many favorite songs, I think most artists, when you record an entire album and spend a lot of time on it, eventually you find songs you’re not as in love with as you were when you wrote them and recorded them, but actually there are a lot of songs on this album that I really like, just because of the purity of the performance and the purity of the song. I’d like to say there’s one song that I safely think is my favourite, but there are quite a number, quite a few songs that I really, really like here.
You couldn’t pick a favorite though?
Well, I wish I could, I mean, it would make it simpler for anybody to listen to the record, but I have to say that I really am proud of a lot of them.
There’s a song on there ‘The Blessed One’, I noticed this on the last album. Both this album and the last one, it seems like there’s an exploration of spirituality almost?
What inspired you to write ‘The Blessed One’?
Kind of a deep, deep subject here, because, a lot of times I feel like people are not appreciated until they’re gone and we obviously have historical examples of that, we also have examples of that in our everyday lives, and we know of singers and songwriters who aren’t universally known, but really believe that they deserve to be as much as if not more than people who are extremely well known, so you know the whole inspiration was like, you know, ‘don’t abuse the blessing, don’t overlook the blessing,’, you know that was kind of about it.
What are the other songs on the album that are light-hearted and fun songs, well, depending on how you look at it, I really got a kick out of ‘Lime Green Speedos,’ and, again, kind of like, as far as you exploring new avenues, the last album also had a comedy song, ‘Monday I’m Starting My Diet,’ but tell us about ‘Lime Green Speedos.’
Well, ‘Lime Green Speedos,’ I forgot exactly where that song started it might have started with a rhythm on my guitar that I started playing and you know, and the subject suddenly came to me that, you know, I’m going to lose all this weight and surprise everybody, and you know, in summertime, when I show up at the swimming pool in my lime green speedos, it amused me, interested me and moved me enough, you know, to just throw as much as I could at the song as I was writing it, you know, the song you referred to on the last album, ‘Monday I’m Starting My Diet,’ that song and ‘Lime Green Speedos’ both have to do with, like, being overweight and trying to do something about it, which, a lot of people have that problem, more like I have to go on a diet and put back what they lose, stuff like that, so, you know, these were just dealing with that whole issue you know in the most light hearted, emotional way that I could, you know.
I also wanted to talk to you about a song that you wrote, that was featured in the movie ‘Crazy Heart.’ tell us about that song ‘Hold On You’.
I’d love to, I also want to say that on the new album the duet I did with Jeff Bridges, which I’m extremely proud of, you know, really, it’s just two old friends singing about life and what a beautiful day it is.I love that song. The song ‘Crazy Heart’ goes… I was lucky enough before the movie was made to be invited out to LA to spend some time with Jeff and the Director, writer of the movie Scott Cooper and T. Bone Burnett, during the course of the week that I spent with those guys, like, I started writing ‘Hold On You’ and T. Bone started writing it with me, and eventually, I left town and he brought a couple of friends in and they all finished the song together and I’m amazingly proud of that, it was just a highlight of my life.
I wanted you to tell us about the experience you had out there, you said that you’ve recently been feeling the winds of inspiration kind of to start performing again?
Yeah, haven’t quite gotten out there and done that. The last time I performed was at this huge birthday party in LA, back in, in December, my whole path as a writer is a little bit wierd cause I spent most of my time just writing and recording but continuously writing and continuously recording, you know, and I sort of didn’t do a lot of playing out even though I enjoy it, what I do is, I’m trying to motivate myself to go out there and do it, it’s usually, you know, a lot of fun for me and the people in the audience when I do, but it’s just one of those humps that I’m kind of stuck behind right now.
Is there any artistic or musical avenues that you haven’t explored that you have an interest in pursuing?
Aaaah man, there’s so many, you know, writing on other instruments, instruments that I don’t particularly play, you know, bongos or whatever, every time I pick up something new and start playing with it, most of the time some new kind of music comes out, for me, the most interesting thing that I really want to do a lot more of is just improvisational songs, in other words songs that aren’t written, so you turn on a tape recorder and you sit there and you just play and sing, and I can do that pretty well. I haven’t done that a lot but I have a fantasy of like recording like, a thousand songs that way and be sure to share the results with you when I do that.
You mentioned the last time I was talking to you that you’re already thinking about the next recording project. What do you see in the future?
Ohhhh it’s looking good, at least, you know, by my standards looking really good Paul, I’ll tell you why, because, I’m sure I don’t have time to tell you about the whole recording process that I went through with this new record I made, very briefly with this amazing engineer in Nashville, gave me just an unlimited free use of his studio, just because he likes what I did, so I went there many, many, many, manytimes and had all the time in the world to lay it all out and from everything I recorded I chose the songs that would be on the album called “Goodwin.” But this thing, I think the record’s been done for about three months now, I’ve written seven or eight songs that I think there as good as anything I’ve ever written in my life and I’m really excited, think I’ll go and probably sometime in late May or early June and just try and cut an entire record in three hours with songs that I’ve written that I like since I finished the last album.
Is there any particular reason that you say to do it in three hours like that?
Yeah, once again it’s challenge, you know, to do something in real time like, you know, when you turn on the radio and you hear a three minute song, you’re actually living in the illusion that a bunch of people went into the studio and played and sang for three minutes and there the song was, but you know how it works these days, like, you know, there’s dozens if not a hundred hours recording parts and pieces and bits of it and adding stuff and people coming into the studio over weeks and months and eventually you have what seems like a real three minute song, that’s really not, it’s like, you know, thirty seven hours condensed into a three minute experience, so it seems like, to go in there and play it straight, you know, from top to bottom, it’s a challenge. I think Bob Dylan recorded ‘Another Side Of Bob Dylan’ in one day, I believe that’s true, and of course I think the Beatles cut their second record in one day too, so, there’s no reason, if you can present something that’s a performance, it’s why it shouldn’t literally be a performance, and not this massive collage you know, which is, you know sometimes over thought and, I want to be something not an illusion, I want to be something that is like literally a performance.
That will be very interesting to hear. I hope that everyone out there has kind of gotten a little picture in their mind of what it is that you mean. On that note you just mentioned Bob Dylan, last night I was talking with friends and I wanted to know your opinion on, in your mind anyways, who are the greatest songwriters?
