News Archive

Little Richard makes first public appearance in 13 months
Saturday, 20. November 2010 - 21:51

Little Richard greets fans in downtown Nashville (November 2010) (Photos by Steve Wiseman)


New photos from Patrick Rocher's photo collection added
Thursday, 11. November 2010 - 19:41

Various photos from Patrick Rocher's collection were added to the Picture Gallery.

Patrick Rocher revived the European careers of Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and
Chuck Berry among others. He is responsible for Chuck Berry's most successful
European touring period ever (2003 - 2008) in terms of cumulated dates and fees.

Rock'n'Roll fans and especially Chuck Berry owe a lot to the great Patrick Rocher. 
Thank you, Patrick, for your work and the pictures.

Recent Fats Domino Interview & Reunion with Dave Bartholomew
Friday, 05. November 2010 - 15:23


The Rhythm of Rock ´n´ Roll: ´It´s All in the 1, 2, 3´
(by Marc Myers for WSJ)

To illustrate the beat he invented in 1949—the beat that became rock ´n´ roll—Fats Domino placed his fingers on the back of my hand. Using me as his keyboard, the legendary pianist tapped out his famed triplets. ´Feel it?´ he asked, a cherubic smile spreading across his face. ´It´s all in the 1, 2, 3.´
Rock´s first superstar was at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts here last week to receive an award from a local children´s foundation. He also will be honored on Monday when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame celebrates Mr. Domino and his longtime collaborator, Dave Bartholomew.

Mr. Domino, 82, is credited with recording rock´s earliest and most influential hits, including *The Fat Man* (1949), *Poor Poor Me* (1952) and *Ain´t That a Shame* (1955). He was one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame´s first 16 inductees in 1986, and his *Blueberry Hill* and *Ain´t That a Shame* are in the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2001, Mr. Domino´s *Blueberry Hill* was voted the 18th most popular song of the 20th century in a National Endowment for the Arts poll—one notch above Kate Smith´s ´God Bless America´.
In all, Mr. Domino recorded 66 Billboard pop hits (the Beatles had 64 while they were together), selling more than 110 million records. His music was also instrumental in starting to ease segregation among teens across the South in the 1950s, attracting mixed audiences to his dances and concerts. ´I didn´t know anything about integration from the stage´, said Mr. Domino in a rare interview. ´I was just playing and singing about life´.

Mr. Domino moves a little slower these days and isn´t often seen in public. After Hurricane Katrina sent flood waters 20 feet up his house in the city´s Lower Ninth Ward in 2005, he was unreachable by phone for days. Initially feared lost, Mr. Domino was plucked from a third-floor deck by an emergency boat. Today, the pianist lives with two of his adult children in the city´s West Bank section while his home is being restored.
But Mr. Domino´s crab-like pace hasn´t dimmed his passion for music, New Orleans and rock fashion. On the night of our conversation, Mr. Domino sported a gray pinstripe suit, a deep-maroon shirt and red, gray and lavender checked tie—his jewel- encrusted gold watch and rings catching the theater´s lights. ´Playing all over the country back then was a thrill´, Mr. Domino said, ´The beat was new and everyone was excited about it´.

Many of Mr. Domino´s hits were written or co-written by Mr. Bartholomew, who also played trumpet and arranged many of the recordings. ´Fats and I didn´t have a formal way of working on those songs´, he said over lunch earlier that same day. Mr. Bartholomew, 89, has written or co-written more than 400 rock songs, including Elvis Presley´s *One Night*.
´Fats and I would just jam´, Mr. Bartholomew continued, ´and we´d jot down words and music. Then I´d hum what I wanted the horns to play. Fats and drummer Earl Palmer knew exactly what to do from there´.

Their beat was a rhythmic triple-decker—and a new approach to R&B. While Mr. Domino pounded out a steady bank of triplets (three notes to every beat), the drummer hit the second and fourth beats harder (known as a ´backbeat´) and the horns played call-and response bass riffs. The result sounded part Mardi Gras parade, part striptease.
´And blues, Dixieland, zydeco and other things´, Mr. Domino added. ´My music was a mixture of everything New Orleans´.
Surprisingly, Mr. Domino”’’s early rock success was built on songs with lyrics that were largely free of sexual innuendo. His hits about breakups, courtships and homesickness predate the hip-swiveling, piano-bench-kicking flamboyance of the high-voltage acts that followed. ´I didn´t need none of that´, Mr. Domino said. ´The beat was enough´.

Born Antoine Dominique Domino on February 26, 1928 in New Orleans, Mr. Domino learned to play the piano at age 10 and quit school a year later. While tending his cousin´s bar, Mr. Domino listened to a steady diet of boogie-woogie piano records on the jukebox. He soon joined a few local bands.
Married in 1947, he went to work in a bed factory by day and continued performing in local clubs at night. Little by little, he developed a more rhythmic approach to his style—largely to fill out an early band´s lack of a guitar and bass. In 1948, at New Orleans´s Robin Hood club, bandleader Billy Diamond introduced Mr. Domino as *Fats*, convinced he would become as popular as stride pianist Fats Waller. The nickname stuck.

