The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #34 – Lloyd Price

Lloyd Price, like so many great musicians is from Louisiana. An inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, he’s one of the absolute legends in popular music. Known for his songs like “Lawdy, Miss Clawdy” “Personality” and “Just Because,” Price’s songs have also been recorded/performed by everyone from The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Paul McCartney, and Joe Cocker.

Never one to rest on laurels, Lloyd Price’s recent album “This is Rock and Roll” features new songs as well as interpretations of rock and roll standards. It’s all here in this fast-paced interview with one of rock and roll’s founders!

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Breezy McKenley: Recording Artist

BREEZY MCKENLEY real name Barron McKenley is a recording artist and singer from Jamaica.  A Christian recording artist, he decided to write new gospel lyrics to the songs of Fats Domino.  This is something he regularly does, making gospel remakes of pop hits, he calls himself “the Tribute Man.”
After reading about, McKenley’s love of Fats Domino, I decided to try to contact him and was successful.

Rick Coleman: Author, Biographer

RICK COLEMAN is recognized as a leading authority on Fats Domino.  He wrote the definitive biography of rock ‘n roll legend Fats Domino, Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n Roll.  In this interview, Rick Coleman talks all about the fascinating Fats Domino.

What is your favorite Fats Domino song?

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

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.

Thank you

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?

Why not?

(Laughs)
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

Chubby Checker: Singer & Recording Artist

 CHUBBY CHECKER is one of the greatest singers in all of music.  In 1960, he recorded and released the Hank Ballard R&B song “The Twist” which resulted in a dance craze also known as “The Twist.”

The Twist has not gone away.  Nor has Chubby Checker.  He’s still Twisting!  What a thrill to talk with one of the absolute greatest in rock ‘n roll.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that we welcome our special guest, the legendary rock-n-roller, Chubby Checker.  Thanks so much for joining us.
Thank you so much.  Good to be talking with you.

It’s a great pleasure.  So tell everyone out there…people know your songs…but whose the real Chubby Checker?

You don’t want to know him.  He’s a very quiet guy.

Really?

He’s more like Clark Kent.  Nobody cares about him.  He’s very quiet, you know.  Someone whose the other guy…he’s always promoting Chubby Checker…the other guy, he’s always promoting Chubby and everything Chubby does.  It’s like I’m a person within a person.  I promote…I promote Chubby Checker and the quiet guy doesn’t really do very much.  He’s very laid back.  He’s a whole different kind of person and very quiet and…and…you know, just very normal.  In fact, I try to keep out of the way…keep out of the lights and, um, go to quiet places to be entertained.  Nothing exciting because the life of Chubby Checker is always in the spotlight so the other person tries not to be in the spotlight. 

Interesting.  Where do you come from originally?  What was life like growing up?

Spring  Gully, South Carolina and it’s Williamsburg County and Georgetown County.  Williamsburg from Spring Gully, South Carolina and Andrews, South Carolina, this is my home and when you come through Andrews, South Carolina on Highway 521, in every section of town they will say “Welcome to Andrews, birthplace of or the home of Chubby Checker.”

Wow!  Very cool.

I have to behave myself because I, I always tell the people in Andrews and Spring Gully that please forgive me because every time you come through town my name is always there so it’s a burden for them so please forgive me.  I’m going to behave myself and be a good by so that you won’t be ashamed of me (laughs). 

I was reading a really interesting story about you…and there’s lots of interesting stuff also I want to direct all the listeners to ChubbyChecker.com….there’s a real interesting story about you and how you got your name.

When I was a kid, I worked in a produce market for Tony Anastasi and Tony Anastasi gave me the name Chubby.  I later discovered that he gave me his son’s name, which I considered a great honor and a few years later I was working in the poultry market for Henry Colt and he took me to the record company.  I was doing a project for Dick Clark.  The lady there…this lady said…she said, “That’s Chubby.  Chubby like Fatts,” and then she added, “Checker, like Domino,” and Chubby became Chubby Checker and the lady’s name was Mrs. Dick Clark.

So tell me, how did you get interested in music?

My mom took me to concert when we were living in Georgetown County in Georgetown, South Carolina and I was looking at Ernest Tubb, the country singer, and then she later took me to a show in Andrews, South Carolina where I saw a singer named Sugar Charles Robinson  and after I saw those two people, I decided I’d have to be in show business.  I was about four or five years old. 

Wow.  Can you remember favorite artists and favorite records growing up?

I remember people from the 40’s like, um, Hank Williams and Grandpa Jones…those people were around when I was a kid because all I ever heard was country music because I was born before rock-n-roll and people like Hank Williams…people like that….and then when I gained consciousness, about 1951…I must have been about ten years old, then I started exploring rock-n-roll because people like Billy Ward and the Dominos and people like that and…Perry Como and Milton Berle and then came along people like Sammy Davis Jr. and Harry Belafonte and, um, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin…people like that…but my favorite of all times was Fats Domino, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis.  These are the people that really mean something in the rock-n-roll business.  We…we are part of all these people.