Well that’s a tough one, you know, because some people like Bob Dylan that have written many, many, many extremely brilliant, wonderful songs, and there are other people who have written one or two in their entire career, but they’re, they’re wonderful songs too, so, you know, I can’t say someone who would be prolific and amazing, for me has been any better than somebody, you know, loving one or two great ones and being amazing, because when you’re listening to the songs, just in the middle of, for you, it’s an amazing experience and you don’t think about the other two songs they wrote that were great or the other ninety five songs that were great, I mean, you can only listen to one song at a time, so that’s the way I’m feeling music as a listening experience. Oh I could name a hundred people, whose music I absolutely love, man, like, you know obviously Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, the great songs that Smokey Robinson wrote, the Stones, man “Beast of Burden,” you know, there are French pop artists like Jaques Brel, phenomenal songs, I have to say that, you know, if I had to list my favorite songwriters or acts, there would be at least, at least a hundred names on it, because they all touched me extremely deeply.
Not just of the songs that you wrote, but just in general, is there a song, or a couple of songs that have just tremendous meaning to you?
Oh yeah, but Paul, like, there are like, so many, so many songs that just have deep, deep meaning for me, it would be really tough for me to say you know that there’s only one or two, but the song Michael McDonald wrote and recorded called ‘Matters Of The Heart,’ which I just think is burningly brilliant or you know, “Papa was a Rolling Stone” by the Temptations, or you know, I cannot really say here’s my top five, any one of those top five, any one of the 95 behind that you all all have great meaning for me…
I wanted to ask you when somebody listens to the new album, ‘Goodwin,’ what is it that you hope they get out of the experience of listening.
Well, I hope they like what they’re hearing, from the beginning of a song to the end of the song, I was trying for a certain kind of purity from the performance, you know, but for people who don’t know me who are hearing this, I’d just like them to know that this record, like every record, is a transition period and I just happen to document by writing and recording the song.
It’s been a great pleasure to speak to you as always, always great talking to you, but before we go is there anything you’d like to say to all the people listening out there?
Well, like I said the last time you interviewed me, I think you asked me this question and I’d just like to say that I hope you’re all having a good day and doing things that you really love to do, what more can you say to people or want for people?
I do remember you telling me that, you said you hope everybody has a good day because good days are the building blocks of a good life. When I heard the album I was listening to the duet with Jeff Bridges, ‘The Good Day Song,’ and it made me think of that conversation.
Yeah, (John laughs) I know what you mean, you know, totally what that song was about, it was such a joy doing that with Jeff. He’s such a generous soul and so deeply appreciate him, he’s making a lot of my days really good and has for many years.
He definitely captured I think, your friendship together. Hearing you do the duet with him, I remember years ago when I was listening to your music, and it was right after I had been exposed to his music. Has it ever been a passing thought about performing with him, or maybe collaborating with him on an album?
Yeah, I think that’s very likely to happen, in fact the last few times we performed, we were both at parties, Jeff was there and we both played songs, I think he inspires me to go out and perform, I love collaborating with him, we’ve written many songs together which I totally love and totally look forward to anything we do together, it’s just such fun and we’ve been doing it for years so I think you can probably look forward to that.
Everyone out there can check you out online at babyrecords.com and again, thanks so much for the interview, always a pleasure to listen to your music and always a pleasure to talk to you.
Paul, I’m really glad that my music has found you and that you like it so much. It means so much to me.
It means a lot to me too and have a good one, a good day.
You too man. Good days, you know.
TRANSCRIBED BY ROSALIND WINTON
JEFF DANIELS is another one of those singer-songwriters who is also an actor. This interview was recorded on Halloween, on the stage at Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta, Georgia. Jeff Daniels was kind enough to perform a song for us.
Daniels does a great job of talking about the creative life. He is a great songwriter. His serious songs represent his best work.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great pleasure to welcome our special guest, fellow Michigander, Jeff Daniels. Thanks so much for making the time to do this.
Who is the real Jeff Daniels?
I have no idea. That would take, um, probably a team of psychiatrists to figure out. I mean, if you look at the acting career it’s certifiably schizophrenic. It really is (laughs) because you can go from Dumb and Dumber to, uh, to Gettysburg or Squid and the Whale – there’s a lot of people in between those two, those two or three people. So, uh, probably the music, uh, is probably the closest but even in the music I go wildly comic to very serious so I’m probably still in search of whoever that is.
Can you remember and tell us some of your earliest musical influences?
I remember getting Tumbleweed Connection, the Elton John album and I didn’t even know who Elton was. And the album jacket, the cover, intrigued me at a young age and I bought it and I just loved it. And I didn’t know why I loved it. I’d never heard anything like it. And I think a lot of it was Bernie – Elton’s playing but Bernie Taupin, the writing. As I look back, I started to look at the writers. I started to look at the story-tellers and then that led to guys like Arlo Guthrie who could tell a story and then weave a song into that story. Stevie Goodman – I saw Stevie Goodman at The Bottom Line in New York – amazed at what that guy did with just himself and a guitar. Christine Lavin. You know, lately, guys like Todd Snider. Todd’s got such a point of view. Only Todd can write those songs and they’re almost like you can’t cover them. So, and that’s what you look for in writing – guys that have a singular point of view.
Yeah. When I was listening to the album that I got of yours, I thought ‘this guy sounds like Steve Goodman and Arlo Guthrie.’ That is what I thought (laughs).
Yeah. My heroes. My early heroes. They really, they openedthe door for you can just have a guitar, and you can write funny and you can write serious back-to-back and that – and Christine Lavin was another one. I chased all those three people. They were, they kind of led the way for me.
Could you pick a favorite artist that influenced you?
No, probably not because I’m still probably trying to, uh, define what it is I do and it’s influenced by a lot of people. Then you get guys like Stefan Grossman who I’ve been privileged to have lesson from and have also studied him since the ‘80s – his tab books on finger picking and the whole deal. Then you get into the blues. You get guys like, you know, Lonnie Johnson, Skip James, Robert Johnson – all those guys and what were they singing about? What were they doing? Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee. I remember listening to them in the ‘80s. A friend turned me on to them. They’re all probably in there somewhere. There’s a – Lyle Lovett is a guy that, again, as a writer only Lyle could write that song that way. If I had to pick somebody present-day it would probably be Lyle.
Can you remember the first song that you wrote?
