Fats Domino this weekend. With the news of the passing of this music legend at 89, I was reminded just how integral a role he played in the early development of Rock n’ Roll but how, to most people, he rings very few bells these days. That’s a shame, because Fats Domino epitomized the quintessential New Orleans sound – a sound that was largely duplicated by Little Richard, Larry Williams, Art Neville, Dave Bartholomew, Allen Toussaint and many others because most of the backing musicians were the same, or they themselves worked on each others sessions during those formative years. This was also a time when regional influences were part of the fabric of early rock – it was a stew of many influences, and Fats Domino was one of the clear practitioners of that extension of Jump-Blues which laid a heavy emphasis on rhythm, becoming the foundation for what became Rock n’ Roll. A debt which is paid over and over, even if those paying that debt are unaware of who gave it.
No question, Fats Domino had a long and successful life – this concert from 1993 is late Fats Domino, but the core elements are there – and even though this live concert takes place during the Juan les Pins Jazz Festival in Antibes France, it gives some idea of where the essential roots lay. If anyone was to point at an interconnecting element between Jazz and Rock, it would be via Jump-Blues; a form which became popular after the War, when big bands were folding and small groups were coming into their own. It was, after all, dance music.
This concert was broadcast via Radio France on July 1993, it suffers from an over-zealous announcer and it ends while the show is still going on – one of the short-comings of live gigs, but a small price to pay for spontaneity and history.
If you’re just getting into Rock, finding your way around the labyrinth of styles and genres, Fats Domino is essential listening. His formative period, where the milestone hits came from, may sound strange to you in places – but this is the basis for most everything that came after. This is ground zero. Picture this – you’ve never heard anything like this before, and suddenly the entire world opened up and made sense- this was new uncharted territory.
And Fats Domino was the Captain.
Crank it up and enjoy.
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