Legendary musician Fats Domino has died.
Jefferson Parish Coroner Gerry Cvitanovich's office confirmed the death. He was 89 years old. Additional details were not released.
Born in New Orleans in 1928, singer and pianist Antoine “Fats” Domino was a superstar from the start, performing publicly by the time he was 10 years old. From hit recording “The Fat Man” — which sold more than a half million copies — to other favorites like Blueberry Hill, Ain’t that a Shame and Blue Monday, his sound was unmistakable.
He had more than 30 top 40 hits to his credit and released five gold records by 1955, which means each album sold at least a million copies.
Fats grew up in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans and began his life speaking Creole French. In his book, Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock 'n Roll, Rick Coleman writes about how bandleader Bill Diamond discovered Fats Domino in the summer of 1947. A young pianist was performing at a backyard barbecue. Diamond was impressed, asked him to play in his band and gave him the nickname “Fats.” The rest is musical history.
“The Fat Man” hit the scene in 1950 and had sold a million copies three years later. Blueberry Hill reached No. 2 on the top 40 chart in 1956 and turned out to be his biggest hit, selling more than five million copies from 1956 to 1957. The song was recorded many other times by many other artists, but Domino’s version was the one that stuck. Other hit singles included “I’m Walkin,” “Valley of Tears” and “Whole Lotta Lovin.”
In the late 1950s, Domino spread his wings and appeared in two films — Shake, Rattle and Roll and The Girl Can’t Help It.
After starting his musical career under the Imperial Records label, Domino moved to ABC-Paramount Records in 1963, which forced him to record in Nashville rather than his native New Orleans. His sound was altered a bit, The Beatles crashed the rock scene, and he had one top 40 hit after that.
By the 1980s, Domino was back in New Orleans, content to lead a life away from the spotlight. He did make regular appearances at festivals and other local events, but he rarely left the city — even rebuffing an offer to perform at the White House.
The pioneer was in the original class inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the likes of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. Other honors followed — a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton and ranking of number 25 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
When Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, there was concern Domino didn’t make it. He refused to leave his 9th Ward home, which took on several feet of water. After several days, he was found alive and well after spending some time at the apartment of then-LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell. He lost everything.
In 2006, Domino was the first artist to be announced for that year’s Jazz Fest, but he wasn’t well enough to perform. He was back on stage in 2007, performing at Tipitina’s, and later being inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. In 2012, Domino appeared on the HBO show "Treme," playing himself.
A major influence on the music of the 1960s and 70s, Fats Domino helped define the musical sound of a generation. A sound that the world, especially his beloved New Orleans, will never forget.