13 Black Artists Who Inspired Rock: Fats Domino
Antonio Domino or Fats Domino sold over 65 Million records during his lifetime. Ranked as the 25th greatest artist of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine. There is little doubt of his influence on rock ‘n’ roll.
In the 1950s through the early 1960s, no other black artists sold more records than Fats Domino. He had over 90 songs ranked between the R&B and Pop charts, 39 were top ten hits. The only artist to outsell him during this period was Elvis Presley.
Well, I wouldn’t want to say that I started it (rock ‘n’ roll), but I don’t remember anyone else before me playing that kind of stuff. – Fats Domino
He is credited for making the piano a rock instrument and for helping to merge the blues with rock music. He brought black and white audiences together which naturally led to Pat Boone covering him (in the racial sense) to appease a prejudice white audience. Much like Little Richard, Pat Boone could not outsell his recordings.
Fats Domino Innovator and Inspiration
Domino was not just a performer, but an innovator. An example is him taking Gene Autry’s “Ain’t that a Shame,” a dull, sappy country-western song and making it a bluesy rock hit. Surprisingly, he has even been credited with his rhythm, accentuating the offbeat, as in the song “Be My Guest,” influencing ska music.
His genius inspired contemporary acts like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Elvis Presley. Also future piano artists like Billy Joel and Elton John. His music has been covered (in the modern sense) by artists ranging from The Beatles to Cheap Trick. He even returned the favor by covering The Beatles “Lady Madonna” and charting it in 1968.
A journalist referred to Presley as “The King,” Presley gestured toward Domino who was nearby and said. “No, that’s the real king of rock and roll.
Sadly, his heyday ended in the mid-1960s when rock became predominately white, and artists like Jimi Hendrix became outsiders in the music created by black artists. Despite this, he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1986 and later inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It is impossible not to sing along to his piano and deep honey-dripping singing voice.
Did You Know?
- There was a false report that Fats died during hurricane Katrina. He did, however, lose his home.
- The opening line of “Blueberry Hill” was sung by Richie Cunningham on Happy Days countless times. It became the character’s trademark.
- “Blueberry Hill”–his biggest hit– has been recorded by Elvis, Little Richard, and Led Zepplin.
- The singer Chubby Checker’s stage name was a wordplay on Fats Domino.
- His rendition of “The Fat Man,” recorded in December of 1949, is considered by many to be the first rock ‘n’ roll song ever. It is also the first million seller of rock ‘n’ roll.
 “Fats Domino dead: Rock and roll legend dies, aged 89”, Roison O’Connor, October 25, 2017, Independent
 Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Rick Coleman, 2008m Da Capo Press. p. 210. ISBN 0-306-81491-9.