NEW ORLEANS, La. (CelebrityAccess) — Fats Domino, the New Orleans rhythm-and-blues musician who helped to define the early sound of rock n’ roll, had died in Louisiana. He was 89.
According to the New York Times, his death was confirmed by his brother-in-law and former road manager Reggie Hall.
A native of New Orleans, Antoine “Fats” Domino Jr. was the youngest of 8 children in a family with creole roots in New Orleans 9th Ward. He learned his primary instrument, the piano, from his brother-in-law, the jazz musician Harrison Verrett and in 1947, he was invited to join the Solid Senders, at the Hideaway Club, in New Orleans by bandleader Billy Diamond, who provided him with the sobriquet “Fats” as a call out to noted pianists such as Fats Waller.
Domino scored his first hit in 1949 with the Imperial Records recording “Fat Man,” the B-side for “Detroit City Blues.” The record, which sold more than a million copies by 1953, is widely considered to be one of the first major crossover hits that prefigured what would become the rock n’ roll sound.
More hits quickly followed, propelling Domino into the national pop music consciousness. His 1955 hit “Aint That A Shame” hit the top ten, a remarkable feat in the era of a racially segregated radio and record industry. He also broke into the Hot 100 top ten with “I’m in Love Again” (1956), “Blueberry Hill” (1956), “Blue Monday” (1956) and “I’m Walkin'” (1957).
His recording success was followed by national tours, appearing in mixed-race revues such as Alan Freed’s “Moondog Jubilee of Stars Under the Stars” at Ebbets field in Brooklyn and on nationally televised programming such as the Ed Sullivan Show.
Domino continued to record through the 1960s but as tastes changed in the wake of the British invasion, he found less traction on the charts, with his 1963 recording “Red Sails At Sunset” being the last to break into the top 50.
In all, Domino sold more than 65 million singles, with 23 gold records, making him the second best selling early rock artists behind Elvis Presley. Presley acknowledged Domino’s contribution to the form on numerous occasions, including a 1969 concert at te Las Vegas Hilton. At a press conference following the show, a reporter referred to Presley as the king, but Elvis instead gestured to Domino, telling the reporter, “No, there’s the real king of rock n’ roll.”
In 1986, he became one of the first artists to be inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame, and largely retired from music, content to remain in New Orleans with the royalties from his music.
In 2005, Domino’s New Orleans home was flooded by Hurricane Katrina and he and his family were rescued by a United States Coast Guard helicpoter. His home, however, was heavily damaged, with Domino telling the Washington Post that he’d “lost everything.” As the city recovered, U.S. President George W. Bush made a personal visit and replaced the National Medal of Arts that President Bill Clinton had previously awarded Domino and the RIAA, along with Capitol Records, who had purchased the Imperial catalog, made a similar effort, replacing his gold records.
In 1947 Domino married Rosemary Hall, with whom had eight children. His wife died in 2008. A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.