Antoine Domino Jr. or Fats Domino, died at his daughter’s suburban New Orleans home Tuesday October 25, 2017.
Domino was working in a mattress factory in the 1940s playing the piano at night when a bandleader began calling him “Fats” due to his expanding waste line. His first platinum record “The Fat Man,” was released shortly thereafter on Imperial Records, which signed him right off the bandstand. “Fats was rocking the joint,” for bandleader Dave Bartholomew said in a 1981 interview, “And he was sweating and playing, he’d put his whole heart and soul in what he was doing, and the people was crazy about him — so that was it. We made our first record, ‘The Fat Man,’ and we never turned around.”
Between 1950 and 1963 Domino outsold Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly — combined, only Elvis Presley who stole the the black sound and made Rock N Roll more palatable for white audiences moved more records during that stretch. Presley did cite Domino as the early master and gave credit to the creators of the music.
One night in 1960 deep on the back roads of South Carolina, the Ku Klux Klan gave his band directions by the light of a burning cross. Saxophone player Herbert Hardesty was driving the Domino bus. “So I had to make it tight,” Hardesty said, “In about five minutes, I came to Ku Klux Klan. They said, ‘Well, where’s Fats Domino?’ I said, ‘He’s not here.’ They said, ‘What are you guys doing?’ I said, ‘I’m lost, I’m trying to get back to the highway.’ And they were very nice — the Ku Klux Klan treated us very nice!”