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