FATS DOMINO 60th ANNIVERSARY
LMHOF Commemorative Artwork by Executive Director Mike Shepherd
LMHOF Executive Director Mike Shepherd & Fats Domino
Louisiana Music Hall of Fame Celebrates
60th Anniversary of Fats Domino’s First Hit Record
Recording of The Fat Man Ushered in “The New Orleans Sound” to Rock and RollOn December 10th 1949, a young piano player named Antoine Domino Jr., coached by a talented mentor and a gifted engineer/producer (Dave Bartholomew), laid down his first music tracks in a cramped New Orleans recording studio (Cosimo Matassa's J&M Music). Little did these men know that they were about to launch a music revolution. With the release of one of those tracks, The Fat Man, shortly thereafter, not only had the “Fats” Domino legacy been established, it also brought about the explosion of “The New Orleans Sound” of rhythm and blues that underpinned the rise of American rock and roll.
“When Dave Bartholomew (and Lew Chudd) discovered Fats and brought him in to record with the legendary Cosimo Matassa at J&M Studios, it was like bringing air, tinder and a spark together,” said Louisiana Music Hall of Fame Executive Director Mike Shepherd. “Bartholomew was already a successful recording artist, bandleader and prolific songwriter who convinced Imperial Records' Lew Chudd to let him develop artists in New Orleans. The combination of these three genius talents and Chudd's record labels rocked the music world.”
To commemorate the 60th anniversary, LMHOF commissioned an original oil painting created by noted New Orleans and Baton Rouge artist Ralph Chabaud destined to become a treasured exhibit for the proposed future hall of fame physical museum. Shepherd noted the presentation to Domino with family members in attendance was intended to take place on the anniversary date, but was needed to be rescheduled for another date in the near future. “Over the past year or so, Fats and his family have been talking with us about creating a legacy project to help preserve the classic New Orleans music and promote rising musicians in his beloved home town,” Shepherd notes. “We are delighted that Fats and his family share this concept with the LMHOF, and we plan to announce details of the project in 2010. We intend to have proceeds from sale of reproductions of Chabaud’s original painting, as well as a yet unfinished painting on the "New Orleans Sound Trinity"(Domino, Bartholomew, Matassa), dedicated for realization of this joint project.”
Fats Domino churned out 46 R&B chart hits, 31 of which crossed over to the pop charts. He sold over 65 million records in the ‘50s and was only eclipsed by Elvis Presley for total record sales. Many of those hit songs were written by or co-written with Dave Bartholomew, and both are enshrined in both the Rock and Roll and Songwriters halls of fame. Domino, Bartholomew and Matassa have all been inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. “In my opinion it is a gross oversight that Cosimo has not been brought into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by now,” Shepherd commented. “Maybe the honors we have bestowed on him at home and in retelling the story of his prolific career having a key role in creating over 200 chart singles over two decades for Fats and many, many others will bring him into their spotlight. We have a few ideas on forwarding that concept in the works. The incredible contributions of Cosimo Matassa need to be recognized, at the highest levels, in his lifetime.”
Biographies are thru the home page and multimedia files of Domino, Bartholomew and Matassa’s work can be found in abundance in the GALLERIES MUSIQUE Virtual Museum.
Below we proudly provide some perspectives on Fats and this day in music history from three authors, Tom Aswell (author of the newly released Louisiana Rocks! - The True Genesis of Rock & Roll), Alan Warner (former EMI executive and catalog manager for Fats & Dave Bartholomew) and Del Moon (1980 principal of the Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame, author and current LMHOF Media Manager).
Fats Domino and December 10, 1949 - Tom Aswell
Sometimes it’s difficult to explain the way events and people come together to impact our lives and sometimes it is best not to question a good thing.
In 1949, Lew Chudd was in Houston scouting for Mexican musicians to record on his Los Angeles-based Imperial Record label. At the same time, Dave Bartholomew and his band were performing in Houston. Chudd was also interested in marketing rhythm & blues, so after hearing Bartholomew’s band, he hired the New Orleans native and his group to play recording sessions at Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Studio in New Orleans.
Later that same year, Chudd was in New Orleans to help set up his first recording session at Matassa’s tiny studio. On a Friday night, he and Bartholomew got into a cab that took them to the general proximity of a remote establishment called the Hideaway Club. General proximity was as close as the cabbie was willing to take them. He stopped at one point, telling his two fares that was as close as he would go. Chudd, with a sense of some foreboding, got out and he and Bartholomew walked across a vacant field to the club where Chudd heard a young man named Antoine Dominique “Fats” Domino, a little more than two months shy of his twenty-second birthday.
