Pioneering rock-and-roller Fats Domino has died at age 89. A self-taught boogie woogie pianist who lived much of his life in New Orleans, Domino's iconic 1950s hits drove the evolution of raw rhythm-and-blues into the emerging rock-and-roll sound. From the New York Times:
"Fats, how did this rock 'n' roll all get started anyway?" an interviewer for a Hearst newsreel asked him in 1957. Mr. Domino answered: "Well, what they call rock 'n' roll now is rhythm and blues. I've been playing it for 15 years in New Orleans."
At a news conference in Las Vegas in 1969, after resuming his performing career, Elvis Presley interrupted a reporter who had called him "the king." He pointed to Mr. Domino, who was in the room, and said, "There's the real king of rock 'n' roll."
Mr. Domino had his biggest hit in 1956 with his version of "Blueberry Hill," a song that had been recorded by Glenn Miller's big band in 1940. It peaked at No. 2 on the pop charts and sold a reported three million copies.
"I liked that record 'cause I heard it by Louis Armstrong and I said, 'That number gonna fit me,' " he told Offbeat. "We had to beg Lew Chudd for a while. I told him I wasn't gonna make no more records till they put that record out. I could feel it, that it was a hit, a good record."
He followed with two more Top Five pop hits: "Blue Monday" and "I'm Walkin'," which outsold the version recorded by Ricky Nelson.