Yeah. It’s in my notebook. My big, huge notebook of everything I’ve ever written. Yeah. I think it was about my dog, my first dog and it’s god-awful. It’ll never see the light of day.
You do this tour. You have four albums to your credit thus far. So you’ve recorded, you’ve written songs, you’ve performed. Could you pick a favorite part of music?
I think the moment – and it happens in some of the older songs now that I’ve played a few hundred times – but it’s, uh, certainly that moment when you find you get on top of that new song. And it takes a bunch of performances in front of people to kind of give birth to it. But you get on top if it, you get the phrasing right, you get the guitar right and then it connects. And you see and hear from an audience that this thing that really was just an idea in your head weeks or months ago is now something that you will be playing on a regular basis because it connects with people you don’t even know. It’s that moment where that first connection happens, that new thing. That’s pretty cool.
In the liner notes to one of your albums you talk about how these songs are like a snapshot and you’ve been keeping, like in this notebook, like a journal. Take it a step further and you record these songs and perform for people. What would you say makes you want to do that?
I’m living a very creative life but it’s creative on my terms. And this country, you know, uh, it – I wouldn’t say it’s exemplary in the way it treats its artists or supports its artists. I could argue that Europe does a better job of that or takes it more seriously. I think America has always been like that. There is certainly room, there is room for artists and art but you kind of have to make your own space, you know, if it’s what you’re supposed to do, which is what I was told at the age of 21. I had a director from New York see me in a college production and he took me aside and he literally asked me ‘You know what you should do with your life, don’t you?’ and he said ‘Come to New York and join my theater company and chase an acting career. No promised but you’re good enough to give it a shot.’ And that acting chase led to a lot of sitting around, waiting for the phone to ring, for someone else to tell me it was time to be creative. The guitar, which I picked up in 1976, became that go-to creative outlet so I could keep that side of my life and that part of my brain, and that – just that part of me, which is probably the essential part, going 24/7. And I didn’t have to wait for the phone to ring. I didn’t have to wait for somebody in Hollywood to tell me that I’m hot and I can now be in a movie. I just was able to do it on my own. The music has probably, you know, fulfilled me the most of all.
Ladies and gentlemen, you’re listening to an interview with singer-songwriter and actor, Jeff Daniels. Grandfather’s Hat – tell us about that tune.
That’s a song that – I wear a fedora. I really like those fedoras. They’re kind of timeless and, um, I was – my kids played hockey and, uh, high school hockey in Michigan, and I was wearing it to one of the games and a friend of mine came up to me. And he knew my family and he knew my grandfather, and he came up to me and he goes ‘Is that your grandfather’s hat?’ and I said ‘No, no. It’s just one that was very similar to …’ Before I got to the end of the sentence, I knew it was a song. Not just a song about my particular grandfather but your mother’s necklace or your aunt’s ring or your father’s knife. You know, Guy Clark has a great, great song, uh, about his dad’s, um, jackknife. And so it’s that, that kind of ‘missing someone who is no longer here’.
Well, would you like to play it for all the listeners out there
Sure. [Performs Grandfather’s Hat]
Ladies and gentlemen, Jeff Daniels. Thanks so much. One of the things about music is you get to meet a lot of people. One of the tracks that you do, you did a cover of the George Harrison song, Here Comes the Sun. tell us about some of the exciting people you’ve met through your music.
I mean, first of all, George Harrison – say no more (laughs).
Yeah, that was pretty cool. Uh, the short version of that story is I was doing a movie called Checking Out in 1988 and it was produced by George Harrison’s independent film company called Handmade Films. And we were hoping he would show up on the set in L.A. and, sure enough, one day he did. And I had a guitar in the dressing room and I said ‘Would you mind signing my guitar?’ and he said ‘I’d be happy to.’ Took him into a back room so it wouldn’t be, like, 100,000 signatures. And he signed the guitar and then, before he gave it back to me, he flipped it over and, on that guitar, played Here Comes the Sun. I mean, just me – and two other guys – just the three of us sitting there. It was like our own little private concert. It was such a gift that he gave and he couldn’t have been nicer. He couldn’t have been more interested in anyone other than himself. It was just a great lesson on how to handle that level of fame or any kind of fame.
You have a theater up in Michigan and everyone can check out JeffDaniels.com. The proceeds from the sale of the CDs goes towards this theater, the Purple Rose of Cairo. We just reviewed that film. It was from 1985 but we did like a flashback kind of thing. So tell us bout the theater a bit.
The Purple Rose Theater Company is 20 years old this season. Uh, it’s mission is mainly to do new American plays, particularly plays about that part of the country. That’s how I was brought up in New York, at the Circle Repertoire Company. Every play was a new play. Every play, the months before, the playwright was walking around rewriting the second act, getting ready for rehearsal. There was a thrill to that versus doing what New York had done last year and being popular, or doing, you know, Shakespeare or the old classics and all, which are fine. And many, many theaters do those. I want new stuff. I want living, breathing playwrights writing about the people sitting in our seats. Write about them. Connect with them and then I’m interested. After 20 years, that’s what we’re able to do now, more often than not. I’m real proud of that place and the fact that that part of the country supports it. It means the world to me.
What made you call the theater The Purple Rose of Cairo? That movie is great. I got to interview Woody.
I was a young actor. I was 30 at the time. I’d been in New York about nine years. Terms of Endearment had come out and I got that movie ten days after Terms of Endearment had been released. So Terms was now the #1 movie in the country which, at the time, for a character-driven film like Terms – it bypassed Raiders of the Lost Ark and all those kind of at the time special-effect movies. You hadn’t seen a character driven comedy-drama in a long time like that yet there we were, #1 – due, in no part, to Jack, Shirley and Debra. Jim Brooks had a hit and, uh, I was, I happened to be in it. Ten days later, they were looking to, uh, recast Purple Rose of Cairo and they called me in and, you know, a screen test later and, you know, a meeting with the studio, I got it. So now I’m working with Woody Allen. And I get handed the script and it’s not a supporting role or it’s not one starring role. It’s two starring roles in a Woody Allen movie. And I’m going ‘OK. Everything I have ever learned, please God, let me remember now.’ (Paul laughs) and that’s how I went into work everyday. And about halfway through the movie, Woody said I was good. For a young actor who had been battling, you know, rejection and, uh, are you going to make it? What’s it – you know, is this really worth it? It’s nine years. Terms of Endearment, yeah, but is it two or three movies and done? You know, you just don’t – the business is so, uh, here-today-gone-tomorrow. And Woody said I was good. And so, I remember going home and saying to my wife, um, ‘I think I’m going to be able to make a living in this business.’ And it wasn’t ‘I’m going to be a star.’ It wasn’t ‘I’m a genius.’ It was ‘If Woody Allen thinks I’m good, I think I’m going to be able to make a living in this business because if I’m good enough for Woody, I’m good enough for anybody.’ And that was a turning point. So years later, when it was time to name the theater, we named it the Purple Rose Theater Company.