That one, brief encounter was sufficient to convince Chudd to bring Domino into Matassa’s studio. The singer was the final piece of the puzzle needed to complete the historic four-man partnership. There was record executive Chudd, bandleader/songwriter/arranger Bartholomew, recording engineer Matassa, and Domino, the singer who would become the second biggest-selling recording artist of the 1950s behind only Elvis Presley.
December 10, 2009, will mark the sixtieth anniversary of the historic recording session that produced Domino’s very first hit, The Fat Man, a re-make of Champion Jack Dupree’s Junker Blues. With Herb Hardesty featured on tenor saxophone, the song streaked to number 2 on the R&B charts by February of 1950 and sold an estimated one million records.
It was the first of forty songs on which Domino and Bartholomew would collaborate. In all, Fats sold sixty-five million records during the 1950s, outselling Chuck Berry, Little Richard, James Brown, and Ray Charles. Fats even played piano on others’ records (that’s him playing on Lloyd Price’s number-1 hit Lawdy Miss Clawdy.
Two of the four, Domino (1986) and Bartholomew (1991) are members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Two others, Matassa and Chudd, should be. Matassa turned out hit after hit in his little studio at 838-840 North Rampart Street until he was forced to move into larger quarters at 523 Governor Nichols. Chudd, meanwhile, expanded his horizons with Ricky Nelson, Slim Whitman, Smiley Lewis, T-Bone Walker, and the Spiders. Bartholomew, in addition to writing, producing, and performing on Domino’s recordings, also recorded the original version of My Ding-A-Ling.
Ten years ago, on December 10, 1999, New Orleans and Louisiana paid proper homage to the original building on North Rampart when it was designated as a historic landmark. The date marked the fiftieth anniversary of the recording of The Fat Man.
There were others, of course: Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun (Atlantic Records), Art Rupe (Specialty), Leonard Chess (Chess Records), Johnny Vincent (Ace Records), and of course, all those wonderful New Orleans singers, musicians, and songwriters. But the fact remains that the convergence of the talents of four men—Lew Chudd, Cosimo Matassa, Dave Bartholomew, and Fats Domino—proved to be the catalyst that brought everything together to create the unique New Orleans sound. It would be safe to say rock and roll was never again the same. And for that, we are truly indebted.
Tom Aswell with Mike Shepherd and the new Louisiana Rocks! by Tom Aswell
Fats Domino and December 10, 1949 - Alan Warner
Mike - this is the release that I've sent out to EMI Music Publishing staff worldwide:
Dear all:Just to let you know that this week marks a very important anniversary in rock 'n' roll history.
60 years ago this Thursday - on December 10, 1949, Fats Domino cut his very first recordings in the backroom of the J&M Music Shop at 838 North Rampart Street in New Orleans.
Dave Bartholomew produced the session and Cosimo Matassa was the engineer. Dave & Fats wrote the songs, the first four of which were "Detroit City Blues", "The Fat Man", "Hide Away Blues" and "She's My Baby".
All the tracks were recorded 'live' on to lacquer discs.
Adapted from the traditional "Junker's Blues" and inspired not by Fats' size but by the hero of a radio detective program, THE FAT MAN became the very first Fats Domino hit, charting eventually on the rhythm & blues lists in February 1950.
In New Orleans itself, local dee-jays Poppa Stoppa and Dr. Daddy-O heavily promoted the single and an ad in Billboard magazine back then claimed that it sold 10,000 copies in 10 days in the Crescent City alone!
It ended up selling a million copies nationwide.
This was, of course, just the beginning of a long line of Fats Domino successes and despite the fact that its sound is limited by comparison to today's recording techniques, it emphasizes what an outstanding pianist he is.
Fats' endearing Creole accent demands you listen to every word and also memorable are his wonderfully improvised 'wah-wah-wah' phrases which perfectly complement the powerhouse eight-bar blues that propelled the infectious track into becoming what many believe was the very first rock 'n' roll record.
The lasting value of the recordings that Fats made for Imperial is also a testament to the outstanding musicians whom Dave hand-picked for the sessions.
They, along with Dave himself on trumpet, provided much of what we now recognize as the vintage New Orleans sound.
For the record, Fats Domino is 81 years old, Cosimo Matassa is 83 and Dave Bartholomew will be 89 on Christmas Eve.
