Fats Domino: 25 Favorite Recordings
- Category: Dr. J's Blog
- Published: Thursday, 26 October 2017 14:46
- Written by Gary Johnson
Antoine “Fats” Domino was one of my early rock and roll heroes. During my younger years in the 50's and early 60's, I purchased mostly singles. My record collection was dominated by the 78s and 45s of my favorite artists of the rock and roll’s first decade: Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Buddy Holly along with the Crickets, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ricky Nelson, the Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry, and, of course, Fats Domino.
The very first song I heard by Fats was “Blueberry Hill”. I was nine years-old and on a vacation trip with my parents; and it was playing on a juke box at a restaurant where we had stopped for lunch. From that point on, I purchased his new singles whenever I had enough money from my paper route or asked for them as birthday gifts or Christmas presents. I also discovered that I could find some of his older records in the discount bins in various record stores around my hometown of Bay City.
Fats appeared in two rock and roll movies in 1956. The low budget Shake, Rattle & Rock features him performing three of his hits: “Ain’t That A Shame”, “I’m In Love Again”, and “Honey Chile”. The classic The Girl Can’t Help It, in which he performs “Blue Monday” at a high school hop, was shot in Technicolor and starred Jayne Mansfield and her prominent breasts. It also included clips of Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps, Eddie Cochran, the Platters, and Little Richard.
Fats sang the title song for the lackluster 1957 film The Big Beat; and his appearance was the movie’s unquestioned highlight. His final film appearance of the 50’s was in another dud called Jamboree, in which he is featured performing “Wait and See”. I didn’t view any of these films until years later when they became available on video, however, but I did get to see him on television, performing “Whole Lotta Lovin’” on American Bandstand in 1958 and “I’m Ready” on Dick Clark’s Saturday Night Beechnut Show in 1959.
The cool thing about Fat’s Domino’s recorded legacy is that the songs still hold up after nearly seven decades. His relaxed vocals and piano stylings are timeless, and they sound as fresh now as they did when they were first issued. I was greatly saddened to learn of Fats Domino’s passing on October 24, 2017, at the age of 89. Rolling Stone magazine rushed out a tribute article that same day titled Fats Domino: Twelve Essential Songs that also included links to each. I thought they got it partly right, but I didn’t include three of their selections in my more complete Fats Domino: 25 Favorite Recordings listed chronologically below.
“The Fat Man” – 1950: Domino’s first hit was recorded in New Orleans in 1949. “The Fat Man" reached # 2 on the R&B charts the following year, and it certainly has to be considered when music historians have a debate over what was the very first rock and roll song. The record’s B-side was “Detroit City Blues”. Listen to "The Fat Man": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIz1cPfTRW4
“Please Don’t Leave Me” – 1953: Even though it was tough for a black R&B artist to get on the radio in the early 1950’s, two of Domino’s previous singles, “Goin’ Home” and “Going To The River”, had made the Hot 100 at # 30 and # 24 respectively. “Please Don’t Leave Me” was a # 10 R&B hit, but it rocked a little too hard and had Fats scat singing "Woo hoo hoo" for over a minute before starting to sing the lyrics. Factors that probably kept this great tune off the Pop charts in the pre-rock and roll era. Listen to "Please Don't Leave Me": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBIpYxmQjCw
“Ain’t That A Shame (a.k.a “Ain’t It A Shame”) – 1955: Pat Boone, sounding like he had a stick jammed up his ass, had a # 1 hit with his cover of the song; but it pales in comparison to Domino’s original which was a # 1 R&B hit and crossed over to # 10 on the Hot 100. Fats performed the song in the low budget rock and roll movie, Shake, Rattle & Rock. Listen to "Ain't That A Shame": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbfMlk1PwGU
“All By Myself” – 1955: Domino’s follow-up to “Ain’t That A Shame” was a # 1 R&B hit, but this great song failed to make the Hot 100. Go figure. Listen to "All by Myself": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmtvwAJKKsU
“Poor Me” – 1955: Another terrific # 1 R&B hit by Domino that failed to chart on the Hot 100. Listen to "Poor Me': https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aD2wZC9QRI
“I’m In Love Again” – 1956: This song was just too good to deny, and it became Domino’s biggest hit on the Hot 100 up to that time when it reached # 3. It was also his fifth # 1 R&B single. Fats performed “I’m In Love Again” in Shake, Rattle & Rock. Listen to "I'm In Love Again": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajWI1g7dNAk
“Blueberry Hill” – 1956: Fats Domino’s all-time biggest hit sold over 5,000,000 copies world-wide and earned him a spot performing it on the Ed Sullivan Show. “Blueberry Hill” had been a # 1 hit in 1940 for the Glenn Miller Orchestra but it peaked at # 2 for Domino, his highest ranking ever on the Hot 100. It was his sixth # 1 R&B hit, but he performed the record’s B-side, “Honey Chile”, in Shake, Rattle & Rock. Listen to Fats performing "Blueberry Hill" on Ed Sullivan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKQZy2PJtq8
Fats with Dave Bartholomew 1956.