I had to agree with you there on the Fatman there.  He was one of my favorite people to interview.  Just an amazing artist.

But these five people, to me, are…a statue should be carved of them in some mountain somewhere and call it the ‘Rock-n-Roll Mountain of Rushmore.’  Fats Domino, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis… these are the guys who really made it…that made rock-n-roll come alive with great fire. 

Before ‘The Twist,’ you had a song called ‘The Class.’  Tell us about that song.

I did impressions of Fats Domino and Elvis Presley and Cozy Cole and the Chipmunks and things like that and I still do a good Elvis impression and Ricky Nelson and Fabian and people like that and it was a novelty record.  It wasn’t my favorite but it was my first hit but it wasn’t my favorite record because I thought that, at the time, I was much cooler than ‘The Class.’  (Laughs)

Well tell us about the first time you heard your own music on the radio.  What did that feel like?

I really never listened to my music and I very rarely look at any films of me on TV or videos.  I never really watch that and the reason why I don’t listen to myself is because I might hear something that I don’t like and I might change it…I might change it…and that might be the reason why people are listening to me and when I watch myself on TV and I see something and I change it, that might be the reason why they like me so I never really watch myself and I don’t listen to my records but I do know that when they’re not played…I have a thing called ‘Media Base.’  I find out where all my music is being played and how many times it’s being played and the great heartbreak about my career is that they don’t really play my music like they play the other great people in the music industry.  I would like to hear Chubby’s music even more.  My music is responsible for the way we dance on the dance floor because after we did ‘The Class,’ and I did ‘The Twist,’ the world changed forever.  It’s almost as if we’re talking on the telephone right now…when the telephone came to the public, it became a permanent fixture in the world.  When…when Edison gave us the light bulb, it became a permanent fixture in the world.  When Chubby Checker did ‘The Twist,’ the ‘Pony,’ the “Fly,’ the ‘Shake,’ the ‘Hucklebuck,’ dancing on the floor the way we dance became a permanent fixture on the dance floor for everybody’s music and all I want out of it all is for everyone to play my music like they play Elton John;  like they play Elvis;  like they play all the rest of the guys out there….Bob Seger…I want to hear my music the way they play their music and I deserve to have it because in September 11th, 2008, ‘The Twist’ was named the number one song on the planet.  I want to hear the number one song on the planet on the radio.  I want to hear every radio station play the number one song on the planet. 

Well tell us a little bit about that song.  It is amazing, you know.  I can’t believe that it wouldn’t be more wide-spread.  Everybody knows ‘The Twist’ and it’s…

Everybody knows ‘The Twist,’ but I want the radio stations to play what’s responsible for the way we dance on the dance floor  24/7 since Chubby Checker went on ‘American Bandstand’ around 1959 and the world changed forever.  I mean, the way we do the boogie… the way we dance to Lady Gaga… the way kids dance that are nine or ten years old…that’s Chubby Checker.  You turn on the light in your house, it’s Thomas Edison.  When you get on the phone, it’s Alexander Graham Bell.  When you get on the dance floor, that’s Chubby Checker.  The music has a beat and you can dance to it, like they use to say, that’s Chubby Checker. 

Well, tell us about that song, ‘The Twist.’

We’re celebrating fifty years of dancing by ourselves on the dance floor.  Billy Idol said it last…said it best.  He says, that song “dancing by myself… and I’ll be dancing by myself.”  That’s what we’ve been doing.  When Chubby Checker did ‘The Twist,’ we been dancing by ourself on the dance floor, in front of someone, exploiting their sexuality, which is the most exciting thing on the planet!  That’s why we’re still doing it. 

Yeah, I heard you say that on the, on the television.  Uh, you mentioned that…you said that we’re exploiting one another’s sexuality.  What exactly do you mean by that?

It means that I’m actually standing in front of that woman and she’s standing in front of me and we’re fully dressed and we’re doing it.  What are we doing?  We’re doing it.  I’m looking at that girl and I’m saying, “Watch me…check my moves,” and she’s saying, “Watch me…check my moves,” and I’m looking at her and she’s looking at me.  My goodness!  You can’t get any closer to a strip tease than that.


(Laughs)  Yeah…

And that’s why…that’s why the way we dance on the dance floor before Chubby Checker wasn’t here…in fact, aerobic exercise did not emerge until someone says, “Hey, ‘The Twist’ is great exercise.  Let’s get some music and exercise to music,” and before Chubby Checker, that wasn’t even here.

That’s amazing.  When you look back at all the songs you recorded, is there one to you personally…you mentioned that you didn’t listen to your own records…but is there one to you that is a favorite?