My two final questions. What is the best part about being Jeff Daniels?
So many people go through life having to do things they don’t want to do, or they have a job that they wish they’d never taken but there’s security in it. And I think the satisfaction that I’ve had – I’m going way back to that director, Marshall W. Mason from Circle Rep, when he said ‘You know what you should do with your life, don’t you?’ What he didn’t say? It’s going to be hard. You’re only one who believes in you and you’re going to have to find people along the way. The fact that, decades later, I pulled that off and that now I’m still living a creative life and doing what I want to do, and that people in the business, whether it’s Broadway or film, TV or music want whatever it is I do – that’s the best part. It’s that I’m still relevant.
My last question. What would like to say in closing to all the people who are listening?
What I told my kids. I tell my kids, ‘Fall in love with tomorrow.’ Don’t worry about today. Don’t worry about the past. Fall in love with tomorrow. What are you doing tomorrow? That’s the creative process. That’s the creative life right there, is working on that next thing. Yeah. Fall in love with tomorrow.
Well, Mr. Daniels, it’s a pleasure. Thank you.
TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA
What is your favorite Fats Domino song?
Now we’re going to take you to our interview with Mr. Rick Coleman, where he’s going to be talking about the one and only Fats Domino and his book, ‘Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’ Roll.’
Ladies and gentlemen, our guest is Rick Coleman and he is the author of the book, ‘Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’ Roll.’ Thanks for taking a moment to talk to us.
Who is Rick Coleman?
Well, I’ve been writing about New Orleans rhythm and blues for about thirty years now. I’m best known for writing a book on Fats Domino which came out a few years ago called ‘Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’ Roll.’
And where were you born?
I was actually born in Port Au Prince, Haiti because my parents were missionaries in 1957 when I was born. They had been living in Louisiana and my mother is more or less from here originally. I consider myself a Louisiana man.
Well Rick, tell us: what kind of music did you listen to early on?
I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and was a big fan of rock ‘n’ roll and popular groups like the Beatles and Beach Boys and all the rock ‘n’ roll groups and I still love it and a lot of my favorite music and, eventually, as I graduated from college actually, that’s when I really realized the contributions that New Orleans had made to rock ‘n’ roll and I’d always been heavy into rock ‘n’ roll history so I decided I need to contribute to writing that New Orleans rhythm blues and rock ‘n’ roll roots of New Orleans so that’s how I started writing in the early 80’s about New Orleans rhythm blues and I actually started doing, uh, radio documentaries at WWOZ radio and that graduated into writing for local magazines and then national magazines, a lot of album notes, a lot of liner notes and then the book.
So why write a book about Fats Domino?
He was actually the most popular rock ‘n’ roll…rock ‘n’ roller of the 50’s after Elvis Presley and people have forgotten that but it’s absolutely true. Unfortunately him, like a lot of rhythm blues artists from the 50’s and 40’s especially have been largely forgotten. It…part of it was because a lot of the rock ‘n’ roll histories were written in the, first written in the late 60’s and early 70’s and at that time there was obviously a big hard rock and psychedelic rock type thing that was popular and people were just not into old rhythm blues artists that weren’t hard core blues so a lot of people were forgotten largely from that era. Fats did have some come back during that era but he just seemed too happy and too innocent perhaps for that era to really take him seriously. Add that to thefact that he had never done a lot of interviews and there hadn’t really been much research on him so that’s why it took me twenty years actually to write the book over, off and on, over the course of twenty years I wrote the book.
Can you take us back to the first time you met Fats Domino?
Yes. It was in August, 1985. I actually live above New Orleans and there was a seafood festival going on and I had written an article about the 30th anniversary of rock ‘n’ roll, which at that time, rock ‘n’ roll was primarily dated from ‘Rock Around the Clock’ by Bill Haley and ‘Rock Around the Clock’ was certainly a landmark and New Orleans had been contributing to the birth of rock ‘n’ roll since the late 40’s and even back as far as 1947 when Roy Brown first did ‘Rocking Good Rocking Tonight.’ In New Orleans the song had popularized the word “rock” and, of course, Fats Domino was a major part of that because he had recorded ‘The Fat Man’ in 1949 and several other major hits, a string up to ‘Ain’t That A Shame’ which was a landmark…in some ways equal to ‘Rock Around the Clock’ because he was the first black artist to make the top ten with a rockin’ song and he actually paved the way for Chuck Berry who followed shortly afterwards with ‘Maybellene’ and Little Richard who followed shortly after that with ‘Tutti Fruity’ into the pop charts. All of those actually pre-dated Elvis’s debut in the pop charts with ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ in early 1956. That led up to me meeting Fats at the seafood festival because he’d liked the article I had written.
I wanted to touch on what you just mentioned, the song, ‘Fat Man,’ which, as you said, was recorded back in 1949. Explain to the listeners why you and so many other R&B scholars think that’s a significant recording.
The thing was, rhythm and blues in the late 40’s, even in New Orleans, was kind of a mixed bag. There was…uh…there was very different types of blues. One strain of blues was risqué. Another strain was very “pop-ish,” kind of like “white cocktail” blues and both those styles were popular in New Orleans but what the ‘Fat Man’ really contributed to rhythm and blues was it had a driving rhythm to it…almost a train-like, locomotive sound that people had really rarely ever heard anything like that before and it combined with Fats Domino’s utter exuberance and his vocal and his words that he sang, telling them, “They call me the fat man cause I weigh two hundred pounds. All those women love me cause I know my way around.” And then after that, he actually did a scat part where he went, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.” People were just excited by that sound and it was a thrilling kind of thing. Truthfully, what it was was that the two styles I mentioned earlier of rhythm and blues were older audiences who had been sitting around in bars and drinking alcohol and Fats Domino was like a new, young generation coming in. He was 21 years old and he just had this utter enthusiasm for the music, and it was dance music perfect for a younger audience and that kind of set the trend for what came with rock ‘n’ roll a few years later.