“Blue Monday” – 1956: “Blue Monday” was written by Domino’s longtime collaborator Dave Bartholomew and was originally recorded by Smiley Lewis in 1954. The version by Fats Domino was a big hit two years later when it got to # 5 on the Hot 100 and # 1 on the R&B chart. Fats performed the song in the big budget color rock and roll film, The Girl Can’t Help It. Watch Fats perform "Blue Monday" in the movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjZAql3xO-E
“I’m Walkin’” – 1957: The hits just kept on coming, as “Blue Monday’s” follow-up, “I’m Walkin”, peaked at # 4 on the Hot 100 and became his eighth R&B # 1. Several months later, Ricky Nelson would cover “I’m Walkin’” for his first Top Ten hit. Shortly thereafter, Nelson would sign with Fats Domino’s label, Imperial Records. Listen to "I'm Walkin'": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqs5gkyH930
“When I See You” – 1957: This unusual but cool little call and response tune features a kind of honky-tonk sound that was a departure from Domino’s previous releases. It was only a minor hit, peaking at # 29 on the Hot 100 and only # 14 R&B – his lowest entry on that chart in three years. Listen to "When I See You": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0TcSCKrf3o
“Wait And See” – 1957: This vastly underappreciated masterpiece was featured in the rock and roll film Jamboree. The movie was terrible, but besides Fats, it included some great performances from Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Charlie Gracie, as well as a speaking part for Detroit DJ Robin Seymour. “Wait And See” peaked at # 23 on the Hot 100 and # 7 on the R&B chart. Watch Domino's "Wait And See" from the Jamboree movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XO37LU21BTA
“I Want You To Know” – 1957: This little-known Domino ballad gem was the B-side to his title-song single “The Big Beat” from the low budget film of the same name. The songs combined for a minor two-sided chart hit with “The Big Beat” reaching # 26 and the far superior “I Want You To Know” peaking at # 32 on the Hot 100. Listen to "I Want You To Know": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIbAMMHtApc
“Sick And Tired” – 1958: Domino’s sales slump continued into 1958 when his rocking “Sick And Tired” single stalled at # 22 on the Hot 100 and # 14 on the R&B chart where it was matched by the record’s B-side, “No, No”, a slick cover of another Smiley Lewis original. Listen to "Sick And Tired": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0H-NT2imeQ
“Whole Lotta Loving” – 1958: This is the song that brought Fats back into the Top Ten after an absence of almost 18 months. “Whole Lotta Loving” premiered on American Bandstand and it rose to # 6 on the Hot 100 and # 2 on the R&B chart. Listen to "Whole Lotta Loving": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7N7CFLuto8
“I’m Ready” – 1959: I love the lyrics to “I’m Ready”, one of Domino’s most rocking songs: Talking on the phone is not my speed. Don’t send me no letter ‘cause I can’t read. Don’t be long, ‘cause I’ll be gone. We’ll go rock and rolling all night long. Words to live by! It reached # 16 on the Hot 100 and # 7 R&B. listen to "I'm Ready": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2eZZBMt1CQ
“I Want To Walk You Home” – 1959: I have fond memories of doing “the stroll’ at junior high dances and parties to Fats Domino’s “I Want To Walk You Home”. It was the bigger hit of the two-sided smash that also included “I’m Gonna Be a Wheel Someday”. It peaked at # 8 on the Hot 100 and became Domino’s ninth R&B # 1. Listen to "I Want To Walk You Home": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaP2vOdltP0
