Ain‘t That a Shame: Fats Domino

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You know, I’d love to!   But … what would I eat?”
Brian Cullman is a writer and musician living in New York City. Oh, the Beatles came close, but early on John got mopey, George got petulant, and Ringo simply kept his head down, so that doesn’t count. “I’d love to. “The moon stood still on Blueberry Hill” That’s as good as it gets, as far as I know. He tore through an hour of his hits, backed by the best players on the scene, jazz cats and street cats, up-and-comers and veterans alike, playing their hearts out with love and clarity, leaning on the New Orleans’s groove he helped put on the map. You’re continually see-sawing back and forth between the secular and the spiritual, and from time to time you hit it right. You know everything about that moment. With his sly, loping piano mixing barrelhouse with boogie-woogie, with those warm, casual vocals, his way of stretching words halfway around the block, and with Earl Palmer, the best drummer in New Orleans, and arranger, cowriter Dave Bartholomew in tow, his records sounded like nothing else on the radio. His nods to fame were a habit of traveling with two hundred   pairs of shoes, upward of thirty   suits, and a penchant for jewel encrusted rings on at least five   of his fingers. From his first recordings in the early 1950s through his final album in 2006, his style never changed, nor did it need to. Most days, they said, he just stayed home and cooked jambalaya, gumbo maybe. At a time when rock ’n’ roll seemed rife with sex and noise and the wild beat of anarchy, Fats Domino was the odd man out. You made
Me cry
When you said
Goodbye …. “The moon stood still on Blueberry Hill.”
The first time I visited New Orleans, friends took me down to see the shiny pink Cadillac outside his house in the Ninth Ward. “I’m Walking’,” “Ain’t That a   Shame,” “Blue   Monday,” “Walkin’ To New Orleans,” “My Girl Josephine,” “Blueberry Hill,” “I’m Gonna Be A Wheel Someday,” “I’m In Love Again.” Those songs took him round the world many times, but always brought him back to New Orleans. When I interviewed Leonard Cohen in 1994, Fats Domino was one of the few musicians he name-dropped.:
People often think that I play some kind of conditional kitsch in relation to cultural artifacts, which simply isn’t true. A date with Elvis would start and end in bed, a night out with Little Richard or Jerry Lee Lewis would probably land you in jail, but a date with Fats Domino would probably just involve pork chops. And what records! I slipped backstage, or what passed for backstage : an enclosure out of the sun with cool drinks and a few chairs. “Oh, man,” he sighed. It’s there in “Blueberry Hill” from Fats Domino. It was terrifyingly beautiful. We waited a while, just loitering outside, but he never came out, though one of his thirteen children looked out the window and waved. But for Fats Domino, happiness was a given.  
Nobody but nobody communicated joy and pleasure better than Fats Domino. In a career that spanned seven decades, he never changed his sound, he didn’t leave his wife or his neighborhood, and he seldom changed band members. And then he tore into another hour of blues and bawdy house music, songs I’d never heard before and will probably never hear again except in dreams. Go in peace. I was still shaken from the music, tongue tied, but I managed to ask if he could come up to New York and play. Years later, I heard him play at New Orleans’s Jazz Fest. It felt like a blessing. Ain’t that a shame? Everything is embraced, nothing is left out.