You’ve known Fats Domino for a long time. What is he really like?
Oh, Fats is a wonderful guy. He’s a really sweet man but he’s also a very private man. He doesn’t go out too much. He doesn’t, like I said, do interviews. He just, uh…he’s kind of a simple man in a lot of ways but once you get to know him, he’s a delightful person. He, um, he has certain things that he likes to do, like cooking and playing his music and being with his family and friends and, uh, he just doesn’t like to do a whole lot of other things (Laughs). It’s really almost amazing that he really became a popular figure because he was never into going out and he was never a, had any great ego to satisfy since he liked to perform so much and liked to please people and, uh, you know, that was a great thing because he’s pleased millions and millions of people over…over sixty years now.
One of the things that your book, ‘Blue Monday,’ points out so well is Fats Domino’s influence on so many of the other popular recording artists. I was amazed by the quote from Bob Marley, for instance, but there’s so many artists that have been influenced by Fats Domino. So with that, I have to ask you: do you believe that Fats Domino is the true king of rock ‘n’ roll?
Well, that was something that, uh, that Elvis said when they were at Elvis’s comeback concert in Las Vegas in, uh, July, 1969, that all the reporters were paying attention to him but Elvis had become good friends with Fats, who happened to be at the press conference and he said, “Well look at Fats over there. He’s the…he’s the real king of rock ‘n’ roll.” And, uh, I don’t know if he was slightly joking or not but the truth isElvis was paying tribute to Fats because he knew that Fats had been around a long time before Elvis had. He’d recorded the ‘Fat Man’ nearly five years before Elvis’s first record and, uh, he had definitely been the dominant figure of the early 50’s and, as I said before, he paved the way with ‘Ain’t That A Shame’ and many other hits. There’s certainly a case to be made that Fats put the big beat into rock ‘n’ roll…him and Dave Bartholomew, his co-writer and band leader and producer…that they put the big beat into rhythm and blues which put it into rock ‘n’ roll and that’s pretty much the most significant element about the creation of rock ‘n’ roll was the big beat because that’s what makes the kids dance, okay, and if you ever watched American Bandstand, you’d always hear them say, rating a record, “it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.” And that was very significant because, uh, white popular music, for the most part, up until that time had not had a major, big beat. It really came out of black culture and specifically out of New Orleans, which had a history of, uh, heavy rhythms dating back to Congo Square even, which was the first place that slaves were allowed to keep their drums in the New World…the only place, really, and, uh, so it’s a very long and significant history in New Orleans of that rhythm.
Our special guest is Rick Coleman, the author of ‘Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’ Roll.’ Do you have a favorite memory of Fats Domino?
I was writing the book…I was really just hanging out with Fats and we were fairly close at the time…and, you know, we’re…I still talk to him. He’s still a sweet man. But, then I was actually able to go with him to his concerts in his limousine occasionally. One, this particular time, was at a Mardi Gras concert…I think it was 1992…he had, was taking two cars and I don’t remember…I think I was in the second car…and Fats was in the front car. Then he was playing a concert at the Super Dome in New Orleans for Mardi Gras and it was called…one of these big parade krewes that was called Adenium(???) celebration, actually warming up for the Beach Boys that night and so, that was an incredible concert and, uh, he actually got stopped first of all at the security check point because he didn’t have the proper security and amazingly, Fats didn’t get mad at all. Actually, he…we all got out of the cars and waited for a half hour (Laughs) to get the proper security clearances and that was kind of amazing in itself because when you think of superstars…but anyway, he went inside and we, uh, we actually were there an hour or so before the concert and he didn’t really know too much about the Beach Boys. As a matter of fact, (Laughs), he asked me if they were black or white (Laughs) which is going to be pretty funny to anybody that hears that. But the Beach Boys had, really amazingly, had never seen Fats perform over the years and they were actually outside his dressing room shalamming(???)…bowing down to his dressing room door, sort of like, “I am not worthy” and so it was an amazing night and I got to talk to a couple of them; Alan Jardine, specifically, he said, “You know, you don’t know what he meant to us man,” so it was quite an amazing concert. I thought the Beach, you know, I love the Beach Boys but I think Fats actually stole the show from them.
Well, I wanted to touch a little bit on a gentleman who passed away recently, Bobby Charles. Did you know Bobby?
I knew him a little bit. I interviewed him. I got a good interview with him. I certainly, uh, he and Fats were great friends. There’s a little story behind him and Fats and it goes back to when Bobby wrote ‘See Ya Later Alligator’ and he was a teenager out in Cajun country out in Louisiana. He’d written a song based on this old Cajun saying which had also been used in jazz and various things, “See ya later alligator.” A girl had told him, “After while crocodile,” and that’s how he said, “Wow. I’m going to write a song.” So anyway he took that to a concert where Fats…Fats was pretty much his idol at the time as with a lot of Louisiana youngsters…teenagers, you know, especially out in Cajun country. They just ate him up. He was actually said…but he said that he was like only one or two or three black guys… white guys at a black concert in this one town…Abbeville, that’s what it is, and he walked up to Fats afterwards and asked him, “How’d you like to do this song,” and Fats just kind of laughed at him and said, “I never thought of doing a song about an alligator.” That’s not what he said but that’s what he was thinking and so, but he said he’d already recorded so he politely turned him down but then Bobby, of course, recorded it and then Bill Haley had a huge, huge hit with it but that was the beginning of him and Fats kind of getting to know each other and years later, he recorded for Dave Bartholomew and Imperial and, uh, he wrote some more songs for Fats and specifically, when he was in Lafayette he met Fats backstage. Fats told him that he had recorded a song, ‘Before I Grow too Old’ and he said, “Man, I wish I could hear it, but I can’t get to New Orleans. If I hd to go to New Orleans, I had to walk!” So he thought of that and said, “Wow! That’s gonna be a song too.” So he wrote that song just later that night and so, of course, that was…became a classic song for New…for Fats, ‘Walking to New Orleans’ and really, it kind of became the theme song after Katrina. It was used a lot, talking about New Orleans and so, but Fats and Bobby remained close friends for many years. As a matter of fact, Bobby passed away just, uh, in January, I think and he had just finished recording a song which he was so happy to record for Fats, his long-time friend, and it was called…it’s on his new album… his final album called ‘Happy Birthday Fats Domino.’
