This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #154: Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino.
Truth be told, “Blueberry Hill” by Fats Domino was supposed to be the subject of the previous post. However, when I began my research into his career and into this song, I came across a statement that said something like, “Fats Domino first had success with a song called, “The Fat Man” which, many historians cite as being the first true rock n’ roll song in History.” I thought that having the first rock n’ roll song would be a good foundation upon which to build the story I would tell but first, I wanted to make sure that, in fact, “The Fat Man” was really cited as “the first true rock n’ roll song” or not. So, when I started going down that rabbit hole, it brought me to the fact that Sister Rosetta Tharpe pre-dated Fats Domino and all of the great Bluesmen by almost a full generation. At that point, it became clear that my story needed to be about Sister Rosetta Tharpe first. So now, with her story having been told *(You can read that post here), I will go back to my regularly-scheduled post and shine a light on one of the most beloved of the early innovators, Mr. Antoine Dominique Domino Jr. or, as he is better known as, Mr. Fats Domino.
Fats Domino was born in New Orleans just before the beginning of The Great Depression. While Sister Rosetta Tharpe signature instrument was a Gibson guitar, Fats Domino’s signature instrument was his piano. He became known for a playing style that was described as “rolling” because of how his hands often moved back and forth, over and under each other, as he played from one end of the keys to the other. His energetic style of playing incorporated elements of what came to be known as the “Rock n’ Roll” sound which was Blues-based, beat heavy, energy-filled and oh so joyous to listen to. He was said to be a very friendly yet, shy, person, by nature. He was well-respected by all those who played with him and who were inspired by him (such as Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis, to name but two). Over the course of his entire career (which spanned nearly sixty years), Fats Domino sold over 65 million records. He was known for hits such as “The Fat Man”, “Ain’t That A Shame”, “Walking To New Orleans” and, the subject of today’s post, “Blueberry Hill”. He was one of the original inductees into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame when it first opened in 1986, too. But, when asked about his role as one of the originators of “Rock n’ Roll”, Fats Domino just laughed and said that the music of his that was being called Rock n’ Roll was really just the same old Rhythm and Blues that he had been playing all of his life. Further to that, when Sister Rosetta Tharpe was asked the same question, she replied by saying Rhythm and Blues was what her music was called and that “Rock n’ Roll” was merely a name invented by white folk to justify taking credit for their (black folk) music.
“Blueberry Hill” was actually written in 1940 and was initially recorded by The Glenn Miller Orchestra. Miller’s version of the song was much more sedate that the one that Fats Domino would end up recording in 1956. In fact, prior to Domino recording the song, “Blueberry Hill” had been recorded and played on the Jack Benny Radio Programme, as well as, by fellow Big Easy resident, Louis Armstrong. But, when Fats Domino recorded “Blueberry Hill” with his rolling piano style, just as the “Rock n’ Roll” era was beginning to dawn in America, his version of the song caught the public’s eye and became the most well-known and beloved version of them all. In fact, when the TV Show, “Happy Days” aired (which, as many of you know, was set in the 1950s), the main character, Richie Cunningham, always sang the chorus to “Blueberry Hill” whenever he was about to go on a date or else, whenever a pretty girl gave him some attention. It became one of the show’s iconic catch-phrases.
As Fats Domino became older, he found touring to be taking too much of a toll on his health so, for the greater part of the last quarter of his life, he stuck close to his home base in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. Now, if that area of New Orleans sounds familiar to you, it is because it was one of the parts of New Orleans most heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina when it rolled ashore over a decade ago. Fats Domino’s house was completely destroyed and, for awhile, there were rumours that he had drowned in the flood. In fact, there were “Rest in Peace” messages painted on his house by fans who were prematurely mourning his loss. In reality, he was rescued by searchers and ended up spending the weeks that followed, holed up in an apartment owned by his future son-in-law, NFL quarterback, JaMarcus Russell. Needless to say, Domino lost all of his prized possessions from his legendary music career but, luckily, some were replaced such as his National Medal of the Arts (which was given to him anew by President George W. Bush), as well as, all of his Gold records (which were replaced by Capitol Records). Eventually, in 2017, Fats Domino passed away from natural causes. But, he will forever be remembered for his ready smile, his positive demeanor, his rolling style of piano playing and for being one of the people most influential when it came to helping to popularize the music known as Rhythm and Blues.
Without further delay, here is Antoine Dominique Domino Jr. with his greatest selling hit, “Blueberry Hill”. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “Blueberry Hill” by Fats Domino, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Fats Domino, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.