FATS DOMINO, the rock and blues singer whose recording of Blueberry Hill was the soundtrack to many a teenager’s life in the era before The Beatles, died yesterday at 89.
A pioneer of the nascent rock and roll movement, Domino’s steady, pounding piano and easy baritone was a counterpoint to the hip-swivelling gyrations of his contemporary, Elvis Presley. His physical appearance could also not have been more different: Domino weighed more than 200lbs and sported instead of a quiff a plastered-down hairstyle as flat as an LP cover.
But he sold more than 110m records, including 22m singles such as I’m Walkin’, Ain’t That A Shame and Shake, Rattle And Roll.
Domino was one of the first 10 acts in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Rolling Stone Record Guide likened him to Benjamin Franklin, the beloved old man of a revolutionary movement.
His 1956 version of Blueberry Hill was selected for the Library of Congress registry of historic sound recordings worthy of preservation.
Despite his global fame, he never strayed from his native Louisiana, where he was among the victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. His family had to be rescued by boat and he lost his home, three pianos and dozens of gold and platinum records.
Antoine Domino Jr was born on February 26 1928, to a family that grew to include nine children.
As a youth, he taught himself popular piano styles after his cousin left an old upright in the house. Fats Waller and Albert Ammons were early influences.
He recorded his first song, The Fat Man, in the back of a tiny French Quarter recording studio.
“They call me the Fat Man, because I weigh 200lb,” he sang. “All the girls, they love me, ‘cause I know my way around.”