Just from your own personal tastes and your memories of over the years with Fats Domino, do you have a favorite song or could you pick a favorite Fats Domino song?
I think so. I guess I’d go with ‘I’m Ready’ because it just had such a great rhythmic drive and Fats is, you know, I love a hard rocking sound and that just goes so fast and so heavy and Fats is just rocking almost as hard as Little Richard in that one to me. He just pounds the song and if you listen to it, there’s actually no horns in that. It’s quite an amazing thing cause they’re just…they actually performed that song on a Dick Clark show one time and at that time, in 59, horn players are just clapping their hands. I mean, it’s just a driving song. I love that, and it’s a rock ‘n’ roll anthem too, if you think about it, but, uh, but as far as…wow…but he’s had so many…so many great hits and the significance of them is just so great. I mean, ‘Fat Man,’ ‘Ain’t That a Shame,’ ‘Blueberry Hill,’ ‘Walking to New Orleans,’ and ‘Blue Monday,’ which, of course, is the song I titled the book over and that, uh, is…all of them have very great significance in their own ways.
Just from your own personal tastes and your memories of over the years with Fats Domino, do you have a favorite song or could you pick a favorite Fats Domino song?
I think so. I guess I’d go with ‘I’m Ready’ because it just had such a great rhythmic drive and Fats is, you know, I love a hard rocking sound and that just goes so fast and so heavy and Fats is just rocking almost as hard as Little Richard in that one to me. He just pounds the song and if you listen to it, there’s actually no horns in that. It’s quite an amazing thing cause they’re just…they actually performed that song on a Dick Clark show one time and at that time, in 59, horn players are just clapping their hands. I mean, it’s just a driving song. I love that, and it’s a rock ‘n’ roll anthem too, if you think about it, but, uh, but as far as…wow…but he’s had so many…so many great hits and the significance of them is just so great. I mean, ‘Fat Man,’ ‘Ain’t That a Shame,’ ‘Blueberry Hill,’ ‘Walking to New Orleans,’ and ‘Blue Monday,’ which, of course, is the song I titled the book over and that, uh, is…all of them have very great significancein their own ways.
What is it you like about Fats Domino?
Well, I love that he is, uh, Fats is such a down to earth person. As I said, he doesn’t really have any great ego. He just loves music and he loves performing for people and making them happy. That in itself, you gotta love that. That is such a beautiful thing. That he was able to put his enthusiasm, his almost child-like enthusiasm, in his music for nearly sixty years is an amazing thing. People just don’t have that kind of drive and enthusiasm for music for the most part. He almost powered his way in, you know, through rhythm and blues and people thought, you know, that’s not something that most people wanted to do. They…he didn’t care about if he was being too enthusiastic or that, you know, people didn’t…weren’t use to that kind of the hard driving sound. He just wanted to play it and he wanted to entertain people and people caught on and they loved it…it was just kind of a youthful enthusiasm just driving through his music and that’s just the way Fats is. He’s just a sweet, enthusiastic guy who just loves living, you know…loves living and enjoying life.
I think the song that a lot of people most associate with Fats Domino, one of them is probably ‘Blueberry Hill.’ Tell us about that song.
‘Blueberry Hill’ was an old pop song and, uh, well actually it was first recorded by Gene Autry for one of his singing cowboy movies in, I think, 1940. Shortly after that Glenn Miller had a big number one pop hit version of it, with girls singing the song, if you can imagine that and then probably the most significant version after that was Louie Armstrong’s version in 1949 and Fats Domino heard Louis Armstrong’s version of and he loved it but he really never knew the whole song so luckily, his brother-in-law, Harrison Verrett who played in a lot of New Orleans jazz bands as a guitarist and banjo player knew the whole song. They were actually in Los Angeles at the time, in the spring of 1956 when they tried to record the song. The fact that they, Fats didn’t really know the whole thing contributed to the fact that they really were not able to get a whole take of the song. In other words, they would record the song but they couldn’t record it all the way through. They had to stop at various times. Dave Bartholomew was not too happy actually with the session because he knew that they had never completed a full take. He told Lew Chudd, who was the owner of Imperial records,” Lou, I don’t have nothing,” when they went to dinner that night but Lew Chudd heard it and he said, “Well, it sounds pretty good. I think we can put it on as a B side.” Okay…so he has his engineer, who was Bunny Robine at Master Recorders Studio in Los Angeles edited together from the different takes and it came out alright he thought so he put it on the B side of a song called ‘Honey Child’ and they actually released ‘Honey Child’ and were promoting that when this disc jockey says ‘Wow, this song, ‘Blueberry Hill’ on the other side…that’s a great song,” and they actually had to flip it over and play ‘Blueberry Hill’ and, of course, it became the biggest record of Fats career. I mean, it was just huge. Amazingly, Fats never had a number one pop hit but ‘Blueberry Hill’ did reach number two. It sold millions…you know, tens of millions of copies on its own and is the Grammy Hall of Fame and other legendary song classes but it was certainly the song that people know best of all for Fats. The one thing kind of funny about it…actually the song was considered kind of risqué…’I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill,” and if you’ve ever watched the series, ‘Happy Days,’ you know that was one thing that Ritchie Cunningham, Ron Howard, use to say: “I found my thrill” whenever he was talking about girls, making out with girls.
You know, I was reading this interview that Dave Bartholomew did a few years back where said that…you know, we just talked about ‘Walking to New Orleans,’ but it’s kind of interesting: there’ve been a number of Fats Domino’s with “walk” in the title: ‘I’m Walking,’ ‘Have You Ever Seen a Dream Walking,’ and Dave said that Fats thought that song titles with ‘walk’ in the title were lucky. Had you ever heard that before?
