Fats Domino died at the age of 89 on Oct. 24. The following 1956 article delves into his popular rivalry with Elvis at the time and how he was handling his success.
Aug. 11, 1956
Fats Domino and Elvis Presley are no more closely resembled than an elephant and a gazelle. Yet, they’re as alike as two frisky kittens in a litter.
Whether you like them or not, you’re forced to admit they must have something—both of ‘em.
No two public figures in the country are more controversial at the moment than this pair, unless it is Nixon and Stassen. And few people anywhere are making more money, unless you include the printers at the Mint.
Domino and Presley take turns hogging the spotlight on the “rock ‘n’ roll” hit parade. Wherever they go, they’re mobbed by admirers. Still, if you listen to the people in the street, you’re not sure whether Fats and Elvis are artists or hooligans.
Each makes his own contribution to the craze of the day. Presley with his hip-swinging and nasal whine; Domino with his foot-stomping and husky shout.
Since the Mississippi guitar player has been rather freely exploited on several of the nation’s leading television shows, this look-see, perhaps, should concern itself with introducing the 250 pound piano player from New Orleans.
Fats, who now is happily married and the father of six children, was christened Antoine when he first saw the light of 28 years ago in the Louisiana metropolis.
As so often happens, his New Orleans birthright exposed him to the influence of the great “Papa” Celestin and the equally talented Kid Ory, both of whom have discovered a bevy of topline artists—Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, et al.
One of ten children, Fats was the only one with musical inclinations. And he showed them early.
Domino was singing in New Orleans cafes when he was only ten years old.
His first music lessons came from an uncle, Hariss Verett, who played in the Celestin and Ory bands in the early 1930s.
Today, Fats has 26 records behind him, including his own version of “Blue Heaven” and “I’m In Love Again,” both of which have remained close to the top of the disc jockey charts for the past seven weeks.
Most of his platters are based on numbers he wrote himself. Among them are “Ain’t That A Shame,” “Poor Me,” “You Keep Knocking” and “Don’t Blame It On Me.”
Despite the facts these are waxed on a small label, Imperial, the demands for Domino’s rival the requests for Perry Comos and Eddie Fishers and Tony Martins.
Asked what he thinks about the controversy over “rock ‘n’ roll,” Domino looks befuddled.
“To tell you the truth,” he told a West Coast newspaper recently, “I don’t even know what ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ is. My guys and I just play with a rhythm from Dixieland jazz. If that’s ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ there isn’t anything wrong with it.”
The Domino bandmen have been with him since he started in 1945. The turnover is probably smaller than in any other well-known group in the country.
The reason is all his sidemen know his strict rules for strict behavior and none ever crosses the line.
Naturally, the pay helps. Fats’ salaries are reputedly higher than those prevailing in most aggregations of comparable size.
During the past year, Fats has had only one week off. The rest of the time he has been working steadily. And what did he do with his free week?
Went home and bought a $2,500 piano for his son.