Fats Domino: The Founding Father of Rock and Roll

Jul 20, 2017

At first, there wasn’t a name for the kind of music that Fats Domino played.

He called it rhythm and blues. But Domino’s songs stretched beyond that category.

In the late 1940s, Domino was working at a mattress factory in New Orleans and playing piano at night. He’d just gotten married … and both his waistline and fan base were expanding. That’s when the bandleader Billy Diamond first called him “Fats” — and predicted he’d have an outsized career.

The owner of Imperial Records heard Domino sing “Junker’s Blues” at a club in the Ninth Ward, and signed him right off the bandstand to a recording contract. Producer Dave Bartholomew was there. He said Fats was rocking the joint with the tune that would become The Fat Man — Fats’ first million-selling record.

“And he was sweating and playing and he put his whole heart and soul into what he was doing. And people was crazy about him, so that was it. And we made our first record, The Fat Man, and we never turned around.” (From an interview with Bartholomew housed at the Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University.)

It’s not that Domino had invented something new. He was playing Rhythm and Blues, which—after the torch songs and ballads of war time—was a return to shaking it on the dance floor.

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