Well, I think that he was saying that Fats thought they were lucky and obviously, you know, they were lucky for him ‘cause it was like you said, ‘I’m Walking’ and then he did ‘I Want to Walk You Home’ and then ‘Walking to New Orleans’ and that actually…those were three…I believe all three of those were number one R&B hits for him so, yeah, he definitely was lucky with that title…using the word “walk” in the title and part of the thing I think, you know, again goes back to Fats had a ,uh, had a rhythm in his songs and a walking rhythm certainly fits ‘Walking to New Orleans’ and it definitely does fit ‘I Want to Walk You Home’ but ironically, ‘I’m Walking’ is almost at a galloping beat if you listen to it but it sounds like he’s running almost, you know (Laughs). That’s kind of ironic but specifically, ‘I’m Walking’ certainly was one of Fats’ biggest hits, right after ‘Blueberry Hill’ and ‘Blue Monday’. That has a huge rhythm which was contributed to by the great drummer, Earl Palmer, who is in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame as an instrumentalist and it’s, uh, really almost a jazz brass band marching rhythm in there that they would play on snare drums and if you listen to it, it starts off at the, uh, a bass prelude. In the brass band parades there was a, they would have a bass drummer and then they, uh, go into the snare drum and, uh, so if you listen to it, he’s playing both the bass part, which goes bump, bump, shbump bump bump…and then he goes into the two beat which is “I’m walking,” bump n bump n bump bump. You know, so, uh, so it’s really a driving, driving rhythm and it’s not walking at all but it sure was a huge, huge hit and, uh, of course, Rickey Nelson made it into his first hit just shortly thereafter and, uh, ironically, it’s been recorded by a bunch of people. I think Hank Williams JR did it in the 70’s and then even Ella Fitzgerald, of all people, recorded it in the 70’s and they’ve actually become both a country and a jazz standard. It’s amazing how far some many of Fats’ songs have carried him.
Well you know, I was also thinking it’s interesting because, like we said, he had the, uh, “walking” in a few titles…in a few of his song titles but also “blue.” You know, ‘My Blue Heaven,’ ‘Blueberry Hill,’ ‘Blue Monday.’ It’s just kind of interesting I think.
Yeah…that’s another point. Of course, that relates back to, uh, you know, the blues I would think, uh, that he would…that you would do a song with the word “blue” in it but, the thing is, you know, Fats did some blues but he always did kind of a…almost always had kind of a…some kind of a happy turn to most of his blues. He never did the extremely broken down blues and ironically the other two songs you’re talking about, they are actually tin-pan alley songs. ‘My Blue Heaven’ was a huge hit in 1927 and ‘Blueberry Hill’ from 1940 and so that…that really expanded Fats’ audience at that time because, uh, that was actually intentional that he was recording some of those tin-pan alley songs or, in other words, the pop songs from the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s that really expanded his audience because, uh, adults really had no respect for rhythm & blues and the fact that he did such a beautiful, exuberant version of these old songs which the parents, the kids’ parents knew, actually got the parents to buying these records. So it was a huge breakout for Fats. ‘My Blue Heaven’ was the first, and then he did ‘When My Dreamboat Comes Home’ which was also a big hit, another tin-pan alley song and then he capped off that little trilogy with ‘Blueberry Hill’ which, of course, was his biggest song of all time.
One of the other songs that he’s most known for is ‘Ain’t That a Shame.’ Tell us a little bit about that one.
‘Ain’t That a Shame’ was a very, very simple song as anyone who’s ever listened to it and knows and I gotta say that’s kind of the difference between Fats’ songwriting and Dave’s songwriting. Dave’s certainly written a lot of simple songs but that was kind of Fats trademark; to write very, very simple songs, very simple lyrics and if you listen, Dave’s songs are clearly his, like ‘Blue Monday’ and ‘I Hear You Knocking’ and even ‘One Night of Sin’…uh, it has a more elaborate story line in there, where he talks about what happened to him in the course of the song. But Fats would just write simple nursery rhyme, nursery rhyme type things. Actually, that’s what Dave called them to this day. It’s like ‘I’m Walking’ and ‘Ain’t That a Shame,’ very, very simple one line songs….or ‘A Whole Lot of Lovin’ for that matter, which I think only has about twenty-something words in it and, you know, “You made me cry when you said goodbye. Ain’t That a Shame.” (Laughs)So, you know, that’s how Fats came up with that because he said he saw a lady beat the baby in the street or something and he said, “Ain’t That a Shame.” He said, “Well, that could be a song,” and, uh, they were actually out in Los Angeles in 1955 and they put that together in almost the same time they recorded ‘Blue Monday’ and another big hit of Fats, it’s called the ‘All By Myself.’ The same, within two weeks of each other they recorded a whole spree of these number one R&B hits. They, uh…Dave didn’t know exactly what to do with it but he, I guess he emphasized the beat. Him…Dave and Fats were together on that mindset…to always have a heavy, heavy rhythm and so that was really, you know, like I said, the big beat that was driving his songs along so after Dave, Fats, said “You made me cry,” he had the drums and all the instruments come in and say ‘Bomp…bomp bomp!” You know, and people had never heard a heavy, heavy beat like that before on pop radio in the 1950’s so you gotta imagine the people were just astounded by that. I mean, we don’t…people don’t really think about ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ these days but it was almost a revolutionary type sound, almost like we think of as ‘Tootie Fruity’ by Little Richard…but Fats never screamed like Little Richard but he had a heavier beat in some ways than Little Richard or, at least just as heavy. Of course, Little Richard recorded all of his hits in New Orleans and used a lot of the same musicians for that same heavy beat and that’s he followed Fats into popularity. ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ was very significant ‘cause it crossed over in July, 1955, the same month ‘Rock Around the Clock’ by Bill Hailey and the Comets became number one for over a month and so they timed a simultaneous shots of the revolution of rock ‘n’ roll. Bill Hailey had the biggest record of the year there and Fats had the first record by a black man with the heavy beat in the top ten and that was…that was really the opening shots for the rock ‘n’ roll revolution.
Just amazing stories. It really is amazing when you sit there and you look at all the different things that Fats Domino contributed to music. One of the things that I thought was really interesting about the book and then, also I was reading that article that you did, ‘Seven Decades of Fats Domino,’ I knew about John Lennon, the fact that ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ was the first song that he had ever learned. But, I didn’t know that George Harrison…that the first song that he learned was a Fats Domino song as well.