By the time Mr. Domino signed with Imperial Records in November of 1949, Mr. Bartholomew had already begun working for the label as a talent scout. The following month, Messrs. Domino and Bartholomew recorded *The Fat Man*. a sanitized version of *Junker´s Blues*, a song about a drug addict that Mr. Domino had performed regularly. *The Fat Man* became Mr. Domino”’’s first big hit, climbing to #2 on Billboard´s R&B chart in early 1950.
Bill Haley and other early rockers were influenced by the New Orleans sound, but Mr. Domino´s approach was so signature that initially few dared to cover his hits. The beat, however, was fair game. In 1955 and 1956, rock artists such as Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Buddy Holly and Presley began adapting Mr. Domino´s triplets and backbeat for their own recordings. Though not a risque act like Presley´s, Mr. Domino´s appearance on the *Ed Sullivan Show* in November 1956 was modified. To minimize the number of blacks on camera, Sullivan put Mr. Domino´s backup band behind a curtain.

By 1957, Mr. Domino was at his peak, with 11 hits on Billboard´s pop chart that year. But as rock evolved in the ´60s, becoming a politically charged, drug-fueled album genre, Mr. Domino´s brand of storytelling declined in relevance. Soon, Mr. Domino began a second career performing in rock ´n´ roll revival shows and appearing regularly in Las Vegas. His last Billboard hit was a cover of the Beatles´ *Lady Madonna* in 1968.
So what was it like to be rock´s first teen icon? ´Teens always heard my music with their hearts´, Mr. Domino said, touching his chest. ´The beat was just happy. It didn´t have color or hidden meaning´.

Marc Myers notes some details about his meeting with Fats:

Last Wednesday I was in New Orleans for the Wall Street Journal to interview Fats Domino. You´ll find my conversation with rock´s creator on the *Leisure & Arts* page of today”’’s Personal Journal section. The interview was something of a coup, since the early rocker rarely grants interviews. I can tell you that New Orleans and those close to Fats, including his loving family, are wonderful, loving, soulful people who are rightly proud of their city and their most famous and beloved living artist.
For those not in the know, Fats and Dave were the first to transform r&b into what quickly became known as rock ´n´ roll. Fats´ 1949 recording of *The Fat Man* for Imperial Records has been credited as being the first pure rock single. Before we argue about how far back r&b goes (to the late 1930s), there´s actually a pointed difference between r&b and rock ´n´ roll.

Without getting technical, Fats and Dave´s sound combined piano triplets with a backbeat that emphasized the second and fourth beats. Once Fats started racking up hits with that sound and beat beginning in 1950, success followed rapidly, making him rock´s first wealthy superstar in the early 1950s.
Of course, with success comes imitation and adaptation. Such was the case as Bill Haley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly all began to incorporate Fats and Dave´s money-making beat into their own songs. Elvis regularly referred to Fats in public as ´the real king of rock´n´ roll´. Just how popular was Fats? He sold more than 110 million records and had 66 pop hits (two more than the Beatles while they were a group). There were even more hits if you include his hits on the r&b chart. Fats and Dave wrote the words and music to many of those hits, and the pair became rock´s first successful singer-songwriting team. Fats was among the original 16 legends inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, and his recording of *Blueberry Hill* is #18 on the NEA´s ´Songs of the Century´ list, just above Kate Smith´s ´God Bless America´ and just after Duke Ellington´s *Take the A Train*. Dave, meanwhile, penned more than 400 songs, including Elvis´ *One Night*.
Fats´ big hits include *Ain´t That a Shame*, *I´m in Love Again*, *Blueberry Hill*, *Blue Monday*, *I´m Walkin*, *I Want to Walk You Home* and *Walkin´ to New Orleans*. Many were million sellers and united black and white teens in segregated dance halls across the South in the 1950s. While virtually all public places had ´colored´ entrances and facilities, radio could not be segregated. You turned the dial, and there was the music. Songs either moved you or they didn´t, and Fats´ foot-tapping hits were wildly appealing to millions of listeners, becoming a powerful unifying force.
For me, meeting Fats was a special moment. As we shook hands (they are thick and strong, like a boxer´s), I couldn´t help but think that here was the guy who started rock´n´roll. But his accomplishments transcend the beat. Just one look at a Fats Domino YouTube clip makes you realize that this guy had (and has) enormous charisma. His smile can melt ice. During our interview, when his eyes narrowed and that grin stretched across his face, I couldn´t help but feel the same glow that swept over teens so many years ago. I can´t think of anyone else I´ve met with that kind of instant wattage, kindness and sincerity.
Fats and I spoke at the Mahalia Jackson Theater, where New Orleans´ Early Childhood & Family Learning Foundation was honoring him and others with a lifetime achievement award. The foundation staged a concert extravaganza last Wednesday night that included the Louisiana Philharmonic, Dr. Michael White, Ellis Marsalis and Germaine Bazzle. Fats clearly was excited by all the kids running around, especially as they rushed up during intermission to seek his autograph. Fats obliged and signed every piece of paper put before him. ´You gotta make kids happy´, he said to me.
Interestingly, Fats´ role as an accidental integrationist in the 1950s wasn´t of primary concern to him at the time. Yes, at many of those events, Fats said, he and band members had to dodge bottles as fights broke out among those who didn´t like seeing black couples and white couples on the same dance floor. But Fats said he wasn´t crusading while performing. He said was too busy singing and having fun spreading the gospel of his New Orleans beat.
As was the case with my early interviews with Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, I always learn something new from my in-depth research and conversations. With Fats, what was instantly clear is that music is first and foremost entertainment and that its purpose is to make listeners have a better understanding of themselves and life´s possibilities. As Fats said to me as we were leaving, ´Seeing people happy just makes me happier and happier´. Not to get all Hairspray, but it´s fascinating to hear first-hand that rock´n´roll began as music meant to create neutral space for teens and to let them have fun, free from the constrained and entrenched belief system of their parents. Teen music is still like that today.

A video & article about a very recent meeting of Fats Domino & Dave Bartholomew can be found here:

Source: Thomas Rund