“I’m Gonna Be A Wheel Someday” – 1959: The rocking flipside was originally issued by Bobby Mitchell & The Toppers in 1957. Fats’ version hit # 17 on the Hot 100 but only # 22 R&B, one of the few instances when a Domino song charted higher on the Hot 100 than the R&B chart. Listen to "I'm Gonna Be A Wheel Someday": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NNz77Vg2cQ
“I’ve Been Around” – 1959: This awesome Fats Domino ballad was the B-side to the uptempo “Be My Guest”, which was a bigger hit (# 8 Hot 100 and # 2 R&B). I give the nod to “I’ve Been Around”, however. I love both Domino’s soulful vocal and piano playing on the song that reached # 33 on the Hot 100 and # 19 R&B, giving Fats yet another two-sided hit. Listen to "I've Been Around": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKmFQzWu8ZE
“Walking To New Orleans” – 1960: Fats started the new decade with another two-sided hit. “Walking To New Orleans” peaked at # 6, Fats Domino’s eleventh and final Top Ten single on the Hot 100. It also became Domino’s tenth # 2 R&B single and, over the years, it has become one of his signature recordings. Both “Walking To New Orleans” and Its hit B-side “Don’t Come Knocking” (# 21 Hot 100) featured the first use of strings on a Fats Domino 45. Listen to "Walking To New Orleans": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2ezJmPdsTA
“Three Nights A Week” – 1960: Another great Domino ballad, and the follow-up to “Walking To New Orleans”. It reached # 15 on the Hot 100 and # 8 on the R&B chart. Listen to "Three Nights A Week": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFEM2UVaEY8
“My Girl Josephine” – 1960: “My Girl Josephine” is often mistakenly referred to as “Hello Josephine”. It was another solid hit, featuring a chugging train-like rhythm and peaking at # 14 on the Hot 100 and # 7 on the R&B chart. Listen to "My Girl Josephine": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxPNewCVGzY
“Natural Born Lover” – 1960: “Natural Born Lover” was the B-side on the “My Girl Josephine” single, and it gave Fats another two-sided Top 40 hit when it reached # 38. The unreleased version of “Natural Born Lover”, which can be found on the 4CD Fats Domino box set, was edited for the single release because of time concerns. I consider this original longer version of the song one of Domino’s most beautiful recordings. Listen to the unedited version of "Natural Born Lover": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zO4Obt4SOs
“Ain’t That Just Like A Woman” – 1961: This rocking song features a good deal of lead guitar, rare on a Domino record. “Ain’t That Just Like A Woman” was a cover of a 1946 Pop and R&B hit by Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five. Domino’s cover reached # 33 on the Hot 100 and # 19 R&B. Watch a rare live performance of "Ain't That Just Like A Woman" from 1962: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZH32IxB8E8Y
“Let The Four Winds Blow” – 1961: The music winds were shifting by 1961, and the rocking “Let The Four Winds Blow” was Fats Domino’s last big hit, peaking at # 15 on the Hot 100 and # 2 on the R&B chart. Fats performed the song on the Ed Sullivan Show. Watch the performance of "Let The Four Winds Blow": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpuMXRlLiQI
“I Hear You Knocking” – 1961: Although Fats did not enjoy a big hit with his cover of the Smiley Lewis hit from 1955, it features a great performance from a time when his records were no longer selling like they did in the past. Domino’s version of “I Hear You Knocking” peaked at only # 67 on the Hot 100. Listen to "I Hear You Knocking": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UU0X1kEPhqA