Yeah…let me talk about that. Actually, kind of a forgotten Fats Domingo song, but was really one of his biggest hits, is a song called ‘I’m in Love Again’…”Yes, it’s me and I’m in love again,” and that was a huge, huge hit. It was really bigger chart-wise than ‘Ain’t That A Shame’ ‘cause it made number three where ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ had been number ten and the significant thing was that in the late 1955 after ‘Ain’t That a Shame,’ Fats was not able to cross over and again, that was what Lew Chudd of Imperial Records was so obsessed with was crossing over from rhythm and blues charts to the pop chart and you gotta realize this is simultaneous as the integration of schools at the time ‘cause when the integration ruling, the Supreme Court ruling was in July of ’54…okay…so this is one year later that Fats crossed over with ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ which, as I said, is a very, very significant thing which people have forgotten about and, uh, but he was not… he had two number one R&B hits after that which were, um, ‘All By Myself’ and ‘Poor Me.’ Both of those topped the R&B charts but neither one of them even scratched the pop charts. And so in early 1956,Fatts had finally scratched the pop charts again with ‘Boweavel’ which was a song like ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ which was covered by a pop artist which I didn’t mention about ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ which is very significant and that’s the reason why it really made the top ten was because Pat Boone had covered it, ‘Ain’t That a Shame,’ and made it a number one pop hit which, if you’ve ever heard Pat Boone’s version…
Yeah, it’s not too good.
It’s awful! But anyway, Teresa, Teresa Brewer who had likewise covered ‘Bo Weevil’ took that to the top five but Fats version didn’t do nearly as well. It only made, I believe, number thirty six but still that was his foot back into the door of, you know, the pop charts. Ironically, the subject matter, ‘Bo Weevil’ is about an insect that gets into the white man’s cotton crop and ruins it, okay? So that’s a little bit of irony there, that he got his foot back in the door with ‘Bo Weevil’ ‘cause blacks in the late 1800’s had actually kind of snickered about the boll weevil. It became kind of a folk hero for blacks because that was what was hurting the white man. So, anyway, he got his foot back in the door with ‘Bo Weevil’ but when he really crashed the pop charts again was in the spring of 1956 with ‘I’m in Love Again’ which it just has a simple little loping beat, uh, “Yes it’s me and I’m in love again,” and, uh, had a nice little saxophone solo by the great Lee Allen who played a few of Fats solos but most of Fats solos on all of his hits were played by the great Herbert Hardesty. He was still around and had played for Fats for sixty years, which was an amazing feat and, uh, anyway…but ‘I’m in Love Again’ became a huge hit…number three and it was heard by George Harrison in Liverpool. First…he said it was the first rock ‘n’ roll song he’d ever heard. It just amazed him and also, subsequently recorded by Paul McCartney and a whole bunch of other rock ‘n’ roll greats.
I got to do a little interview with Fats Domino and he said that if he got songs that he liked he would come out with another record. Do you see him coming out with another record at any time?
Sadly, I don’t think…I don’t think Fats is going to be coming out with any more records unless it’s something that’s already been recorded. He really is not performing anymore. He is 82 years old. He probably won’t perform anymore because he, you know, he’s an old man. You know, you’re lucky if you can perform into your seventies let alone your eighties but from what I understand from talking to him, he still plays piano and he’s at home and we can just be thankful for all the great music that he’s provided with us for sixty years and it’s a spectacular legacy and I gotta say that…I hope we hope we can do a documentary on him and also, you gotta look at the great tribute that all these rock ‘n’ roll stars did to him a couple years ago with the two CD tribute to him. I mean, and it’s amazing the artists that are on there: Robert Plant and Tom Petty and Nora Jones and Dr. John and John Lennon is even on there…and they’re all doing Fats Domino songs so just look at that and you’ll know how significant this man was. You know, Elvis, like I said, called him the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Bob Marley said he started playing music with Fats Domino and so, I mean, just when you look at the scope of his influence, I mean, it’s just astounding. But as far as him performing again, I don’t think it’s going to happen but I think that we should, uh, realize his legacy and pay tribute to him forever really.
My curiosity, I guess. On that album, the ‘Going Home,’ the two CD tribute to him, did you have a favorite cutfrom that album ‘cause I agree. I think that was just an incredible collection.
I can’t really pick out a favorite song. I gotta admit, I haven’t really worn it out. I think it’s pretty amazing that, for instance, that Robert Plant came down to New Orleans and actually recorded with a local band and he actually did two songs on there. So, I mean, Elton John contributed a song. It’s just amazing that so many of these artists just instantaneously said that they would love to be a part of it and, now, I don’t think they were getting paid the big bucks for this. I think they really, really did it out of their heart. That’s what I’m saying, that these artists…these rock ‘n’ roll artists from the past thirty to forty years really…they appreciated Fats in some ways, more than the public at large does. I think, you know, Fats in some ways, you know, bigger in Europe where he toured consistently every year from the seventies to the early, to 1995 and, uh, so, you know…we in Louisiana and certainly around the country need to appreciate our great musical legends more and certainly Fats is one of the ones that has not been given the credit…all of the credit that he deserves because he is one of the central cornerstones to rock ‘n’ roll, you know. You could argue that he may be the main cornerstone in some ways. That’s what, as a matter of fact, that what Dave Bartholomew called him…”He’s the cornerstone.”
One final question before you go: what would you like to say to all the listeners out there?
Well, I would like to say that, you know, Fats Domino is an icon and people should honor him as much as any of the rock ‘n’ rollers. As I was trying to say before, he was second only to Elvis in rock ‘n’ roll in the early years and so he’s almost like an unsung hero because, you know, there’s only been one book on him and it took me twenty years to write. It just tells you so much about the whole story of America and the rise of popular music and rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll specifically and New Orleans immense contribution to that. You know, that is…that is…that is something that people have really not realized a lot. You know, they’ve realized it a little bit more after Katrina maybe and, uh, New Orleans, the consciousness of New Orleans has increased but Fats is still…has never received his due and I’m gonna throw in a plug for another icon who I think has never received his due…Louis Jordan from the 1940’s. He was the most popular black artist of the 1940’s and has never had a book ever. Well, I’m taking that back. He has one book but it’s not that good. But he never had a documentary, is what I meant to say and likewise with Fats. I’m hopefully working on a documentary on Fats in the near future and we hope to have that out sometime in the next year. You know, hopefully that will help his legacy because people need to recognize not only the legacy of New Orleans but also of Fats Domino who was, you know, definitely one of the great legends of rock ‘n’ roll. I appreciate you talking to me and giving me a chance to spread the word about Fats and New Orleans.
TRANSCRIBED BY LORI DOMINGO