‘The Twist’ is a great song.  ‘The Twist’ is my favorite song and reason for that is is because, you know, it changed the world.  When Walt Disney brought Mickey Mouse to our attention animated cartoons was established and invented right there and everyone that does animated cartoons…now when you go to Disney World or Disneyland you see Mickey Mouse but what about Snow White and the rest of the characters that he has?  Well my Mickey Mouse is ‘The Twist,’ and then my Snow White is ‘The Colonnade,’ and my Goofy is ‘The Fly, and another one is ‘The Shake’ and another one’s ‘The Hucklebuck.’  Those are my characters but they all represent, like Walt Disney’s characters all represent animated cartoons because before he came along it wasn’t here, and all my dances represent the way we dance on the dance floor.  We call it the ‘Dancing Keyboards’ to the way we do the boogie and it’s been going on 24/7 since Chubby Checker, that in two minutes and forty-two seconds the world, the world changed…the dip, dip beat(?)…the length of ‘The Twist’ is two minutes, forty-two seconds and two minutes and forty-two seconds changed the dance floor forever and it’s still going on as we speak.  ‘The Twist’ and the way we dance to the beat is the biggest event in the music industry…the day that it happened…and it still is the biggest event in the music industry.  I just want to catch up with myself and I’m hoping that all the radio stations in the world will play Chubby Checker’s music.  When I’m dead, I’m not going to be able to hear it.  I want to hear it while I’m alive and well.

It was not too I was doing an interview with Clarence “Frogman” Henry in New Orleans and he was, he was talking about you and he said that you were one of the people that he opened for that he was the most proud and the most excited to sing along with.  So I wanted to ask you: Who have you sang along with or opened for or had open for you that you were especially excited about?

It was way back in the day.  There was show in Philadelphia.  I was still in high school and I was the MC.  I…the first tour I went on, I was the MC and I was…I opened for The Quest.  I opened for Paul Williams and the Big Band.  I opened for Clyde McPhatter  and I opened for Bo Diddley.  The show was called ‘Hot Five,’ and I was on that show.  After that, basically most of the time, I’m on the road by myself all the time.  I loved playing with Chuck Barry.  I loved Fatts Domingo, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis.  I mean, I’ve played with all these people.  I was in the company of Elvis once in my career.  I’ve met Paul McCartney twice and that’s…that’s about it.  I mean, other than that, it’s the music and Chubby and the audience.  That’s what we’ve been doing, you know, since 1959.  I graduated in 1960.  I was touring before I even graduated high school.  Go to I-Tunes and Amazon.com and look for ‘Knock Down the Walls.’  Look for ‘All the Best.’  Look for that.  Look for ‘Limbo Remix.’  Look for ‘The Texas Twist.’  These are things that I’ve done over the last ten years and you need to listen to those cause it’s…the music is very exciting.  Uh, ‘Knock Down the Walls,’ very exciting song and ‘Texas Twist’ is a country album and it’s all country music on it and it’s something that you need to get in to.  It’s very exciting…

Yeah..

..and, and, and….and go to…go to The Last Twist.com and, you know…we have candy bars and hot dogs and steak and all kinds of junk on there and I’m sure it’d be very interesting.

I’ve got two final questions.

Uh-huh…

When somebody goes to hear you play, cause I wanted all the listeners out there again…check out ChubbyChecker.com…he’s got shows everywhere…uh, what do you hope that they get out of the experience of coming to a Chubby Checker show or listening to one of the records?

They are the centerpiece of the performance.  I am just a good excuse for the party.  It’s all about them.  It’s not about me.  I’m glad they’re coming to see me but I’m also coming to see them and I’m going to give them something.  I’m going to personally get involved with them.  That’s what I do.  You know, the show is about them and you have to see it in order to know it but the thing is, most shows you go to you sit, you clap and you’re an observer and you go home.  You sit down, you clap, you’re an observer and you go home.

Right.

And that’s all you get.  With Chubby Checker, you get more.  You get other things.  Come to town.  Come to see me so that you can see what the other thing is all about.  What’s the next question?

The last question for the legendary Chubby Checker:  This broadcast goes out all over the world.  What would you like to say to all the people out there that are listening?

Whenever you go on the dance floor, I’m there.  In fact, out of all the dances that you do, when you go on the dance floor more than anyone else, you might be dancing to the Beatles but the dance that you do to the Beatles is Chubby Checker.  You might be dancing to Lady Gaga, but Chubby’s there.  You might be at your office on the telephone but Graham Bell’s there.  You might be in your house with the lights on but Edison is there.  Everybody out there, have a good time and most of all is my last message to you:  “Behave!”

(Laughs)  Alright, ladies and gentlemen, the one and only Chubby Checker.

TRANSCRIBED BY LORI DOMINGO

Clarence “Frogman” Henry: Legendary Singer & Recording Artist

At 45 rpm’s Clarence Frogman Henry drove straight into the musical center of the listeners heart. That authentic New Orleans R&B sound revved its musical dynamo for the first time in the fifties and never ran out of fuel. Listen in as this legend talks about his youth, home, and of course music. The who’s who of music history you’re about to hear is only part of the journey. Fasten your seatbelts folks, this is quite a ride.

PART ONE:
 

PART TWO: