Fats Domino - 1950-51 ©JCMarion


As New Year's Day of 1950 dawns on the world, a new recording is setting the mid south on fire. It is the sound of a teenage Antoine "Fats" Domino from New Orleans and his 1949 Imperial side called "The Fat Man". Everyone, it seems, wants to hear the new R & B sensation pound the piano and wail the blues.

Six years later most of the civilized world would come to know the personality and the music of this original stylist. By then he would be repackaged as a pop music icon with new sounding versions of old favorites from mainstream America back in the day, such as "Blueberry Hill", "When My Dreamboat Comes Home" and "Little Coquette". Audiences would chuckle at Domino's bit of 'showtime' as he bumped the piano across the stage with his considerable girth while he kept on playing the keys. However most of White America never knew much about the R & B stylist that created a sensation at the turn of the decade with his jump sides and plaintive blues tunes sung in an earnest mellow voice with a heavy Cajun inflection. They never heard the unique break of Domino, using a high pitched falsetto, vocally imitating the 'growl' styled muted trumpet of his bandleader and arranger, Dave Bartholomew. They never realized the enormous contribution of the backing musicians such as tenormen Herb Hardesty and Lee Allen, baritone saxist Alvin "Red" Tyler, and drummer Earl Palmer. But - back to the first days of 1950 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Originally the 'A' side was thought to be "Detroit City Blues", but the flip with local references soon was a monster sales hit in the city of New Orleans and its fame was soon spreading throughout the region. It was a short time later when the lines "I was standing on the corner, of Rampart and Canal; I was watching, watching, all the single gals"became a byword in the Crescent City. While the tune with its stomping stride piano and joyous lyric delivery were riding high, a new Imperial single was released pairing "Little Bee" and "Boogie Woogie Baby". This side got little interest from record buyers as it was swept aside by demand for the earlier side. Imperial tried again with "Hide Away Blues" and "She's My Baby", but still the demand for "The Fat Man" was strong enough to attract numbers of bootleggers to spread counterfeit copies of the Imperial original. In July the label tried again with "Hey La Bas" b/w "Brand New Baby". After three failures to attract listeners to a newer record by Domino, Imperial finally succeeded in October as the incredible demand for his initial side began to diminish. The new release was called "Every Night About This Time" and the flip side was "Korea Blues". The big side, "Night", was a slow tempo plaintive blues about lost love that captured the Domino style perfectly. Imperial finally had a winner on their hands with their new R & B discovery.

In the early days of January of 1951, Imperial Records and its president Lew Chudd, realized they had the makings of a consistent hit maker in the R & B field on their hands, and so signed Fats Domino to a four year exclusive contract with the label.His new record for the label was "Tired of Living" b/w "What's The Matter" and was released in mid January. In early February, Fats starts his very first extensive tour in support of his Imperial recordings. He began in New York and then toured the southeastern states. In March "Tired Of Crying" is released, and is an immediate hit with R & B fans. The slow rhythmic blues is a powerful statement with its "reap what you sow" lesson in romantic revenge The flip side of 'Crying' is called "What's The Matter Baby". Imperial records confirms that "The Fat Man" is the biggest selling record the company has ever had. The Imperial releases come fast and furious from New Orleans. "Don't You Lie To Me" gives Fats a chance for a hit with an uptempo beat, which is paired with "Sometimes I Wonder". His piano stylings are an important part of the sound of his recordings and spawn a host of imitators. "Lie" has a nice run, but the next release "Right From Wrong" b/w "No No Baby" is overlooked by practically everyone. By the end of the year, Imperial releases "Rockin' Chair" as the 'A' side of the new Domino record, but it is the flip "Careless Love" that carries the day. Done in a bouncy stride style much like "The Fat Man", the tune (also called "Kelly's Love" from the slurred first word of the title) closes out the year on an up note for the R&B performer. By now it is apparent that Domino's capacity for output is prodigious, and he is steadily working on new tunes for Imperial. World wide acclaim and millions in record sales lie ahead.

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