We here at Austin City Limits were saddened to learn of the death of rock & roll pioneer Fats Domino on October 24 at the age of 89. The ivory-tickling New Orleans icon appeared in a hour-long, hits-packed 1987 episode of ACL.
Antoine “Fats” Domino was born in 1928 in the Big Easy to a French Creole family – Louisiana Creole French was his first language. He learned to play piano from his jazz musician brother-in-law, joining bandleader Billy Diamond’s group in 1947. (Diamond bestowed the nickname “Fats” on the young musician in tribute to Fats Waller.) Fats released “The Fat Man,” his first single, in 1949 – a million-selling song that pioneered rock & roll before the term even existed. Fats went on to score 37 top 40 singles, including such immortal classics as “Blue Monday,” “I’m Walkin’,” “Ain’t That a Shame,” “I Hear You Knockin’,” “Walkin’ to New Orleans” and his version of the Gene Autry/Louis Armstrong standard “Blueberry Hill,” his bestselling and highest-charting song. As with many of the original rockers, his chart career waned after the British Invasion, but he continued to record and tour into the 1980s. By the end of that decade, he decided that he would no longer leave his hometown, claiming he couldn’t find any food he liked on the road – not even induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or an invitation to perform at the White House could change his mind. Like far too many others, he was forced to leave New Orleans after Katrina flooded his home, but he returned as soon as he could, remaining a fixture until Father Time did what Mother Nature could not.
Here is Fats doing “Blue Monday” on ACL in 1987.
And “Blueberry Hill,” possibly his signature song in a catalog full of candidates, from the same show.