Pine Nuts: Fats Domino and the sound of New Orleans
A couple years ago, I was listening to my favorite Fats Domino CD while driving to the post office when I noticed the outdoor deck of our favorite tavern was full of solemn looking people having solemn looking conversations.
So, I pulled up alongside the deck, cranked up the volume, and let Fats Domino work his magic. Inevitably, following a few looks of annoyance, everybody on the deck got up and started dancing.
But let me back up a little. As a boy of 7 years old, I was used to hearing the big band sounds of Benny Goodman wafting through the house, and on occasion a little Glenn Miller. Then one day my older brother, whose one word for me was usually, “Vamoose,” turned to me and said, “Hey, Squirt, you’ve got to hear this.”
Together, we listened to Fats Domino’s pulsating piano and easygoing woo-woos, as he pounded out his two-fisted, boogie-woogie version of, “The Fat Man.” I marched into the kitchen and begged my parents to buy me a phonograph and a drum set, which they did, and lived to regret.
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Fat’s music was irresistible, even health-giving. Other artists would borrow from Fats. Pat Boone and Ricky Nelson should rightly have sent him checks. Actually, until hip-hop came along, virtually every musical artist owed a little something to Fats. Heck, Vladimir Putin sang Blueberry Hill at a charity event in St. Petersburg a few years back — it must be true, I saw it on YouTube. Vladimir should have sent Fats a check.
Fats Domino’s sound is all about New Orleans. Even during Hurricane Katrina, when for a while he was missing and feared dead, Fats would not leave his beloved New Orleans, insisting it was the only place where he liked the food. Not to mention his family, his music and his, “Big Easy,” Fats loved his crawfish, his cards, and his friends. As one of his biographers said about him, “What a sweet man.”
Did Fats have to deal with racism? You bet. When Fats went to Saenger Theater to see, “The Girl Can’t Help It,” a movie in which he was a star, he had to sit upstairs. It seems only fitting, with a few obelisks sitting empty across this great land of ours, that one of them should play host to a statue of one of the most uniting of American figures, Fats Domino.
If you’d like to join the celebration, a few of us are taking a ride up the Mississippi a year from now on a paddlewheeler, November 2018, with a night in the Crescent City in which to pay our respects to this sweet, sweet man. But you better bring two pair of shoes.
“I’m walkin’ to New Orleans
“I’m gonna need two pair of shoes
“When I get through walkin’ these blues”
With a few strains of boogie-woogie in the background, may this American treasure rest in eternal peace, Fats Domino, 1928-2017.
Learn more about McAvoy Layne at http://www.ghostoftwain.com
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