For many years, I have said the same thing to anybody who has been within earshot of me and had an ear for music. If you can’t find yourself tapping your feet or just plain getting up and grooving along to “My Girl Josephine” from Fats Domino, then you need to have yourself rushed to your nearest local hospital and be examined to see if you still have a pulse.
Whenever I happened to be thinking of Fats Domino, that’s the one song of his that I always zeroed in on. It may quite possibly have been the most joyously infectious rhythm inserted into a song ever presented to mankind. If was I having a fine day, listening to it on the radio or at home made my day even better. On the not so good days, I just buried myself into the groove even more and tried to will my way out of the despair surrounding me as if I was one of the musicians laying it down. It’s got drive. I’ve got Fats to thank for that.
Whenever I listened to his music, the one overriding thing I got out of it all was that he had to have had a huge heart. Even the sad ones didn’t leave me sad. He was just sayin’ it like it is and showing it while creating a party for you to enjoy along with every other groovin’ soul out of New Orleans. It was all so genuine. It had not one iota of pretense.
Along with the songs and his piano playing, the thing I really dug about a ton of his music was the fact that he had this sax player with him on all of the big hits who embodied early Rock and roll. He helped to embellish the joy that Fats was putting over on people. His name was Herb Hardesty. He died not too terribly long ago. To think that they are both together again is something that’s making me smile. Fats, Herb and Dave Bartholomew (the producer of the great records by Domino) helped to create some magic.
When I first heard “Blueberry Hill” back during the early ’70s period when there was a short-lived 50s revival going on on Top-40 radio, I was envisioning Fats hanging out with some woman he liked and had a thing for. For some reason, I always saw him in a car with her as she was being woo’d by him. Man, I was always pulling for him. How could you not?
There was always the cultural mystique over Elvis Presley, the first guitar God, poet and trouble associated with Chuck Berry, the manufactured romantic archetype of Buddy Holly as a result of The Buddy Holly Story movie in the late ’70s and the fireball flaming freaks of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis etched in our minds. Through it all, I always got the impression that Fats Domino got a little shortchanged in the importance department and that New Orleans, as a musical center for R&B, stayed relegated to a mysterious corner of our American musical heritage.
It shouldn’t be that way.