The Alan Warner Show
Alan Warner & Dave Bartholomew at Dave's LMHOF Induction
Fats Domino and December 10, 1949 - Del Moon
Fats Domino was among my early idols, but it was not until I was a college student that I really even began to appreciate why.
I was born in 1953 and grew up in Southern California. My parents loved music and exposed their kids to a wide variety of styles– the classics, big band, Sinatra, Spike Jones, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Burl Ives and Broadway soundtracks, and yes a little jazz, but more in the Dave Brubeck mold. My folks were not bigoted - far from it - but the black side of American music was not part of the experiences of a man from Kansas and his Pennsylvania Dutch wife. So the black music they played was more limited and “mainstream” – Nat King Cole, Harry Bellefonte, Sarah Vaughn and Duke Ellington, plus many more “covers” of the original versions of popular songs by white artists.
One of my favorite records was a sampler album that had some Louis Armstrong, Louis Prima (who I thought was black) and Ella Fitzgerald in the mix. And like most of my grownups’ generation, they were appalled initially with Elvis and rock and roll as crude and possibly dangerous to the American Way of Life.
The little transistor radio I begged for and got for my 8th Christmas expanded my horizons, and then television started to break through. Catching snippets of Elvis, the Platters and the Coasters on The Ed Sullivan Show confirmed that there was something more, something better out there. American Bandstand cracked open the dam. I recall it was on this show that I first saw Fats Domino perform Blueberry Hill and then, later in the show, I’m Walkin’. I had heard his stuff before on my scratchy pocket radio, but seeing the whole package hooked me. I loved the swaying piano, the flat-top hairdo his infectious smile. I also discovered others like Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard, and while their stuff was also great and even more outrageous, there was just something classy and deeper about this Fats guy.
Fats was a major influence for me as hit after hit after hit churned out. Those rolling triplets, crooning horns and honey-sweet vocals made me feel transported to another place. Fats Domino crossed over the color line in radio- his music even infiltrated my Dad’s favorite station where hits by black artists were usually covered by the Pat Boone types.
As I entered high school most of the big Fats hits were already being called Golden Oldies, and white covers of R&B songs persisted on Top 40 radio in L.A. But nobody could cover Fats Domino with any success. More and more, I refused to accept substitutes and dug deeper to hear the “real” versions. Pat Boone could interpret for my Pop, but I craved “that sound” conveying the authentic rhythm and soul of the songs.
In my late teens I was subsisting on the rock explosion of Love Generation music, but I gradually began to piece together the real roots of rock and roll, blues and jazz music. Like many hippie kids, the British Invasion did as much as anything to teach me about American roots music. My long-haired heroes (like Paul McCartney) openly idolized people like Fats Domino, which validated my continued attraction to the early rockers. I found myself hanging out with others, including several I played with in school orchestra and band, who liked to listen to ‘50s rock and R&B hits. Even then, we just reveled to the music and didn’t spend much time understanding where it all came from and how it came about.
It was not until I moved to the South and entered LSU that I discovered the ocean of music in the region that spawned Fats Domino. Names like Cosimo Matassa, Dave Bartholomew, Professor Longhair, Frogman Henry and the Meters kicked in a passion to learn more – the well seemed to be bottomless. Jazz, blues, country and Cajun music appreciation followed quickly. I was still driven by the rock and roll of the day but at least I was connecting the dots.
As I got my journalism degree and developed into an arts and entertainment writer my interviews with music makers continually confirmed that Louisiana had a larger role than any other place in the genesis of rock and pop in the second half of the 20th Century, and that led to an appreciation of the roots of American rhythm going back to Jelly Roll Morton and Kid Ory.
Originally bitter and depressed about leaving Hip Central El Lay, I found I had been given a gift. I would have still held fond affection for Fats Domnio, but I probably would never have learned that a couple of genius talents (Bartholomew and Matassa) surrounded and elevated that man’s career and were largely responsible for his success. Nor would I have likely appreciated the rich cultural gumbo pot that cooked up the sounds and rhythms that underpinned and inspired most of music that became the soundtrack of my life.
Looking back, I think this history of being transplanted to bayou country brought the kind of epiphany that motivated me in 1979 to conceive creating a hall of fame to honor and teach the world about the state’s boundless music legacy. Each new discovery added to my appreciation of Louisiana’s aggregate contribution to indigenous and popular music.
I guess I “found my thrill.”
Mike Shepherd - Bill Conti - Del Moon at Bill's LMHOF Induction
LMHOF Commemorative Artwork by Executive Director Mike Shepherd
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